Bloom. Educating for wholeness. Imagine the Possibilities.
The fundamental motivation of a Montessori education is to guide the child to grow in knowledge and strength as a whole person and thus gain the practical skills and insight into initiating his success in his future life.
About Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician and educator, the first woman to receive her medical degree in Italy.
She first became interested in education while caring for mentally challenged children in a psychiatric clinic in Rome. Her innovative practices rapidly elicited positive learning behaviours from children previously left behind by society.
Montessori continued to shape her approach by opening “A Children's House” in 1907 for impoverished pre-school children. Her philosophy, materials, and practices have spread around the globe and have been implemented in a variety of cultural settings. As more and more schools incorporated core elements of the Montessori model — multi-age classrooms, early childhood education, and prepared environments — her namesake method became widely recognised as being ahead of its time.
An overview of the Montessori Method
One of the pillars of the Montessori approach is the prepared environment. Each classroom is equipped with materials that first introduce the children to the world through their senses and later lead to reading, writing, advanced mathematics, problem solving, geography, science and cultural studies. Visual arts, music and movement are interwoven throughout the days’ activities.
Nearly everything in a Montessori classroom is child-sized. All of the materials are designed to be self-didactic. Children learn to solve problems, see natural connections in knowledge, learn skills related to practical living, and therefore, expand their imaginative thinking.
Most materials have a control of error built into their design. Children can see and learn from their own mistakes without a teacher pointing out the error. This is one of the many aspects of a Montessori classroom that fosters independence.
Operating on the principle of freedom within limits, Montessori schools inspire children to work at their own pace, alone or with others. Trained, certified Montessori teachers encourage the growth of self-motivated, independent children by balancing active, self-directed learning with small group collaboration and peer teaching.
Classes are comprised of a range of ages and abilities. Older, more experienced children take on the role of peer mentors, reinforcing their own skills and experiencing the responsibilities of leadership through helping others. Younger children, in turn, enjoy the daily stimulation of older role models, while children of all ages learn to respect each other in a warm atmosphere of acceptance and joy.
The “absorbent mind”
This refers to the mind's natural ability to soak up information and sensations from the surrounding world. A baby is born with few skills other than its survival instinct. Until about the age of three, babies will use their senses to absorb everything that surrounds them. They do this instinctively, without thought or choice. For Montessori, this is the period of 'unconscious creation'.
The information that the child unconsciously absorbs is then used to construct and create himself and in no time he will acquire the language, physical skills (walking, control of his hands), and control over his bodily functions that are necessary for future independence.
Around the age of three starts a period of conscious creation, or conscious absorbent mind. The child will start to intentionally direct and focus his attention on experiences that will develop the foundational skills acquired during the first period.
During this second phase, the main task of the child is intellectual development and freedom. The child's mind urges him to organise, put in order and make sense of the information he absorbed. As his intelligence finds order the child acquires the freedom to move with purpose, to concentrate, and to choose his own course.
"The 'absorbent mind' welcomes everything, puts its hope in everything, accepts poverty equally with wealth, adopts any religion and the prejudices and habits of its countrymen, incarnating all in itself. This is the child!" Maria Montessori
„Education should no longer be mostly imparting knowledge, but must take a new path seeking the release of the human potentials“.
The Montessori concept of discipline
Montessori realised that true discipline grew from inside, and could not be imposed from the outside.
Indeed, when the child is allowed to follow his own spontaneous interests he will gradually adopt proper behaviour: choose appropriate tasks, master his own impulses when needed and respect the needs of others. The freedom to choose contributes to the development of a child's self-will and this leads then naturally to self-discipline.
"The discipline we are looking for is active. We do not believe that one is self-disciplined only when he is artificially made as silent, as a mute and as motionless, as a paralytic. Such a one is not disciplined but annihilated. We claim that an individual is disciplined when he is a master of himself and when he can, as a consequence, control himself when he must follow a rule of life." Maria Montessori
The “sensitive periods”
Montessori believed that children pass through important sensitive periods (for language, movement, order, writing, reading, etc. ) during which they need total focus, a great deal of sensorial exploration, and repetition in order to master skills.
During sensitive periods overpowering (sometimes obsessive) and intense activity can be observed.
Interrupting children in the middle of an intense sensitive period can cause strong emotional responses (i.e. tantrum). Breaking a routine that a child is attempting to understand and master (i.e. getting dressed, bath time, bedtime) may cause him to break down as the child is probably in a sensitive period and his intense "work" is being interrupted.
Parents and teachers can build on these sensitive periods by understanding his needs through observation, making sure the child has enough time and adequate materials are available, and by respecting his individual interests and passions.
The Montessori concept of “freedom”
Freedom is a goal not a point of departure in the classroom. A free child is one who has developed his potential and prefers to work out problems for himself, but is capable of asking for or receiving direction when necessary. An undisciplined and unskilled child is not free, but is a “slave” to his immediate desires and is excessively dependent on others (whether parent or teacher). The free child will grow into a free adult.
What is a “normalised” child?
A normalised child is a child who has reached a level of self-discipline and self-esteem so that he feels positive about himself and confident in his abilities. This child has respect for himself and for others.