The Montessori Method

Montessori children learn to work independently and in groups. They are encouraged to make decisions from an early age. These children are problem solvers who can make choices and manage their time well.

Montessori children are encouraged to exchange ideas and discuss their work freely with others. Good communication is a fundamental skill to a successful future.

Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop good self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.

Who was Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was a physician, educator, philosopher, and humanitarian. Born in Chiaravalle,Italy, Montessori was one of Italy’s first female physicians. She graduated from the University of Rome Medical School. She is best known for her philosophy and method of education of children from birth to adolescence. Her educational method is in use today in schools throughout the world.

Montessori School Compared to a Traditional School

A Montessori School

A Traditional School

Emphasis: academic and social development Emphasis: social development
Child is the center of the classroom Teacher is the center of the classroom
Environment and method encourage self-discipline Teacher disciplines
Mainly individual instruction Mainly group instruction
Mixed age grouping encourages children to teach and help each other Same age grouping with most teaching done by the teacher
Child chooses own work Curriculum structured for class
Child works as long as he wishes on a chosen project Child generally allotted specific time for work
Child sets own learning pace Instruction pace usually set by group norm
Child reinforces own learning by repetition of work and internal feelings of success Learning is reinforced externally by repetition and rewards
Multi-sensory materials for physical exploration Fewer materials for sensory development
Organized program for learning care of self and environment Less emphasis on self-care instruction

Famous Montessori Supporters

Well-known Icons Who Support Montessori Education & Philosophies

In 2004, on Barbara Walter’s ABT-TV Special The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the popular internet search engine, credited their years as Montessori students as a major factor behind their success. When Walters asked if the fact that their parents were college professors was a factor behind their success, they said no, that it was their going to a Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori education allowed them to learn and think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests.

Added to the list are many accomplished well-known icons that support the Montessori education and philosophies, such as:

  • Julia Child
  • Helen Keller
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Thomas Edison
  • Henry Ford
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Jean Piaget
  • Erik Erikson
  • Ann Frank
  • The Dalai Lama
  • Jacqueline Kennedy
  • Prince William and Prince Harry of the British Royal Family
  • Cher Bono
  • Yul Brynner
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton
  • Yo Yo Ma

Hallmarks of Montessori

Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multi-age groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity. In addition, a full complement of specially designed Montessori learning materials is meticulously arranged and available for use in an aesthetically pleasing environment.

The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.

Multi-age groupings are a hallmark of the Montessori Method. Younger children learn from older children; older children reinforce their learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered. This arrangement also mirrors the real world, where individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.

Dr. Montessori observed that children experience sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity, as they grow. As their students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials to these sensitive periods when learning is most naturally absorbed and internalized.

In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.