Focusing On The Child
Montessori education takes place in a mixed-age classroom. Students enrolled in a Montessori program typically spend three years in the same classroom where the opportunities and benefits for peer teaching and modeling are tremendous. For example, the older child can reinforce his/her own skills and self-esteem by “teaching” a younger classmate a skill that he/she has mastered, while a younger child has the opportunity to observe and emulate peer models. The Montessori teacher is not the focus of the class, but rather “follows the child”. The teacher and students have the benefit of the multi-year class, in that there is no loss of learning time getting to know each student and his/her particular learning style, interests and strengths at the beginning of each and every school year.
One basic idea of the Montessori philosophy is that “carried, unseen within each child, is the person the child will become.” To develop to their fullest physical, spiritual, and intellectual potential, the child must have freedom – achieved through order and self-discipline. Central to the Montessori Method is the “prepared environment” created by Dr. Maria Montessori. Among its features is an ordered arrangement of sequential learning materials designed to be developmentally appropriate and aesthetically pleasing. Used in the non-competitive Montessori classroom, the materials allow each child to develop at his/her own rate. This “prepared environment” allows and encourages children to think, observe, make choices, and judgments. It introduces children to the joy of learning at an early age and provides the framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand-in-hand.
The aim of Montessori education is to foster competent, responsible, adaptive citizens who are lifelong learners and problem solvers. Learning occurs in an inquiring, cooperative, nurturing atmosphere. Children increase their own knowledge through self and teacher-initiated experiences. Learning takes place through the senses and the child is considered as a whole. The “whole child” approach to teaching and learning means that the physical, emotional, social, aesthetic, spiritual, and cognitive needs and interests are inseparable and equally important. Respect for one’s self, others, the environment, and life is necessary to develop a caring attitude toward all people and the planet.