Montessori method- pros and cons.
Montessori method- what is it? Why should I consider it for my child? These are the questions that I am often asked.
It is not easy to answer it in one short sentence also. The Montessori method of education was introduced by Maria Montessori, an Italian educator (1874- 1952) who happened to be the very first lady doctor in Italy too.
Maria Montessori was way ahead of her time. Her educational philosophy or the Montessori method was based on scientific observation of many children all over the world from various social and economic levels. This observation is done throughout her life and from that stems the philosophy of Montessori education.
Maria Montessori worked with the learning disabled special children (in her times they were referred as retarded kids), and the children of the slums of San Lorenzo (Italy) whose parents were often alcoholic and with many other problems.
Montessori created an environment that was meant for young children and a methodology introducing the proper kind of learning tools. It was found that these children, when given the proper guidance could achieve results that were equally good and even better than their normal counterparts from mainstream traditional settings.
The same method was then introduced in a totally different geographical setting, in India, with a very different cultural setting, but the result was equally successful. Montessori educational system became very popular all over the world.
What is so different or special about it?
The environment is the key thing that is very special. It must be a well organized place made for young children with moveable tables and chairs and some floor space where children can move around or stretch out to do a work. Child size chairs and tables were first introduced by Montessori, which is widely accepted now everywhere.
The environment must be inviting to young children, beautiful and freshened, to stimulate and appreciate daily living. It should be such that children have a sense of belonging and they should be able to take care of it.
Montessori created many learning materials which are called didactic materials with the guidance of two legendary educators of her time – Itard and Seguine. There are didactic materials that are highly precise and are used to refine the senses of the young children. These materials have different levels of learning. Not only do they refine the senses, they are precisely mathematical too.
There is a special area called the Practical Life, in a Montessori classroom, where the children get the opportunity to mop the floor, pour the liquid, dust the floor and so on- things that he needs to do to refine his daily living skills and be independent.
The other areas are Math, Science and Social Studies and Art. The outdoor learning area is also part of the environment where the child may learn to rake the leaves, feed the birds or do gardening.
Freedom and Mobility:
Montessori believed that, ” Free choice is one of the highest of all the mental processes”
The child should be able to move around in the class and chose to do his work on the floor or at a table, alone, with a friend or in a small group as he pleases. He may do a project for as long as he needs to. There is no competition or time limit. Each child may learn and progress at her own pace. The teacher’s job is to keep an observation and guide the child to the next level.
Are there no boundaries then in a Montessori Classroom? – Yes, there are boundaries. They are –
*You may not hurt yourself
*You may not hurt any one else, or his work. This means you may not interrupt or destroy another child’s work
*You may not hurt the environment.
These are the basic rules and they go beyond the classroom into life.
The Teacher or Directress:
The teacher in a Montessori class is a very different kind of teacher from a traditional classroom. She is there to guide and direct, not to correct and judge. This is mostly done with role modeling. The teacher shows the children how a material is used and then let the child go from there. Many times an older child tutors young ones or the young ones learn from observing the older kids. The teacher must keep keen observation of each individual child and record them, even though there are no tests these observations are what guides the teacher to lead the child to the next level.
A Multi Age Class:
A Montessori environment must have children of various ages, for example 3 to 6 year olds in one class or 6-9 year olds in another setting. This gives children to learn from each other. Older children have the opportunity to role model to younger ones and the young ones learn from observing them.
Pros and Cons:
Are all Montessori schools the same? No absolutely not. Since there is no license requirement for a Montessori school to call “Montessori School”, any one buying a few Montessori equipment may call it a Montessori school. Montessori teachers must go through a special training after their Bachelors degree to know how to create an environment, how to use the materials, how to be resourceful to the families and the children and how to be in contact with the outer world to enhance the program. It is expensive and hard to find a good teacher and a good program.
Indeed there are many excellent Montessori schools with extremely dedicated teachers and because your child will be with this teacher for three years he’ll have a special bond with her/him. Also, there are quite a few bogus ones too.
Therefore, it is best that you study a little bit about the Montessori method and observe several Montessori programs. Talk to the directress and see how the children in the class are doing. You will probably find the answer if the program is right for your child.