The Montessori materials - Dr. Montessori's observations of the kinds of things which children enjoy and go back to repeatedly, led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials, which facilitate the learning of skills and lead to learning of abstract ideas.
The teacher - The Montessori teacher functions as a guide within the environment, a role model, a demonstrator, a record-keeper, and a meticulous observer of each child's behavior and academic growth. The teacher operates as a facilitator of education for the whole child.
How does it work?
Each Montessori class, from preprimary through elementary, operates on the principle of responsible freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age-to-age, but is always based on the core Montessori philosophy: respect for one another and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on her observation of the children to determine which new activities and materials she may introduce to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual with small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The three-year age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation, and language experiences, in the Montessori classroom than in a traditional early education setting.
What happens when a child leaves Montessori?
Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they've been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well.
They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely, utilizing good communication skills while easing the way into a new setting.
Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop a positive self-image and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.
What makes Montessori education unique?
The "whole child" approach - The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach their full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination, as well as, cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum, under the direction of a specially prepared teacher, allows the child to experience the joy of learning, time to enjoy the process and ensure the development of self-esteem, and provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge.
The "prepared environment" - In order for self- directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment (room, materials and social climate) must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. The teacher thus gains the children's trust, which enables them to try new things and builds self-confidence.