It is a system of education in both a philosophy of child growth and a rational for guiding such growth. It is based on a child’s developmental needs for freedom within limits and a carefully prepared environment that guarantees exposure to materials and experience through which to develop intelligence as well as physical and psychological abilities. It is designed to take full advantage of the self-motivation and unique ability of young children to develop their own capabilities. Children need adults to expose them to the possibilities of their lives, but the children themselves must direct their responses to those possibilities.
Key principles of Montessori education are:
· Children are to be respected and treated as individuals.
· Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental ability to absorb and learn from their environment, unlike adults, both in quality and capacity.
· The most important years of growth are the first six years of life, when unconscious learning is gradually brought to a conscious level.
· Children have a deep love and need for purposeful work (play). The child works, however, not as an adult for profit and completion of a task, but for the sake of the activity itself.
· Montessori identified “the universal characteristics of childhood” from her observations of children of different cultures at various stages in their development. These characteristics can be summed up as follows:
· All children have ‘absorbent minds’ & pass through ‘sensitive periods’.
· All children want to learn & learn through play (work)
· All children want to be independent.
The absorbent mind:
A child is fundamentally different from an adult in the way he/she learns. He/she has what Montessori called an absorbent mind, one that unconsciously soaks up information from the environment, learning at a rapid rate. This capacity to learn in this way is unique to the young child and lasts for the first six years of his/her life (more or less).
During this time, the impressions made on the child’s mind actually shape and form it, and therefore have an impact on future development.
From birth to three years this process of learning is mainly passive, whereas from three to six years this process becomes active. It is at this time that new skills are acquired rapidly as well. It is imperative that at this time children are guided (safely) to experience all aspects of their environment and are given the freedom to follow what interests them the most.
From her observations of children Montessori noticed that they seemed to pass through phases when they will focus on one aspect of their environment to the exclusion of all else. They will repeat this activity time and time again, showing their predisposition to develop new knowledge and skills through their senses. It is at this time that tantrums are prevalent as it is the child’s way of saying that his/her need to learn (experience) is unsatisfied.
Sensitivity to order
Sensitivity to language
Sensitivity to movement
Sensitivity to the social aspects of life
Sensitivity to small objects
Sensitivity to sensorial learning.
Children want to learn:
It is impossible to stop children from learning at this stage in their development as it is also time when they model themselves on the adults around them and imitate this behaviour. Montessori once wrote that the hand is the instrument of the mind. By this she recognised the connection of movement and the brain. In other words, the development of the child’s mind is directly related to his/her physical movements (actions and experiences). Having identified these ‘universal characteristics of childhood’, Maria Montessori then concentrated on how best to implement these discoveries in the education of children. To do this she formulated what is now called the Montessori Method.
The main aims are:
· To facilitate the development of the child’s unique personality.
· To help him become socially and emotionally well adjusted and grow up as a physically strong and happy child.
· To help make it possible for him to develop to his full intellectual capacity.