Montessori is a unique method of introducing the child to a lifetime of enjoyable learning. Special materials, largely manipulative in nature, help to answer the child’s developmental needs and enable him/her to experience the excitement of learning by his/her own choices. The child is helped to develop all his/her natural tools for learning so that his/her ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations.
Dr. Montessori believed that in every child there is a special kind of sensitivity that leads him/her to absorb everything around him/her.
Fundamental to Montessori theory is the multi-aged classroom. Each classroom includes children aged 3-5+ years old. The children may work either individually or in small groups learning and sharing with one another. It was Dr. Montessori’s belief that the children of mixed-age groups mutually benefit from working together. There is a love, respect, and admiration between ages.
The special equipment that a child will use at three or four will help develop the concentration, coordination, and working habits necessary for the more advanced exercises he/she will perform at five and six. By being in a multi-aged classroom, children are exposed to a wider variety of activities, have more opportunity to try out new and challenging skills, and learn compassion, patience, and tolerance.
Montessori prepares the child to be a creative learner, developing habits of initiative, persistence, a sense of order, curiosity, and concentration. In a mixed-age classroom, children benefit from seeing all these concepts modeled and presented throughout the day.
Montessori captures the concept of ‘the family’ at the core of learning. After all, one does not segregate members of a family according to age! It is natural that older children learn to be responsible, gain self-confidence, and develop self-esteem and leadership skills through interacting and modeling to younger children. The younger children offer the older children opportunities to extend care and compassion to another human being. Those parents with more than one child can understand this concept as they observe this in daily practice between and among their children.
By placing children of mixed-ages together, Montessori observed that a natural family atmosphere was created. Such a natural setting allows children to interact and learn life-long skills of living and working together in peace and harmony within a relaxed, safe, and nurturing environment.
The Role of the Teacher
The Montessori teacher, called a directress/director, is the link between the child and the environment. He/she carefully observes each child to know what he/she is doing and what his/her interests are every day. The teacher allows the child to work at his/her own pace and in an unhurried atmosphere. The teacher respects the child. The Montessori teacher allows the child to develop physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
The Montessori teacher watches the progress of each child and keeps a record of his/her work with materials as he/she progresses. The teacher is trained to recognize periods of readiness. Whenever a child makes a mistake, the teacher refrains, if possible from intervening and allows the child to discover his/her error through further manipulation of the self-correcting material. This procedure follows Dr. Montessori’s principle that children “learn by doing.”
The Montessori teacher is actively involved in his/her own spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth as part of a lifelong learning process. The teacher models a love of learning in his/her own life which is infectious and essential when working with children.
When entering the Gardenview Montessori program, each child is looked upon an individual and as such, taken on from the point at which he/she has arrived. Children work individually or in small groups with materials making the classroom a cooperative environment. Competition in the Montessori classroom is a rarity. A child’s work is measured against his/her own progress rather than compared to the achievement of others.
Dr. Montessori believed that competition in education should be introduced only after the child has gained confidence in the use of the basis skills. “Never let a child risk failure,” she wrote, “until he/she has a reasonable chance of success.” It is a deep conviction at Gardenview that all children should be set up for success rather than failure, regardless of their abilities, gifts, and talents.