Montessori Matters
The Benefits of the Montessori Method

First introduced in 1907 in the San Lorenzo district of Rome, Italy, Montessori is a teaching philosophy developed by Dr. Maria Montessori based upon the basic principle that a child learns best within a social environment which supports his individual unique development. Montessori based the program at her first child care center, “Children’s House,” on her observations that young children learn best in a homelike setting, filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences contributing to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners. Montessori introduced many of today’s current traditional educational principles, including providing child-size furniture in the classroom, educating the whole child, and teaching with manipulatives for concrete understanding.

Montessori schools, are independently initiated, owned, and managed. Though the name Montessori is in the public domain, not all schools that claim to be Montessori schools actually follow the Montessori method of teaching or are accredited by either the American Montessori Society or Association Montessori Internationale and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. A Montessori experience helps a child to develop order, concentration, coordination and independence (OCCI), intrinsically.

The Montessori method:
  • Emphasizes cognitive structures and social development.
  • Focuses on the child as an active participant in learning; gives the teacher an unobtrusive role in classroom activity.
  • Uses environment and teaching methods to encourage child’s internal self-discipline.
  • Adapts individual and group instruction to each student’s learning style.
  • Encourages cooperative learning through mixed age grouping, peer teaching and social interaction.
  • Encourages children to teach, collaborate, and help each other.
  • Expects that children will choose to work according to their own interests and abilities.
  • Encourages children to formulate their own concepts from self-teaching materials.
  • Depends on children to spot their own errors through feedback from the material.
  • Allows a child to work as long as he wishes on a chosen project.
  • Allows children to set their own learning pace to internalize information.
  • Reinforces learning internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success.
  • Emphasizes learning care of self (tying own shoes, blowing own nose) and environment (polishing shoes, cleaning tables, etc.)
  • Allows child to work where he is comfortable, move around and talk at will, so long as he does not disturb the work of others.
  • Makes group work voluntary and negotiable.

Certified Montessori teachers employ specific strategies to facilitate the unique and total growth of each individual child. First, they prepare an environment in which children are free to choose their own work and thus develop independence, as well as a lifetime joy and love for learning. Second, they develop a partnership with parents. Montessori founded her philosophy on the belief that the parent is the key to bridging the gap between home and school.  This goal is intimately linked to that of developing autonomous, competent, caring, responsible individuals.

Montessori materials are self-correcting to promote success. Each work/activity/lesson is set up, specifically, with controls-of-error which allow the child to discover that the process he used to complete the work was either correct or not correct. The method assumes that a child does not need an adult to correct his work. Because Montessori believed that children have a natural desire to emulate the adults in their lives, Montessori classrooms have a curriculum area called Practical Life. The Practical Life area in the room makes available an array of child-size household items to be used just as they are by the adults in their home. The materials also help the child to develop gross and fine motor skills.

Montessori classrooms provide curriculum areas for the senses, math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, practical life and gross motor skills.  Each work/activity/lesson within a specific curriculum area is placed on a shelf, in sequential order, with the simplest located at the top left and the most complex located at the bottom right.  Choosing each work/activity/lesson in this manner provides some children with their first introduction to the concept of reading from left to right and from top to bottom.  The program teaches children not to proceed to the next work/activity/lesson until they have mastered the previous one.

As they would when making any educational decision for their child, parents who are considering a Montessori program for their child should visit the school, meet the staff and observe a classroom.  Because one Montessori school may differ from another, parents should seek the best match for the individual child.

Maria Zullo resides in Stratford and is preparing to open the New England School of Montessori in Milford in late spring.


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