Dr. Maria Montessori found that children’s best learning takes place through their senses and through their physical activity.
After years of expression in mainly pre-schools, Montessori's philosophy is finally being used as originally intended: a method of seeing children as they really are and of creating environments which foster the fulfillment of their highest potential – spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual – as members of a family, the world community and the Cosmos.
Dr. Montessori gave the world a scientific method, practical and tested, for bringing forth the very best in young human beings. She taught adults how to respect individual differences, and to emphasize social interaction and the education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body of knowledge. Montessori practice is always up-to-date and dynamic because observation and the meeting of needs is continual and specific for each child. When physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs are met, children glow with excitement and a drive to play and work with enthusiasm, to learn, and to create. They exhibit a desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment.
The high level of academic achievement so common in Montessori schools is a natural outcome of experience in such a supportive environment. The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural, mixed-age group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults.
Today Montessori teacher training centers and schools exist on all continents. There are Montessori parenting classes, “Nidos” (“nests” for infants), infant communities, “children’s houses” (for ages 3 to 6 years), and classes for children up to age eighteen in public and private schools. Montessori works in gifted and talented programs, and for children with developmental disabilities of all kinds. Many parents are using Dr. Montessori’s discoveries to raise/educate their children at home.
The discoveries of Maria Montessori are valuable for anyone living and working with children in any situation.
Learning Through Discovery
Montessori education emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Montessori classes place children in multi-age groups, forming localized communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones.
Dr. Montessori believed that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. In the classroom, children develop their coordination and motor skills while becoming absorbed in everyday activities. They become confident, independent, and gradually lengthen their span of concentration. They also learn to pay attention to details as they follow a regular sequence of actions. Finally, they learn good work habits as they finish each task and put materials away before beginning another activity.
A young child meets the world around him through the constant use of all his senses. Since he quite naturally uses all his powers of observation during these early years, Dr. Montessori felt that this was an ideal time to give the child equipment, which would sharpen his senses and enable him to understand the many impressions he receives through them.
The sensorial materials in the classroom help children to distinguish, to categorize, and to relate new information to what they already know. Dr. Montessori believed that this process is the beginning of conscious knowledge. It is brought about by the intelligence working in a concentrated way on the impressions given by the senses.
Dr. Montessori demonstrated that if a child has access to mathematical equipment in his early year, he can easily and joyfully assimilate many facts and skills of arithmetic. She designed concrete materials to represent all types of quantities after she observed that the child who becomes interested in counting likes to touch or move the items as he enumerates them. Later, by combining this equipment, separating it, sharing it, counting it, and comparing it, he can demonstrate to himself the basic operations of arithmetic. This activity gives him the satisfaction of learning by discovery rather than by being told. Eventually he develops an early enthusiasm for the world of numbers.