Sunday, July 24, 2011

What is Montessori?

Montessori is the last name of a woman named Maria Montessori(MM).  MM was the first female medical doctor in Italy.  She later became interested in educating the "uneducable" children (special needs children) of Rome.  During her work with these children she made many observations and noticed a universal pattern of development in children.  She also noticed that children go through, what she called, "Sensitive Periods".  Special times in their development where they have a heightened ablitly to learn a certain thing or acquire a certain skill.  For example, there is a sensitive period for language development during which children can learn many languages without effort and with perfect pronunciation.  She then developed materials to respond to these sensitive periods.  These materials allowed the children to learn through their manipulation of them.  The teacher, or guide as we call her/him, is then responsible for connecting the children to the materials with one on one lessons.  MM was able to help the "uneducable" children learn at or above the level of the "normal" children in the public schools.  Eventually she was able to use her new method to educate many "normal" children.  She began to train teachers all over the world in her method.  Her exact teacher training continues in Association Montessori International (AMI) training centers all over the world.  Teachers receive the AMI diploma, certifying them to teach in Montessori classrooms all over the world.
Some identifying characteristics of the Montessori Method of Education include:
  • Mixed age groups 
  • Three year cycle in one classroom
  • Individual lessons, following the interest/development of each child
  • Emphasis on independence in the child
  • Child sized materials and furniture
  • Self-correcting materials
  • Real materials, made with wood, glass, metal
  • Three hour work cycle each day
MM never called her method "The Montessori Method", if anything she referred to it as the children's method.  She felt that it was the children who showed her the way to educate them, the children learned spontaneously through manipulation of the materials.  She wrote many books to share her philosophy on educating and raising children. Some of my favorites are listed on my book list.
    There is so much more to say about what Montessori is and means to me, but that is enough  for now.

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