Being a Montessori method alum myself, I strongly advocate for this education in our preschoolers. But, far from my personal experience with this method, it’s important to share the evidence-based/professional reasoning as to why this is such a powerful educational tool.
Maria Montessori was an Italian innovator, physician, and educator who began her teaching career in a small village in Rome. Her approach to education quickly spread around the world, turning her ideas into a method.
According to the American Montessori Society, the Montessori method is ¨a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.¨ It is an approach that values the holistic view of the child in all her/his realms – physical, social, emotional and cognitive.
Is a student-led approach, but provides a framework
One of the best things about the Montessori Method is that it provides an individualized learning approach where children are responsible for their own learning. Some parents (and a few teachers) cringe at the thought of student-led. They’re worried that if they allow children to choose the way they learn, chaos will ensue.
Maria Montessori believed giving children the opportunity to direct their learning promotes independence in the classroom. Now, what is the role of the teachers during this process? Does this mean that a child can transition into 20 different activities throughout the day? How do teachers promote this independence while also maintaining an appropriate learning environment?
For educators who practice this method, student-led and a safe environment with clear and consistent limits are not mutually exclusive. So, while students are provided with the necessary materials to thrive in this setting, they’re also held responsible for their choices.
Allows for a playful approach to education, without drifting towards free play
Since this is a play-advocacy space, it’s crucial to talk about playfulness and how it’s related to this type of education model. The Montessori method relies on playful learning to teach students a variety of skills and content. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that students are given a wide range of toys. Or that free play is customary in this type of classroom.
On the contrary, some traditional Montessori setting doesn’t even include traditional toys like costumes or toy kitchens. As Heike Larson writes for the Montessori Administrators Association, ¨Instead of merely pretending to prepare and serve a snack to stuffed animals, Montessori children have the opportunity to do the real thing! Instead of using a plastic knife to cut a wooden, fake banana, to serve to dolls, they use a real knife, cut up a real banana, and serve it to their real friends.¨
It provides a timeless approach to education, while also reinforcing 21st Century Skills
Bear in mind that all of the techniques and philosophies mentioned above originated at the beginning of the 20th Century, along with their founder, Maria Montessori. Yet, its approach has managed to survive over the years, proving that teaching these skills is a fundamental part of education.
I’ve written about 21st Century Skills before in this blog, and the reason why is because I think it’s fundamental to include these into curriculums. What sets this method apart from traditional education, is that it provides a hands-on individualized education. The teacher meets the student where she/he is at the moment, rather than expect her/him to meet the teacher.
¨Play is the child’s work ¨ is a phrase play therapists use constantly. A quote by the great Maria Montessori and a statement based on years of studies and observation. Hopefully, her legacy can inspire teachers around the world to inject playfulness into their classrooms. With so much technology and so much innovation, there are some things that are worth fighting for. Playfulness is one of them.
Please note that this blog post is in no way sponsored or affiliated with any Montessori school or association. The thoughts provided in this post are solely of the author.