By: Cathy Rodrigue
Montessori education is a unique approach to learning that is simultaneously embraced and misunderstood by many. I would like to mention a few of the benefits that await students in a Montessori program.
Various research studies have been done comparing a Montessori education to traditional school education. One such study, in an issue of the Journal of Science states, “This study supports the hypothesis that Montessori education has a positive long-term impact. A significant finding in this study is the association between a Montessori education and superior performance on the math and science scales of the ACT and WKCE. Montessori students prove to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children. They also tested better on ‘executive function,’ the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success. Additionally, they displayed better abilities on the social and behavioral tests, demonstrating a greater sense of justice and fairness.” There are many such studies you could google and read.
The benefits of a Montessori education are numerous. The teaching methods focus on work that helps develop a child’s ability to concentrate, be self-motivated, self-directed, self-confident, as well as to appreciate order. At an early age the children are taught to be independent. They learn to care for their own needs by pouring their own juice, helping to prepare and serve snacks to friends, and taking are of the environment. This fosters their natural desire to be independent and self-confident. They take pride in their ability to do things on their own. Montessori classes encourage children to explore their environment and allows them the freedom to make choices. It’s also stimulating and child oriented, a place they can learn and explore without fear. Freedom within a structured environment helps develop a sense of order and purpose, which increases critical thinking skills, decision making, understanding of natural consequences, and encourages creativity.
Montessori teachers know and understand that each child is unique and endowed with great potential. Children are respected and not made to fit in a “box.” Instead, individual attention is given to each child. They are guided and supported in a nurturing environment that helps to develop the whole child socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Children excel when they know their teachers believe in them and support their abilities.
Mixed-age classes allow older children to develop leadership skills and patience, as well as reinforce their knowledge and skills while helping the younger students. In return, the younger children love the attention of the older students. They have the benefit of having a model of correct behavior and work habits and are motivated by seeing the more complicated works of the older students.
Children blossom when they are respected and given the freedom to work with materials that fully engage their interests. A Montessori class is calm, peaceful, interesting, and nurturing, which facilitates learning.
To list just a few of the results of a Montessori education:
- self-directed and self-motivated
- intelligent individuals with wonderful work ethics who are reaching their full potential.
"Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Human teachers can only help the great work that is being done. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be a victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society." - Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a "blank slate" waiting to be written upon. Her main contributions to the work of those of us raising and educating children are in these areas:
- Preparing the most natural and life supporting environment for the child.
- Observing the child living freely in this environment.
- Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his greatest potential -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.