What do Anne Frank, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders), Julia Child, Yo-Yo Ma (cellist), Helen Keller, Queen Noor of Jordan, George Clooney, and Gabriel García Márquez (Nobel Peace Prize for Literature winner) have in common?
Besides their notable contributions to our world, they were all Montessori students.
Today I’d like to share with you the reasons why I’ve fallen in love with Dr. María Montessori’s philosophy of learning, how it helps to develop our children in independent, respectful, peaceful, and innovative world citizens, and why this bilingual mamá – and former public high school teacher – has chosen to welcome Montessori into her home and way of parenting.
María Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator. “In 1907 she…opened…Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, [where she oversaw]…the care and education of a group of children of working parents in a new apartment building for low-income families in Rome….” It was during her time working at the Children’s House that Montessori observed how young children best learn. “Her method was founded on the observation of children at liberty to act freely in an environment prepared to meet their needs. Montessori came to the conclusion that the children’s spontaneous activity in this environment revealed an internal program of development, and that the appropriate role of the educator was to remove obstacles to this natural development and provide opportunities for it to proceed and flourish.” (Source)
How Montessori education develops children into world citizens:
What is education, the Montessori way? In the words of María Montessori herself:
“This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them as to a single centre. Mothers, fathers, politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation, which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound psychological mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide. This is the bright new hope for mankind.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 15, emphasis mine)
Respects the wisdom of all cultures –
Although Dr. Maria Montessori was from Italy, her educational philosophy has been implemented in about 4,500 schools in the United States and about 20,000 worldwide. It is an educational framework that respects the inherent wisdom of how to educate children found in every culture.
One of the most quoted phrases of María Montessori is “follow the child.” This overarching directive implies a personalization and individualization of each child’s learning trajectory, whether she lives in Canada or Senegal or Japan. As I have read through the principles and values of Montessori, I have been struck by its universality: a trust in the child’s own timing; hands-on learning; emphasis of practical life skills; and, the teaching of how to complete an activity. These principles are broad enough that any family in any time or place can implement them.
(Photo via Jason Farrar, Flickr CC)
Teaches children to care for their environment –
We don’t live in an isolated bubble; everything we do has a reverberating consequence on our neighbors, community, and world. So, we must be good stewards of our world. This is what I love about the Montessori philosophy: it teachers even the youngest of children to care for their environment and that of others.
If you walk into an Montessori classroom, or prepared home environment, you will be amazed at the order, peacefulness, and cleanliness of the environment. In a typical Montessori classroom, children are taught how to care for the learning materials, how to clean up their work space, and how to respect the space of their peers.
Montessori education doesn’t just teach children to maintain a clean and orderly environment at school, it teaches them much more than that. It encourages them to value and cherish the earth they inhabit. In fact, spending time observing nature, playing in it, and caring for it is an important element of the Montessori philosophy. “Place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself treasures from the forces of living nature.” (María Montessori)
3. Empowers children to think critically, both independently and in collaboration –
A typical Montessori classroom is set up with mini learning stations around the room, and children have the independence to choose what to work on and for how long. The teacher is there to guide each student, sort of like a mentor or learning coach who recognizes that each child learns in a different way and at a different pace. If a child encounters an obstacle or becomes frustrated, the teacher, instead of immediately stepping in to solve the problem for the child, will encourage the child to pause, consider his options, and think through a possible solution (critical thinking and collaboration).
While my 19 month-old daughter is not yet in school, she is benefiting from a Montessori “prepared environment” at home: her toys, books, and learning materials are arranged in a simple and orderly way, inviting her to choose one at a time and to think deeply and concentrate on each one. I will often hear a grunt of frustration when the Legos won’t fit together; when this happens, instead of clicking both pieces together for her, I talk her through the possible options for a solution. This collaboration not only serves to connect us on an emotional level, but also demonstrates to her that I believe she has the innate capabilities to problem solve on her own.
(Photo via woodleywonderworks, Flickr CC)
4. Develops and fosters a life-long love for learning –
“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” (María Montessori)
The Montessori philosophy has reminded me that when I walk – very slowly with my toddler – to the park, what most matters is the walk there, the ants in the sidewalk cracks and the dry, fallen flower petals strewn on the curb.
My daughter’s intense curiosity and excitement at every.dog.that.walks.by forces me to live in the moment.
At 19 months, my daughter exhibits a love for life and for figuring out how it works that I never want to see die.
In conclusion, respect for all cultures, care of the environment, critical thinking and collaboration, and life-long learning are traits that will enable my daughter to one day, as a grown woman, be an active and engaged world citizen. Montessori isn’t just an educational model. It’s a way of life! And, I’m so glad to have discovered it.
For those of you interested in learning more about the Montessori method, please cheek out the following list of books, websites, and blogs:
Montessori websites and blogs:by
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