What is Montessori Education?

If your child is having trouble learning in a structured classroom environment, the teacher may have recommended a Montessori Education for him.

What does the term mean, and how is this type of education different? What are the benefits, or the detriments of this approach? If your child is placed in this learning environment, will he succeed?

What Does the Teacher mean by Montessori Learning?

Wikipedia provides some information. The approach was developed by an Italian doctor and educator named Maria Montessori. She did valuable research into the learning patterns of special needs children and created a program to help meet their educational requirements. The term “special needs” is often used to indicate children who have developmental delays or physical or psychological impediments, but this learning method is geared toward children who learn differently, no matter what the reason. The educational approach centers on the uniqueness of each child and emphasizes the development of independence and interest-based learning. Ms. Montessori opened her first classroom in Italy in 1907. The concept spread to America in 1911, but fell into disfavor and did not resurface until the 1960s.

What is Different about Montessori Learning?

Maria Montessori believed that, left to explore their own interests and provided with appropriate materials, children naturally teach themselves. They may need some adult guidance, but this is in the form of facilitation and not lecturing or traditional teaching.

Doctor Montessori identified several human tendencies such as abstraction, activity, communication, order, orientation, manipulation of the environment and others. She advocated for classrooms built to enable and enhance the use of these tendencies in learning.

So, what does a Montessori classroom look like? First, there are no rows of assigned seats. Instead, there are activity stations among which your child may move freely. The classes usually consist of about thirty students of varying ages. Teachers go from station to station answering questions and guiding student progress. With all this freedom of movement, there is an emphasis on order and cleanliness in the room as well as an attractive environment. There may be animals or plants in the room as well. The intent is to stimulate curiosity and encourage children to follow their own interests.

What are the Pros and Cons of the Learning Approach?

Students in the Montessori classroom learn independence at an early age, according to the Montessori website. They also develop coordination and concentration. Each child is accepted and valued as a unique individual. The presence of children of different ages in the classroom encourages natural mentoring. Following their own interests, children master one thing at a time, and enjoy learning. They become good at evaluating their own progress and correcting their mistakes. Teaching in the Montessori classroom may not be easy for some teachers, though. It might be difficult to allow a child the freedom to follow his own interests and make his own mistakes. Not all children are suited for this type of learning environment, either, and the presence of one disruptive student may disturb the “equilibrium” of the entire classroom. Another possible detriment of this approach is that students may have difficulty if they have to transition back to a traditional classroom.

Although may be some pitfalls in this method of learning, your child might thrive in it. The natural desire of children to learn, and the availability of materials and opportunities to explore the world encourages people to pursue lifelong learning. That is what the Montessori Education is all about.