“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori education is a non-traditional system of education which focuses on the learning and development of every child in the classroom.
Montessori education system was established by Dr. Maria Montessori. Being a revolutionary, Dr. Montessori was Italy’s first female doctor and opened her first Montessori school in 1907 by the name Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House).
Montessori course involves self-directed activities and is prominently impactful in early childhood and during primary school education.
Montessori curriculum is different from the traditional education system, wherein no specific curriculum is assigned to the children of a particular age group and they are made to study that subject irrespective of their interest and understanding. Rather, the Montessori curriculum is based on each child’s needs and interests.
Every child has the freedom to choose what they want to learn and can keep learning that particular skill for as long as they want without any interruptions from others. This helps the child to develop a better understanding of that subject/skill.
A particularly interesting characteristic of Montessori education lies in its multi-age classrooms. In contrast to the traditional education system where kids are grouped in a classroom on the basis of their age, Montessori classrooms are multi-age meaning kids of different age groups can study together in a classroom. The segregation is based solely on a child’s interests and understanding.
Freedom to move about in the classroom is yet another characteristic of Montessori education that makes it stand out.
Principles of Montessori Education:
Montessori education is based on five core principles which are as follows:
Respect for the Child
Montessori education revolves and focuses on a child as an individual. Respect is given to a child’s choices. They have the freedom to choose what they want to do and what they want to learn. A child can move around in the classroom and is not restricted to a bench in a classroom which is normally the case in the traditional system of education.
Dr. Montessori observed that children show their full potential when they have the freedom to make their choices, and this forms the core of the Montessori curriculum. A child’s mistakes are not frowned upon, rather they are given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in the Montessori education method.
“We are not dealing with something that develops, but with a fact of formation; something nonexistent has to be produced, starting from nothing. The wonderful step taken by the baby is to pass from nothing to something.”
-Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Dr. Montessori has described 0-6 years as the “absorbent mind” stage in a child. At this stage, a child’s mind acts as a sponge, absorbing every information from their environment, just like a sponge soaks in everything from its surroundings. During this phase, a child has an intense mental activity where they grasp everything from their environment without any conscious effort from others. Language, behavioral patterns depending on the situation, traits of their family and many more are learned during this absorbent mind phase. It forms the foundation of a child’s personality and intellect.
Dr. Montessori has divided the absorbent mind phase into two:
0 – 3 Years of Age
This stage is called the unconscious stage. During this phase, a child acquires knowledge from their surroundings and puts that knowledge into use without any conscious effort and logic behind it.
For instance, a child can learn to sit, walk, or speak during this phase without any conscious effort or understanding of its importance. They basically mimic what they see.
3 – 6 years of age
This is called the conscious stage. At this stage, a child continues to absorb knowledge from their surroundings. The major difference between the two stages is that during this stage, memory starts developing along with the power to understand.
A child starts reasoning for each action. A child starts making sense and gives meaning to their learnings.
During this phase. a child starts learning order, sequence, numbers, letter sounds and music. This helps in reading, writing and understanding/doing math as they grow up.
Absorbent mind and sensitive period stages work in tandem with each other.
Sensitive phases in a child’s life have an internal motivation to learn a particular skill.
During this phase, a child focuses on one skill/characteristic that they learn from their environment and excludes others. Once this phase passes, the child might not show the same interest in learning the skill as they did before. The child can learn the skill in the future but with much greater difficulty.
There are some characteristics of a child’s sensitive period which are as follows:
- They have a keen interest in learning a particular skill while excluding others.
- Persistently working on honing a skill without boredom or fatigue. Instead, the child works on developing the skill with much more interest and energy.
- Will repeat the task again and again with a lot of joy and passion.
- It is a transitory stage, which once lost is never regained.
Montessori classrooms are referred to as a prepared environment.
Montessori education classrooms are different when compared to the traditional educational organization classrooms. It is much more child driven. Walls are normally colored in neutral paints and are decked up with artistic work. Classrooms are set up in a way that enables an optimal learning environment for a child.
There are no specific benches for students to sit in, rather there are individual corners with different activities set up and a child has the freedom to choose what they want to do on that specific day.
A sense of order is present in such classrooms with everything present in a designated place, with a sense of freedom by breaking the norms of a traditional teaching set up.
The core principle of Montessori education is auto-education or self-education.
Dr. Montessori believed that no one can be educated by another person, instead the person should educate themselves to truly gain that knowledge or else it will never happen.
Montessori course focuses on this very principle. In this system of education, teachers do not hover over kids and try to impart the knowledge irrespective of the understanding capacity of all the kids. Instead, a teacher provides the guidance and environment for a kid to learn a particular skill. Teachers just observe and do not form an obstacle in a child’s learning process. They provide help only when a child asks for it.
Overall, Montessori education system is different from the traditional system in the option to decide what he/she wants to learn or which skill to hone. This in turn helps the child to remember that skill for life.