Montessori Philosophy and Objectives
Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian medical doctor and educator, developed a method of education with a philosophy based on the natural development of children. Dr. Montessori saw education as an aid to life. Therefore, learning to prepare a snack and clean up afterwards is an important as understanding the concept of reading and writing skills.
Observers are always struck by the calm that prevails in the Montessori classroom, a self discipline that is obtained as a result of having children occupied and on task. Through carefully planned initial exercises, the child experiences success in his efforts and thus acquires a sense of security and confidence as an independent learner. Children develop the courage to be creative, self expressive and original in their attempts to express themselves.
The chief objective of the Montessori philosophy is to introduce children to the joy of learning at an early age, and to provide a framework in which intellectual and social discipline are equally emphasized. In our environments, movement is the natural steady state for a young child because it is through motion that he learns.
We see children coming to grips with their environment, and we often call it play, but it is indeed work. The touching, the manipulating, the tasting, the smelling, the playing are all part of the what children call “work”. Work is associated with playing and playing is associated with work. In other words, constructive movement as part of the processes of learning is constantly a part of the joy of learning in every activity the child works with.
Our program accepts the endless energies, the creative impulses, and insatiable curiosities of the children and gradually directs their efforts into rewarding channels. Children have a strong natural desire to learn. This desire can best be nurtured by allowing the child to choose his or her own activities and to work at his or her own pace. No one can produce a better lesson schedule than the one produced by the child's own interests. When they are ready for each step in their development, their enthusiasm for this next part of the program becomes obvious.
Areas of Study
The practical life exercises are introduced to the child first in our toddler program as they learn to care for themselves and their environment. These exercises are built upon as the child advances through our primary program from tasks such as preparing and serving snacks to tying their shoes and zipping their coats. These exercises form the basis for all other areas of study. This is where the child learns control of movement, develops hand-eye coordination later needed for writing, establishes a sense of order, and achieves physical independence. Children have a need for movement in their environment. This is fulfilled as the child repeats various skills and works toward perfecting those skills, thereby “building himself” as the movements become internalized.
The sensorial area of the classroom is comprised of a number of didactic materials developed by Maria Montessori to educate and refine the five senses. She was inspired by Aristotle’s statement, “nothing is in the mind that has not been experienced first through the senses.” These stimulating materials are self-correcting, allowing the child the freedom to explore and discover. Through repetition with these exercises the child learns to observe, make comparisons between objects, form judgements, and make conclusions. Many of the materials focus on discriminating and grading according to height, width, length, diameter, or color. The children also begin building their vocabulary with descriptive terms such as long, longer, longest, or wide, wider, widest. As they advance through our primary program they gain a concrete understanding of geometry. All these concepts will translate to an understanding of higher math concepts introduced later in their education. The goal of the sensorial exercises is for the child to develop thinking processes and investigative techniques to educate himself.
Language is considered the doorway to all other courses of study. From the time a child is born he begins to absorb the sounds around him. He begins to reproduce the sounds himself and then learns to associate actions of objects with those words as he expands his vocabulary. During this sensitive period the child should be immersed in a language rich environment. They begin with learning the phonetic sounds and mastering precise and clear articulation. The child uses Montessori materials to aid this process such as the sandpaper letters, object boxes, phonetic sound charts, etc. The practical life and sensorial exercises serve as preparation to writing using the three finger pencil grasp to pick up the materials. The child begins writing exercises with chalk and then moves to using a pencil with the beautiful Metal insets before moving to tracing. The combination of speaking and writing is reading. After learning the phonetic sounds the child learns to blend them together to form words! This is an exciting process for the child as they progress from reading simple words to books.
The philosophy of the Montessori math exercises is based on the child examining and exploring the concrete materials in order to build a foundation for abstract mathematical concepts. The logic needed for higher math skills is unconsciously obtained through the sensorial exercises as the child discovers the logic for sequential order, symmetry, grading, and precision. Young children are introduced to numbers by first learning to count objects followed by an introduction to the numerical symbols. The concrete materials allow the child to fully understand what the written symbol represents giving meaning to the symbols for the child. Once they have an understanding of numbers 1-10, the children learn to add and subtract basic facts with these materials. Next the child is introduced to the beautiful colored beads where they will learn basic operations, as well as place value of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands! Performing various exercises with these bead materials allows the child to “act out” the math operations allowing the child to internalize the concepts introduced. The children love to work with these materials and “practice” various operations giving them a deep understanding of higher math skills at a young age.
The cultural area of the classroom is always a favorite! It includes the study of social studies, geography, history, botany, zoology, science, art, and music. The young child is first introduced to geography through the globe and then world map puzzle so they can experience the world as a whole concretely. As the child progresses, they are introduced to each continent map puzzle and their countries. These studies are endless as they are introduced to the flags to the corresponding countries and animals that reside in different countries, etc. Botany studies include the parts of the tree, flower, leaf, seed, and the life cycle of the plant. The children always love the zoology studies! This area covers five main classes of vertebrates- frog (amphibian), bird, fish, turtle (reptile), and horse (mammal). There are numerous exercises for these animals that present the life cycles, anatomy, and habitats, which expands the child’s vocabulary. Art is integrated into each of these areas, for example, after completing the continent map they can trace the pieces and using paint to recreate their own map!
Montessori vs. Traditional Education
The goal of both Montessori and traditional schooling is the same-to provide learning experiences for the child. The most important differences are the type of learning experience provided and the methods used to provide it. Montessori educators believe that these differences are important because they help shape the way that a child learns, the child's work habits, and the child's perception of himself and the world around him.