Montessori Education for Children

by David Bostwick

In the field of education of small children Montessori education methods and “Montessori Schools” have become widely accepted the world over. It is a tremendous tribute to Italian educator Dr. Maria Montessori who developed her concepts about educational methods for children in the late 19th century. Few of us know that the Montessori methods that are so acclaimed were developed while Maria Montessori was studying educational environment of children with physical and mental disabilities.

Subjects taught in the Montessori schools are the same as covered by preschool curriculum but they are taught by Montessori approach. Dr. Montessori’s methods of children’s education are based on her observation that children do not develop and think the way adults do; that children choose resources and materials from among those available to them and set direction to their own learning. The teacher provides suitable material to children and then remains a “silent presence” in the classroom.

The Montessori learning method is based on the observation and understanding that a child’s mind up to the age of six has tremendous capacity to assimilate and that he is strongly driven by an urge to understand and perfect his skills within his environment. Young children have the ability to learn by repetitious activities within specific sensitive periods; for example, his incessant babbling, which to us is quite incomprehensible, is his language practice; it leads to his language competence.

Elementary or primary schooling generally starts at the age of five or six. Children between the toddler and the elementary school stages can absorb and learn information quickly, and they have curiosity and interest in the world around them. Because of this they are naturally most suited to receiving education. They are, however, not yet fit for regular elementary education. Montessori learning methods are quite suitable for this condition.

Montessori education methods are applied mainly in preschool and elementary school settings. Kindergarten is another form of schooling that is also popular as a preschool system. It provides the transition from the home atmosphere to the formal schooling. Children are taught to develop basic skills through play and they are taught social interaction. Children of age groups of three and four enroll into Pre K (pre-kindergarten) school which provides an environment very similar to that provided by Montessori schools.

You can find Montessori schools almost anywhere in the world. Montessori education has been most popular in USA; out of 8,000 Montessori schools world over, about 4,000 are in US alone. Montessori education is a part of the preschool education in America.

The focus of Dr. Montessori’s initial work was children of preschool age. In later years she took up research in adapting her approach to elementary schools also. Towards the end of her life, in her book she described how her teaching methods could be applied to secondary schooling and colleges also.

“Montessori” is not a trade mark. There are many schools that may misrepresent by using the name of Montessori school; parents always need to be cautious in enrolling their children in Montessori school.

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