What is Montessori?
Overview: The classroom is composed of several learning areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, Science, Geography, Art and Music. Within an area, the materials are sequence from simple to complex and concrete to abstract. Each step develops a certain skill and the materials encourage repetitive use.
The exercises in the Montessori environment are structured to emphasize the process rather than the product. The simplest exercises are designed to give the young child success as he strives to perfect himself or herself. As one step is mastered, another is introduced and the child learns how to challenge himself/herself and take pride in his or her achievements.
The children are free to move about the classroom during work time, to choose work, and to observe their classmates without interrupting them.
Video: Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education
Why do they call it a "children's house?"
Dr. Montessori noted specific characteristics associated with the child's interests and abilities at each plane of development. She argued that a school designed to meet the needs and interests of the child will work more effectively. Montessori taught teachers how to ""follow the child" through observation, allowing each student to reveal her strengths, weaknesses, interests and anxieties, and strategies that best facilitate the development of her human potential.
The focus on the 'whole child" led Montessori to develop a very different sort of school from traditional adult centered classrooms. To emphasize this difference, she named her first school the ""Casa de Bambini" or the ""Children's House". The Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adults in charge, but rather a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate development of children's independence and personal empowerment.
This is the children's community. They move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest, rather than participating in all day lessons and projects selected by the teachers. In a very real sense, even very small children are responsible for the care of their own child-sized environments. When they are hungry, they prepare their own snack and drink. They go to the bathroom without assistance. When something spills, they help each other carefully clean things up. While times have changed since Dr. Montessori opened her first house in 1907, the need to feel connected is still as strong as ever.
Whether it's an inner-city child or a child from an affluent suburb, the sense of community has all but disappeared from our children's lives. Along with whatever else Montessori gives our children, it definitely gives them the message that they belong - that their school is like a second family.
How to find a good Montessori preschool: Every Montessori school is not created equal. Montessori is not a patented name, so anyone who starts a school can call it a Montessori school.
One way to begin evaluation of a particular preschool is to check for accreditation. The two largest Montessori associations, the American Montessori Society and Association Montessori International, have rigorous accrediting programs for both schools and teachers; affiliation with one of the two main associations is a good sign. Schools affiliated with the American Montessori Society are staffed by teachers who hold AMS credentials in at least half of the classes. Auxiliary Affiliate Schools are staffed by teachers who hold AMS credentials in fewer than half of the classes. The American Montessori International has a teacher certification and an accreditation program, called Certificate of Recognition, with three levels.
However, leaders of those associations say that just because a Montessori school is not accredited does not necessarily mean it's not a good Montessori school.
Other ways to evaluate a particular Montessori school are to talk with parents whose children attend the school, meet with the director to discuss the school's philosophy and observe a preschool classroom to look for some of these Montessori characteristics:
- Montessori-trained teacher
- A child-centered environment: Generally students work individually or in small, self-selected groups
- Children progress at their own pace
- A relatively quiet classroom
- Montessori materials such as golden beads, puzzle maps, etc.
- Mixed-age groups
- No competition in the classroom
- Children completing tasks for themselves that are often done for them in other preschools (putting on jackets, setting out snacks, etc …)
- Emphasis on polite behavior