“No, mymmy! No, papa, Elena do it, no help…”, says my 3-year old toddler whenever we want to help her when she is doing something. Elena goes to the Montessori nursery. Building self-confidence and independence is one of the major fundamentals of Montessori education. I love the idea of my kids being confident and autonomous, and I really feel lucky to have this opportunity to take them to the Montessori nursery « Les Trois Oursons » here in London. It is very popular in UK, with about 700 Montessori schools and nurseries. In France, there are only 100.
What is the Montessori education about? What are its fundamentals? Why choosing it over traditional system of education?
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori
Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Maria Montessori designed a « prepared environment » in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.
According to the Montessori philosophy, children naturally want to grow, they are naturally interested in learning. And we must allow them to grow and learn at their own pace. No grades, no tests, no homework… Children learn by doing what they love to do and the child progression is never compared to the achievement of another child. Maria Montessori believed that the competition in education should be only introduced after the child has gained confidence in using basic skills.
Montessori environment gives the children freedom to do choices, inspiring them and encouraging them to explore
Montessori class is like a controlled chaos. When I first visited a Montessori class, I was surprised to see children aged 2 to 4 working independently, in small groups or on their own, in a complete calm totally absorbed by the activities they were working on. It was unusual for me to see this, as I would usually struggle to get my toddler’s attention for more than 10 minutes on any game or activity at home.
In a Montessori class the activities to choose from cover the core areas of learning:
- Practical life
Children in Montessori class choose the activities that interest them, regardless of what others in the class are working on. They learn by doing, through activities, doing things for themselves.
« The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ » – Maria Montessori
The teacher in a Montessori class has a role of a guide, rather than of an instructor, encouraging children to explore different activities. She is present to explain the usage of the material the child chooses and then moves away to allow the child explore the material himself. Teacher goes where she is needed, moving from one child or group of children to another.
Young children learn from older ones
Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on), forming groups in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Children of different ages interact with each other, help each other and inspire each other.
What happens after Montessori?
I am convinced that Montessori education will be beneficial for my girls. The age of 3 to 6 is considered to be the most important as children of this age have a surprising ability to concentrate. And according to Montessori philosophy, concentration is key to learning. But what happens after Montessori? Do Montessori kids adapt easily to a traditional school? What are long term benefits?
There are many studies that have shown the benefits of Montessori education and it is interesting to know that Google and Amazon founders used to go to a Montessori schools. According to Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders), Montessori education helped them to follow their interests and allowed them to « think out of the box ».
I don’t know how successful my girls will be in their careers or if they will be the founders of the next revolutionary technology or service but what I know for sure is that the skills that they are developing in the Montessori environment – team work, the ability to work independently, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving – are the skills that will by all means be essential to succeed in the world after Montessori, in the “real world”.
Have you already heard about Montessori? What do you think about this methodology? If your children used to go to Montessori school how did they adapt later to a traditional school?