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Montessori Education

What is Montessori Education and How Does it Work?

A Montessori education is considered to be the best method of teaching creative and discovery-based education processes the world over. Montessori educations are typically described to others as teaching that imparts a respect for natural childhood psychological development while focusing on core beliefs such as freedom (within limits) and independence. One major component of a Montessori education is the devotion of time spent on society’s technology

Montessori Education

Montessori Education

advancements. The education gets its name from Italian educator / physician Maria Montessori and it is has programs available to educate children from birth to eighteen years of age.

The essential components that are traditionally found in a Montessori organization are: mixed age classrooms, uninterrupted blocks of work time, specialized educational materials developed specifically by Montessori, student choice of activity, and most importantly a discovery model where students use materials to learn concepts themselves, rather than by direct instruction.

In 1897, Maria Montessori developed her philosophy of pedagogy during her studies in Rome. She opened her first classroom in 1907 – also in Rome. She was always learning herself and based her work on experimentation with materials and the environment, as well as her observation of children and how they ‘naturally’ approached lessons that were provided to them, rather than dictated upon them. The term “scientific pedagogy” was born from her own reference to her work. But an opponent, William H. Kilpatrick, stifled her education program’s continued growth in the U.S. after 1914. It wasn’t until after her death in 1952 that Montessori education programs began to once again spread in the U.S. – in 1960.

The primary basis of the education approach is to put children together in groups based on their psychological development: birth to 3 years, 3 to 6, 6 to 12, and 12 to 18. In her lifetime programs for children ages 12 to 18 were not developed, even though she wrote about them and often even lectured on the training fundamentals that would benefit this age group.

Montessori education is heavily imbedded with a fundamental approach to innate human psychological development. She believed that, based on her observations, children who were given the flexibility to choose freely within a specified learning environment would act spontaneously for optimal development. She and her son, Mario Montessori, saw innate human psychology characteristics, which her son dubbed “human tendencies” in 1957. Some of these tendencies are: order, exactness, repetition, abstraction, exploration, self-preservation, communication, manipulation of the environment, and a mathematical mind. These are seen as the driving behavior in all stages of development, thus education should facilitate this learning environment and encourage children and developing adults to respond to education in a manner that enhances this innate learning functionality.

Montessori Education

Montessori Education

A Montessori education uses a “free activity approach within a prepared environment,” such that the educational environment is tailored to the specific characteristics of each age group for maximum human development.

This allows the student to develop an independent ability to respond to all situations of life. There is clear direction in Montessori’s education materials that outlines the traits that the environment itself should exhibit: order, facilitation of movement and activity, beauty and harmony, cleanliness of environment, construction components that are age-appropriate for each stage of growth, and minimal materials at a time – such that superfluous material is not present in the learning environment.

In addition to the core beliefs referenced above, Montessori determined that there are four distinct “planes” in human development phases: birth to six years, six to twelve, twelve to eighteen, and eighteen to twenty-four.

From birth to age six, a Montessori education focuses on the fast-developing child, both psychologically and physically. This first phase is characterized as a very sensorial explorer engaged in the acts of self-construction and of building a functional independence as a human being. Montessori explained and described these characteristics as an: absorbent mind, sensitive periods, and normalization. The main focus of this stage, or phase, is to enhance the child’s sensory stimuli and to cater to the absorbent mind. Additionally, the sensitive periods are engulfed in: language, order, sensory refinement, building blocks (construction), and social behavior. Normalization is described as the stage of this phase where the child can focus and concentrate on more intense tasks, thereby feeling the joy of performing tasks on their own (usually seen in the three to six years old child).

The second plane for children ages six to twelve is characterized primarily by the child’s ability and desire to learn in a more ‘uniformed’ fashion – observing the “herd instinct” becoming very prevalent here as children tended to work and play in groups. Ages twelve to eighteen are called the adolescence phase, or third plane, and are characterized by obvious physical changes such as puberty. But there are also some key psychological changes where the child exhibits difficulty concentrating as well as a thriving need for personal dignity – a burgeoning desire to be treated as an adult. The fourth plane is not extensive in Montessori’s writings. It extends from age eighteen to about twenty-four and Montessori saw young adults ready to fully embrace a study of science and culture, ready to step forward as true leaders, after having learned for eighteen years previous in the Montessori environment.

Montessori’s long-term goal with her educational method was one of peace, where a world of encouraged leaders who had developed in an environment of independence grew to be strong, well-adjusted, world-leaders.


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