A Guide to the Montessori Method for Preschool Parents

May 03, 2018

When it comes to early childhood education, there are many opinions out there about what it should look like, how to do it, when to do it and what educational methods to incorporate. One popular option is the Montessori Method.

This educational method is polarizing. Some people swear by it and credit it with success later in life. Others feel it is too pricey or just what is trendy and not worth it. With education being a personal choice of parents, it is best to look at it objectively before making a decision. Looking over the ways it differs from a traditional educational approach to learning more about its history, can help parents to better understand what it is and if it sounds like something they want for their children.

Aspects of the Montessori Method

There are specific aspects of the Montessori Method that are very different from a traditional classroom. These include the setup of the room, the curriculum and even how students and teachers interact. Here’s a look at some of the main differences.

Not Stuck at a Desk

In fact, there are not even many desks in a classroom. Instead students are encouraged to lay on mats on the floor and set up their own workspace that suits them. Students have the freedom to move about when needed. They may get up and get a snack or read in the classroom library.

Classroom Designed for Students

Furniture and other items in the classroom are all designed to fit the students. Everything is child-sized and at their level. This allows for more independence and freedom so a child can do things on his or her own without having to ask for help. In addition, natural materials are used more so than plastic and similar manufactured materials along with a focus on reusing and recycling. There is also a focus on not overcrowding and providing too much so as to not overwhelm students and to provide a calming environment with elements such as fresh flowers on a tabletop.

Students Lead, Not Teachers

In a traditional classroom, the teacher is in charge, makes all the rules and tells everyone what they will be doing each day. That is not how things work in a Montessori classroom. Going along with the freedom theme, this type of classroom allows students to lead the day’s activities. Each student chooses what he or she will do. Of course, the materials and available activities are all planned and arranged by the teacher, but the teacher does not assign the work. The children will choose from the available activities whatever it is that they feel like doing that day. Learning this way is very much self-paced and allows children to immerse themselves in enjoyable activities while also learning.

A Well-Rounded Curriculum

The curriculum in this type of classroom incorporates all the usually subjects, such as math and reading, but it also includes practical subjects and topics. Students not only learn the basics but also learn how to wash dishes, tend a garden and clean up after themselves. Sensorial activities are also a big thing, allowing students to explore the world around them in a hands-on way. Some studies may seem advanced, but one of the core ideas of this method is that students at the preschool age are really at a prime place in life to acquire skills and learn, so this is why foreign languages are usually taught along with the other subjects, including music, science and geography.

All the learning materials and tools are designed to engage children naturally and make them want to learn. They are also designed to be self-correcting so students will know if they have done something wrong and can then correct it on their own, which goes back to the idea of self-paced, independent learning. All subjects use interactive elements to help make concepts more tangible to students. Children enjoy working with the tools provided, making it fun. They may not even realize they are learning because they enjoy the process so much.

Age Limits Do Not Exist

In a traditional setting, classrooms are broken up based on age and grade level. This does not happen in a Montessori classroom. There are children in the preschool classrooms that range from age three to six. They all share the same learning tools and work together as they learn. This works because of how the classroom is arranged for self-paced, independent work. It also helps encourage older children to help younger ones, which builds interpersonal skills, along with others, such as communication skills.

The History of the Montessori Method

This educational method was not just developed out of nothing. It is actually based on the work of an early twentieth century educator and physician, Dr. Maria Montessori. Dr. Montessori originally focused on preschool education, but soon developed her ideas to fit older children.

The Montessori Method goes all the way back to 1907 when the first school was opened. Today, they are located around the world. Most schools are still focused on preschool ages, but some educate until the eighth grade. There are some schools that operate as a Montessori school, but that may not be actually following the principles correctly. Schools that are part of the American Montessori Society are usually the best bet for authentic education under this method.

The Montessori Method has seen much popularity. There are plenty of famous names attached to the schools. For example, Julia Child, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are the founders of Google, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Dakota Fanning are all graduates of Montessori schools. However, it is entirely up to each parent to check out a school and see if it offers the kind of learning environment in which their child will flourish and grow.

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