Montessori educational philosophy is based on a deep respect for children, their abilities, and their innate desire to learn and grow. Classrooms and lessons are designed with all aspect of a child’s development in mind. Academic, physical, emotional, social, spiritual learning and development are all incorporated in the curriculum as they are both essential and interrelated.
Young children learn through hands-on experience with both educational materials and their classroom environment. From birth through the age of 6, children are in the period we call the absorbent mind. Children during this stage absorb amazing amounts of knowledge and experience, more than any other period of life. Therefore, hands-on, interactive, and sensory-based learning is critical for the young child.
Montessori early childhood classrooms offer rich opportunities for in-depth experiential learning using time-honored materials that are sequential, concrete, and aesthetically appealing. Teachers add materials that draw on contemporary learning theory and children's unique interests. Children are encouraged to choose their activities from within a given range, thus promoting self-direction, intrinsic motivation, and a sense of ownership for one's own learning.
At the Elementary level, the Montessori curriculum is based on several important concepts. First, everything is interrelated. One lesson leads to many others, and the child begins to engage in integrated thinking, actively comparing knowledge gained in one discipline with that gained from another. Second, the child moves from dependence upon concrete materials to gradually more abstract understanding, with hands-on materials still providing an important springboard for learning. Work on the elementary level proceeds from the big picture to increasing detail. Montessori elementary teachers use stories and big picture demonstrations (such as the story of the Creation of the Universe) to spark interest and invite students to use their “encyclopedic minds” to investigate, analyze, and internalize related studies.
The Montessori Elementary curriculum is prefaced by the concrete and sensory-based foundational work that children do at the Children’s House level. The curricular connections from one level to another resemble a spiral, the child at each level studying similar concepts, but in greater depth and with greater abstraction. For example, on the Children’s House level children handle and learn the names of various geometric solid forms. On the Lower Elementary level children analyze these forms, and in Upper Elementary the students compare their volumes. This example is but one of many such connections within the Montessori curriculum continuum, each level proceeding from the last in logical, sequential fashion.
Montessori elementary classrooms are recognized as exciting, peaceful places where children are personally and appropriately challenged. They work with great joy, quiet dignity, curiosity and spontaneous enthusiasm.
Maria Montessori was an innovator, teacher, author, doctor, mother, life-long scholar, and advocate for world peace.
Born in 1870 in Italy, Dr. Maria Montessori could be considered a pioneering feminist. She defied her parents wishes that she become a teacher—one of the few professions open to women at the time—and instead chose to study mathematics, engineering, and biology. She then attended the University of Rome Medical School and became its first female graduate in 1896. Dr. Montessori specialized in pediatrics and thus came into contact with numerous children and families of the working class. Her experiences led her to support several social reform movements. As her work progressed, she began to embrace a scientific approach to education, based on observation and experimentation, which came to be known as the Child Study School of Thought.
In 1906, Dr. Montessori was invited to lead a Roman school for infants, and so the first Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, was established. She further developed her philosophy and methodology for the education of young children. Her revolutionary ideas proved so successful that Montessori schools were created throughout Europe and the United States. She soon ended her medical career to devote all of her energies to advocating the intellectual potential of children. Contemporary Montessori education has extracted and adapted many aspects of Dr. Montessoris scholarship, including the key principles of personalized instruction, manipulative learning materials, educational games, and the developmental classroom concept.