The Montessori Difference

When we think about education of children, it is common to call to mind the vision of one teacher in front of a large group of students, actively showing materials on a blackboard, talking, asking questions, giving tests, and otherwise taking on the central role of instruction while the child is primarily a passive listener or note taker.

Montessori education varies wildly from the traditional model of education, shifting the focus from the teacher to the student to be in charge of educating himself through independent actions, choices, and projects.

An internationally recognized education style, Montessori education first came to light in Italy in 1907. Dr. Maria Montessori described her revolutionary style of education as the normalization of a child by synchronizing its “true nature of peace and harmony with the environment,” as stated in the book “Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work” by E.M. Standing.

As per training center Montessori Northwest, the Montessori education is designed to support children’s learning from birth to middle school. Children are grouped together in clusters of specific age groups: for the infant / toddler stage, children are between birth and three years old and for the primary age, children are ages three to six. At the elementary level, children ages six to nine are in the lower elementary level while children ages nine to twelve are in the upper elementary level.

In a typical Montessori setting, students can expect to see the availability of assorted age-appropriate activities and materials, usually presented in a wide, open space or classroom. Though one or more teachers may be present, their role is devoted to observation and assisting only as needed, leaving the bulk of the instruction up to the students themselves.

Montessori students are expected and strongly encouraged to work on activities at their own pace without receiving formal instruction or mandates on the order in which they complete the activities.

The goal of Montessori education is to provide rich, stimulating materials to students while allowing them to explore, study, and experiment through a self-directed approach to better help them develop their maximum potential. It also seeks to nurture each child’s individual interests and strengths.

It purposefully abandons the traditional focal point of the teacher as the instructor in charge, favoring a more communal atmosphere. Students of the Montessori style are free to move as they wish within the space and may act independently, within small groups, or one-on-one with the teacher, according to their natural curiosities that spark from interacting with the educational materials.

Some Montessori schools offer students extra learning opportunities by way of an outdoor classroom or farm. This ties squarely into Dr. Montessori’s vision of allowing children to be at one with nature.

Montessori schools in the United States are typically private institutions that charge tuition and have very small student populations. In the state of Virginia, however, the first public Montessori school opened in Arlington County in August 2019.

For more information on the Montessori style of education, please visit: https://montessori-nw.org/

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