What Makes Montessori Learning Unique

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You might have come across a school that calls itself Montessori and thought it was a school like any other. No, it’s not. In fact, Montessori is a method of learning that is emphasized in certain schools. The method of learning is commonly applied among young learners between ages 2 and 6 years. Unlike traditional schools, where learning is only initiated by the teacher, Montessori focuses on creating conditions that inspire kids to learn through experimentation. Continue reading below to understand what makes Montessori stand out from conventional learning methods.

What Exactly is Montessori?

Maria Montessori in 1913

Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 20th century, this method of teaching emphasizes hands-on learning and collaborative play in a carefully prepared environment. Unlike traditional classroom settings, Montessori classrooms are arranged to encourage children to move freely and choose activities that interest them, guided by trained instructors who facilitate the learning process.

At the heart of Montessori philosophy is the belief that children are naturally eager to learn and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It caters to individual learning speeds, ensuring that children progress at their own pace, allowing for a deeply personal educational experience. This approach not only respects individual differences but also promotes diversity and inclusion within the classroom.

Montessori education covers various stages of a child’s development, from infancy through adolescence, with materials and curriculum tailored to the learning needs of each age group. For example, younger children focus on practical life skills, sensory activities, and basic motor tasks, while older students engage in more complex subjects such as mathematics, language, culture, and scientific inquiry.

A distinctive feature of Montessori education is the mixed-age classroom, where younger children learn from older ones, and older children reinforce their knowledge by teaching concepts they have already mastered. This setup fosters a sense of community, leadership skills, and social development.

Reasons Why Montessori Learning is Unique

Blackboard and teacher's table

Characterized by its focus on independence, respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development, and a carefully prepared environment, Montessori offers a distinct and effective way of educating children. Here are some reasons why Montessori learning is truly unique.

1. Independent Learning

When learners are confined in a traditional classroom, they have to learn as a block because they can only tap knowledge from a single source, the teacher. What this means is that all the learners acquire knowledge at the same time, and learning can only take place when the teacher is around. The problem with conventional learning is that it discourages kids from doing things on their own. However, in the Montessori approach, each learner studies something different from his classmates. For instance, one kid could be learning to paint while another could be learning to navigate through the ladders of a pikler triangle.

2. Relieves Teachers from Stress

Any teacher who has ever taught young learners will agree that being in a traditional classroom is hectic. This is because you have to teach without caring whether the learners have grasped your point or not. In such a setting, it’s only the fast learners that progress well. However, with Montessori, the teacher only supervises the kids as they learn. Each kid can consult the teacher in case they encounter a problem in the learning process. The other advantage is that learning takes place whether the teacher is present or absent. This is due to the fact that learners are taught to handle the learning materials with care. The materials are also within the reach of kids.

3. Kids Learn at their Own Pace

Since Montessori is child-centered, the learner has the privilege of learning at his own pace. This means that the child can take periodic breaks when not in the mood of learning. This freedom gives a child the motivation to keep experimenting. You see, in traditional school, the child has to flow with the pace of the teacher. In such a setting, slow learners tend to perform poorly in tests. The other problem is that learners feel like they are experimenting with things for the teacher but not for their own benefit.

4. Hands-on Experience

Montessori learning incorporates physical activities that allow kids to have fun as they acquire skills. As they play around with various toys, they learn things that are never taught in a conventional classroom. The good thing is that the skills sink deeper into their mind because they can hardly forget something they did with their little hands. However, in traditional learning, kids tend to be more forgetful as they are taught to memorize instead of understand things. For instance, when you tell a kid that cars are used for transporting people, they will not grasp the concept theoretically because they don’t know how that happens. But when the same kid drives a toy car, he is able to know that a car uses wheels to move around.

Interesting Facts About Montessori

Empty classroom

While many are familiar with its child-centered approach and unique classroom environments, there are numerous lesser-known facts that highlight the depth and richness of the Montessori method. Here are ten interesting facts about Montessori education that shed light on its global impact, historical roots, and influence on some of the world’s most creative minds.

  1. Origin in Psychiatry: Montessori education was developed by Maria Montessori, who was Italy’s first female physician. Her work with children with disabilities and observations in psychiatric clinics greatly influenced the development of her educational philosophy.
  2. Global Reach: Today, Montessori schools can be found worldwide, with thousands of schools established across six continents, catering to children from various cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.
  3. Nobel Peace Prize Nominations: Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, in 1949, 1950, and 1951, in recognition of her work and philosophy’s contribution to promoting peace through education.
  4. Famous Montessori Alumni: Many successful individuals started in Montessori education, including Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, highlighting the method’s ability to nurture creativity and innovation.
  5. Involvement of Thomas Edison: Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, was a supporter of Montessori education. He helped found a Montessori school and believed in the method’s potential to foster independent learning.
  6. Use of Natural Materials: Montessori materials are predominantly made from natural substances like wood, metal, cotton, and glass, emphasizing the importance of tactile experiences and connecting with the natural world.
  7. No Homework Policy: Most Montessori schools do not assign homework in the traditional sense, believing that education should be about the joy of discovery rather than rote work done outside the classroom.
  8. Adaptation in Public Schools: While often associated with private education, Montessori principles have been successfully adapted in numerous public schools around the world, making the approach accessible to a wider range of students.
  9. Language Immersion: Many Montessori schools offer language immersion programs, capitalizing on the sensitive period for language development in young children to foster bilingualism or multilingualism naturally and effortlessly.
  10. Emphasis on Cosmic Education: In Montessori elementary programs, there’s a unique focus on “cosmic education,” a curriculum that teaches children about the interconnectedness of the universe, society, and the individual, aiming to instill a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the earth and its inhabitants.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Montessori learning stands as a distinctive and influential approach to education, celebrated for its ability to nurture independent, thoughtful, and creative thinkers. Through its child-centered philosophy, prepared environments, and emphasis on hands-on learning, Montessori education breaks away from traditional teaching methods, offering a personalized and deeply engaging learning experience. The mixed-age classrooms focus on life skills and foster intrinsic motivation, which are just a few aspects that contribute to their uniqueness.

Additional Suggestions

In the Montessori system, a kid would be able to learn more than just letters and numbers, as the teachers would even teach the child to navigate the ladders and steps of a pikler triangle.

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