Kids & Parenting

What is the Montessori philosophy?

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Dr. Maria Montessori championed a new educational philosophy
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What is Montessori philosophy that made it revolutionary in education?

Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) seems to have had the right idea when it comes to educating children. Her approach to education and the basis of what is Montessori philosophy has long been held in high regard. Dr. Montessori was the first female to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Rome in 1896. Her background was in science, but she became a reformer for education.

Her theory, revolutionary for its time and perhaps still so today, is based on the premise that educational approaches are only effective when they address and support the nature of the individual child. Montessori came to this conclusion after observing children, many of whom were mentally handicapped. 

The Montessori philosophy and approach are based on developing ways to allow a child to set free his personality, liberating his potential and inner life, done within the context of a unified and coherent educational curriculum and philosophy.

Montessori believed that the nature of a child is not a theoretical construct but is based on the detailed observation of that child by the teacher.

The atmosphere in a Montessori classroom is very calm and orderly, as are the children, who are focused. The objective is to create an environment and atmosphere that encourage concentration. The schedule in a Montessori classroom allows for long periods of uninterrupted time during which children concentrate on specific activities. A child will repeat an activity until he has fully mastered it. 

The Montessori philosophy believes that children learn the best when they are left to their own devices in a supervised environment where they have access to child-sized practical tools and open-ended activities with which they can work uninterruptedly. When a child is allowed to engage in an activity, calmly and repetitively this improves social interaction as well as facilitates learning and has a soothing effect on the child.

Montessori spent hour upon hour observing children, which led her to realize that children are curious and dynamic and have a need to know the world. The way a child learns about the world is through his senses, according to Montessori. These experiences develop and refine senses. Manipulative materials, such as games and toys, are used in the classroom, allowing children to explore and learn. 

The Montessori philosophy is based on the concept that handling of the environment or the physical manipulation of items, such as toys, helps children construct knowledge via the construction of mental images, which occurs when he plays. The Montessori teacher does not teach per se, but provides experiences during which the child constructs mental images. 

This philosophy is also keen on recognizing that a child is drawn to and learns what is of personal interest to him. With that in mind, the Montessori classroom is full of various activities and materials from which the child can choose to involve himself.

The Montessori approach is quite different from what is found in regular schools where the teacher is in command. The Montessori teacher is a guide and does not specifically tell the child what to do or how to do it. The teacher is not in charge of the children in these learning situations. As a result, the adults in the room do not interact with the children or only do so when it is needed to alter the behavior of the child. 

Essentially, Montessori philosophy promotes a child taking charge of his environment, rather than an adult doing it for him, and creating that environment in such a way that it allows him to learn about the world. 

Dr. Montessori received three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize for her extensive work regarding the characteristics of children. Her findings have long influenced educators and scientists, as well as the children who have had the opportunity to attend a Montessori school.

Resources: Montessori Philosophy
Montessori International: about Montessori

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