“I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori Method is a philosophy that respects the unique individuality of each child. Dr. Montessori believed in the worthiness, value and importance of children. Her method is founded on the belief that children should be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.
It is an approach to education that helps children learn in their own way at their own pace. The main concept of Montessori is to promote the joy of learning. This joy of learning develops a well adjusted person who has a purpose and direction in his or her life. Children, who experience the joy of learning, are happy, confident, fulfilled children.
Other important skills it teaches are self-reliance and independence. It helps children to become independent by teaching them life skills, which are called “practical life”. Montessori children learn to dress themselves, help cook, put their toys and clothes away and take an active part of their household, neighbourhood and school.
Montessori works in a methodical way. Each step in the process leads to the next level of learning. When a child plays, he or she is really learning concepts for later learning. Repetition of activities is an integral part of this learning process.
Maria Montessori’s scientific observation of the child was the essential component of her scientific research. The revelation came from the children; it is contained in their special kind of mind and the fact that we can allow them to act freely in the right environment.
The secret of childhood is that deep within each and every child, there is an inner drive. This unconscious life force, called horme, drives the child to develop himself (auto-educate). This is how the child’s mind is built. In order to provide the necessary sensory input so the synapses in the brain can multiply, the child must be fully engaged in his environment and be free to move.
“Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.” Movement has great importance in mental development; however, it must be connected with mental activity.
How Does the Brain Develop
The brain consists of a number of vital parts: neurons, dendrites and synapses. If connections are not made between these components, the neurons may die off and that is why it’s essential to have stimulating learning at a young age.
Movement requires the coordination of the brain, the senses and the muscles. It is through movement that the child develops his intelligence and gains his independence.
The Absorbent Mind
Maria Montessori believed that every human being went through a quantum leap in learning during the preschool years. She felt this was especially true during the first few years of life. The years when a child learns language is surely a profound and mysterious process of learning. The urges that a baby has to sit up, crawl, and walk are also stages of development that are innate. Montessori called this process of learning and behavior norms as the sensitive periods. During a sensitive period it is very easy to teach children certain concepts that later on will be considerably more difficult for an older child to learn.
Dr. Montessori believed that a child was the teacher and that we should observe our children to know which stage of learning or sensitive period they are in.
Sensitive Periods for Learning
The first six years of a child’s life will help shape the child’s personality, mental and emotional capacity:
- Birth to 3 years: The absorbent mind-the mind soaks up information like a sponge. Sensory learning and experiences: The child uses all five senses-touch, taste, feel, sight, and hearing-to understand and absorb information about his or her environment.
- 1 ½ to 3 years: Language explosion-a child builds his or her future foundation for language at this period.
- 1 ½ to 4 years: Development and coordination of fine and large muscle skills, advanced developing grasp and release skill spawns an interest in any small object (usually dangerous ones on the floor).
- 2 to 4 years: Very mobile with greater coordination and refinement of movement, increased interest in language and communication (they love to tell stories- true or not!), aware of spatial relationships, matching, sequence and order of objects.
- 2 ½ to 6 years: Works well incorporating all five senses for learning and adapting to environment.
- 3 to 6 years: Interest and admiration of the adult world, they want to copy and mimic adults-such as parents and teachers. One of the few times most children are very open to their parents and other adults.
- 4 to 5 years: Using one’s hands and fingers in cutting, writing and art. Their tactile senses are very developed and acute.
- 4 ½ to 6 years: Reading and math readiness, and eventually, reading and math skills.
Unlike other educational systems, the Montessori method is based on a thorough understanding of the child and their capacity to learn, harnessing their strengths to propel them forward while working on their weaknesses.