What’s Montessori?

"The Greatness of a human personality begins at the hour of birth." Dr. Maria Montessori



Dr. Maria Montessori

Montessori is a worldwide education system founded at the beginning of the 1900s that is based upon a lifetime of research by Dr. Maria Montessori. Dr. Maria Montessori was born in 1870. In 1895, she became the first woman in Italy to obtain the degree of Doctor of Medicine. This background led Dr. Montessori to approach education more from the scientific level than the accepted academic standard. She observed children and was constantly testing and retesting the validity of her concepts-concepts that would contribute to a more natural growth of learning in students. She designed materials and techniques that advanced the method of educating all children – whether they are children with learning challenged abilities or the gifted ones. This concept borne through tireless observation and study goes far beyond previous practices. To Dr. Montessori, education was a preparation for life, not merely a search for intellectual skills. The Montessori approach is holistic and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child’s early years from birth to six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn. Her philosophy is based on the natural development of children and their intrinsic desire to explore, discover, and learn from the world around them. Dr. Montessori died on May 6th 1952 at the age of 81 in the Netherlands at Noordwijk.

Her method of education is still thriving in schools all over the world! Maria Montessori was the mother of education – she contributed a lifetime of observation, learning, teaching, guiding and understanding of the needs and development of children even from before birth. She opened the minds of those who were ignorant to her life’s work and she opened our eyes to educating us about the future we want for our children through her timeless methods.

Difference between Montessori and Traditional Classroom?

When we use the term “traditional education” we don’t mean to suggest that all of the other schools which are not officially “Montessori programs” are therefore “traditional.” It would not be accurate to imagine that the world’s schools are divided up into only two groups: those that follow a Montessori approach and those that believe in traditional education. In fact, Montessori is based on a set of beliefs that many other child-centered educators share. These child-centered educators have either attempted to implement elements of the Montessori approach in their programs, or have independently developed models of their own that have many things in common with the Montessori Way. Unfortunately, the majority of schools around the world are more or less traditional in both perspective and practices.

So what are the differences?

Montessori Traditional
Views the child holistically, valuing cognitive, psychological, social, and emotional development. The wonder of learning in our world is changing so quickly that memorization is of little use. Montessori focuses on children’s ability to learn by teaching them how to learn. Views the child in terms of competence, skill level, and achievement with an emphasis on core curricula standards and social development.
Child is an active participant in learning, allowed to move about and respectfully explore the classroom environment; teacher is an instructional facilitator and guide. Child is a more passive participant in learning, teacher has a more dominant, central role in classroom activity
Montessori builds self-discipline. In order for it to become a lifelong skill the child’s ability to remain on task must come from within, not from outside reproach. Teacher acts as a primary enforcer of external discipline promoting extrinsic motivation.
Montessori uses multi-sensory, self-correcting activities. The knowledge from this ‘hands on’ learning will stay with the child for a lifetime. Curriculum areas usually taught as separate topics. Work is usually corrected by the teacher;
errors are viewed as mistakes.
Children learn by osmosis by working together, giving them the opportunity to be taught by peers as well as to take on the role of teacher. They build close relationships and self-confidence. Scientific studies confirm that all children in a multi-age classroom learn more effectively than in a traditional single age room. In life the most successful people are usually those who work well with others. Same-age and/or skill level grouping; one-year cycles can limit development of strong teacher, student, and parent collaboration. Child is usually assigned a specific work space; talking among peers is discouraged.
Grace, courtesy and trust are practiced in the Montessori classroom between children and adults alike creating an atmosphere of caring, camaraderie and respect Conflict resolution is usually taught separately from daily classroom activity.
Values concentration and depth of experience; supplies uninterrupted time for focused work cycle to develop. The child is not interrupted during a learning moment, but allowed enough time to finish the task at hand to his/her own satisfaction. Learning is reinforced internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success. Values completion of assignments; time is tightly scheduled. Learning is reinforced externally by test scores and rewards competition and grades.
The Teacher, or Directress, acts merely as a guide allowing children to develop naturally at their own pace. They become independent in the learning process. Instructional pace usually set by core-curricula standards expectations, group norm, or teacher.
Children have the opportunity to explore activities that interests them and satisfies any “sensitive period” they are experiencing at that time. They will learn more. Curricula organized and structured for child based on the curricula standards.
Goal is to foster a love of learning. Goal is to master core curricula objectives.

Famous Montessorians

Some famous people who attended Montessori school as children:-

  • Elizabeth Berridge, actress (Constanze in Amadeus)
  • Peter Drucker, Management Guru
  • effrey Bezos, financial analyst, founder, AMAZON.COM
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Cofounders of GOOGLE.COM
  • T. Berry Brazelton, noted pediatrician and author
  • Julia Child, famous chef, star of many TV cooking shows and author of numerous cookbook
  • Kami Cotler, actress (youngest child on long-running series The Waltons)
  • Katherine Graham (deceased), owner/editor of the Washington Post
  • Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (deceased), editor, former first lady (John F. Kennedy)
  • Prince William and Prince Harry, English royal family
  • Anne Frank, famous diarist from world war II
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winner for Literature
  • Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actors
  • Sean ‘P.Diddy’ (formerly known as Puffy) Combs, RAP mega-star
  • Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian painter and Architect

Some famous people who chose Montessori schools for their own children:-

  • Stephen J. Cannell, TV writer-producer-director (The Rockford Files and many others)
  • Patty Duke Austin, actress
  • Cher Bono, singer-actress
  • John Bradshaw, psychologist and author
  • Yul Brynner (deceased), actor
  • Marcy Carcy, TV producer
  • William Jefferson and Hillary Clinton , former president/senator, NY
  • Michael Douglas, actor
  • Shari Lewis (deceased), puppeteer
  • Yo Yo Ma, cellist
  • Dick Ebersol and Susan St. James, television executive and actress
  • Jennifer Granholm and Daniel Mulhern, Governor of Michigan

Others with a Montessori Connection:-

  • Alexander Graham Bell (deceased), noted inventor, provided financial support directly to Dr. Montessori. Helped establish the first Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States
  • Bruno Bettelheim (deceased), noted psychologist/author, was married to a Montessori teacher
  • Erik Erikson (deceased), anthropologist/author, had a Montessori teaching certificate
  • Jean Piaget (deceased), noted Swiss psychologist, made his first observations of children in a Montessori school
  • Alice Waters, restaurateur and writer, is a former Montessori teacher
  • Thomas Edison (deceased), noted scientist and inventor, helped to found a Montessori school
  • Mister Rogers (deceased), children’s TV personality, strong supporter of the Montessori method
  • President Wilson’s daughter trained as a Montessori teacher. There was a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during Wilson’s presidency

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