The Montessori Method

The Montessori method is defined as “an educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the late 19th and 20th century”(Free Dictionary)

Who was Dr. Maria Montessori?

Dr. Montessori was the first woman awarded with a medical doctorate in Italy. She worked in asylums with children whose parents could not handle them because they were not “normal”, and while observing them and working with them developed her teaching method.

According to Dr. Montessori:

Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Human teachers can only help the great work that is being done, as servants help the master. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be a victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society.

~ Maria Montessori, Education for a New World

What is the Montessori Method?

This method believes in, foremost, fostering the best in each child.  Montessori observed that when children were allowed to choose their work, and concentrate on said work for as long as they needed, the children came out happier with themselves and their peers. A Montessori teacher, or parent, needs to be able to link the child and the surroundings (the real teacher), and to protect this process. This natural ability of goodness and compassion are inborn, but need to be protected, not taught (Olaf).

The Montessori method is completed in three hour, uninterrupted, work segments. The number of these work segments depends on the age of the children. For students under six there are one or two of these work periods, for older children they are scheduled with their parent or teacher and study groups ahead of time. They may have two or three work periods a day. These work periods and study groups always fall behind self selected study, as this is the cornerstone of the method.

In schools, Montessori students are not grouped by age, but within mixed ages and mixed abilities. The most common age groups are birth-three, three-six, six-nine, nine-twelve, six-twelve, twelve-fifteen, and fifteen-eighteen. Children are challenged and never bored with the constant learning, socializing, and child-to-child teaching. In homeschooling this may not always be possible, but allowing your children to choose what they study, and be challenged with their studies is a good start at this method.

The students “classroom” is arranged by subject, and children are allowed to move freely from area to area at all times. They are not required to sit at a table or desk to work, just as there is no time limit for working with a material. With multiple students, siblings or friends, any subject will be in progress during the day. Students do not have to work on the same subject at the same time.

Dr. Montessori believed in “teach by teaching, not by correcting.” In Montessori there are no papers handed back with red marks or corrections. The work is respected as it is. The teacher observes the child, and then plans individual lessons and projects enabling the student to learn what he needs to improve.

The Montessori method covers all subjects. Oftentimes they are interwoven into each other. Assessment is not made by grades, but by portfolios of the child’s work. A parent can tell if it is working by how a child behaves, their maturity, happiness, and interest in learning. Character education is as important as academic education in Montessori. A child learns how to take care of themselves, others around them, their home and other surroundings. The student is taught in a natural way of doing on being polite; taking care of their community, and other needed areas.

Further Reading:
For further information on the Montessori Method visit your local library for Dr. Montessori’s own writings, The Absorbent Mind, Discovery of the Child, Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook, and The Montessori Method.

There are many other books on the Montessori Method as well, but we find the original source to be the best source.

Other book recommendations:
Homeschooling for Success: How Parents Can Create a Superior Education for Their Child
Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years

Free Dictionary
Montessori, Maria. Education for a New World (1946)
Olaf, Michael

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