The Montessori System
Philosophies and Methodologies
The system of education is both a philosophy of child growth and a rationale for guiding such growth. It is based on the child’s developmental needs for freedom within limits; and a carefully prepared environment that guarantees exposure to materials and experiences, 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 children to develop their own capabilities. The child needs adults to expose him to the possibilities of the child’s life, but the child himself must direct his response to those possibilities.
The basic idea in the Montessori philosophy of education is that all children carry within themselves the person they will become. In order to develop physical, intellectual and spiritual potential to the fullest, the child must have freedom: freedom to be achieved through order and self-discipline. The world of the child, according to Montessori educators, is full of sights and sounds, which at first appear chaotic. From this chaos children must gradually create order, learn to distinguish among the impressions that assail their senses, and slowly but surely gain mastery of themselves and their environment.
Dr. Montessori developed what she called the prepared environment, which already possesses a certain order and allows children to learn at their own speed, according to their own capabilities in a non-competitive atmosphere. “Never let the children risk failure until they have had a reasonable chance of success.” During the years of early childhood children learn the rules of human behavior most easily. These years can be constructively devoted to “civilizing” children, freeing them through the acquisition of good manners and habits, to take their places in their culture.
Dr. Montessori recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. Children move themselves toward learning. The teacher prepares the environment, directs the activity, and offers the child stimulation, but it is the child who learns, who is motivated through the work itself, (not by the teacher’s personality) to persist in a given task. Children in a Montessori classroom are free to learn, because they have acquired an “inner discipline” from their exposure to both physical and mental order. This is the core of Dr. Montessori’s philosophy. Social adjustment, though a necessary condition for learning in a schoolroom, is not the purpose of education. Patterns of concentration, perseverance and thoroughness, established in early childhood, produce a confident, competent learner in later years. Montessori teaches children to observe, to think and to judge. It introduces children to the joy of learning at an early age and provides a framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand-in-hand.
Children need a balance of physical, cognitive, social and emotional stimulation in order to maintain and enhance their optimum level of development. Understanding, caring, self-discipline, a creative curriculum and awareness of self-esteem need to be incorporated into each child’s daily life. Each child is valued as an individual and we strive to provide an avenue by which free expression can be nurtured within a guided framework. The classrooms are set up with “invitations” that allow the child to be the initiator in directing his work, his play, and his interactions. Children who are encouraged to explore independently will develop a sense of security and competence that enhances their self-esteem. A child-friendly environment that is developmentally appropriate for each stage, needs to be rich in sensorial, language, and gross motor activities.
Dr. Montessori believed that it was not possible for one human being to be taught by another human being when it came to educating children, rather that each child learned by “doing.” Children are motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate his own natural desire to learn.
In the Montessori community, this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his own choice and readiness rather than by being forced; and second, by helping him to perfect all his natural tools for learning so that his ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. She remarked at the speed at which children can develop: “If our own adult ability be compared with the child’s, we should need sixty years of hard work to do what he or she does in three!”
Montessori goals for children: