What Makes Montessori Education Unique?

The “Whole Child” Approach The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum, under the direction of a specially prepared teacher, allows the child to experience the joy of learning, time to enjoy the process and insure the development of self-esteem, and provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge.

The “Prepared Environment” In order for self-directed learning to take place, the whole environment and social climate must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which enables them to try new things and build self-confidence.

The Montessori Materials Dr. Montessori developed the classroom materials by trial and error, refining, redesigning and developing each material to isolate a concept, have a control of error, be multi-sensory, beautiful and substantial. These materials and activities are the classroom curriculum.

The Teacher Originally called a “Directress or Guide,” the Montessori teacher functions as designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper and meticulous observer of each child’s behavior and growth.

At the Crystal Lake Montessori School, there is a Certified Montessori teacher in each classroom; and in most classrooms there are two certified Montessori teachers because we have a commitment to small teacher to student ratios and quality education. To qualify as a Certified Montessori teacher one must have at least a bachelor’s degree and have completed graduate work at an officially recognized Montessori teacher education program. There are different programs for each age group: Parent-Infant and Toddler( 0-3 year olds); Early Childhood (3-6 year olds); Lower Elementary (6-9 year olds) & Upper Elementary (9-12 year olds); and Secondary (12-14 year olds). Depending upon the age group to be taught, the certification requires one to three years of study and experience. The CLMS faculty is very experienced and many are certified at several levels.

How did it begin?

Dr. Maria Montessori, the creator of what is called “The Montessori Method of Education,” based this new education on her scientific observations of young children’s behavior. As the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, Montessori became involved with education as a doctor treating children labeled as retarded. Then in 1907, she was invited to open a day care center for the children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome. She called it “A Children’s House,” and based the program on her observations that young children learn best in a homelike setting, filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences contributing to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.

Montessori’s dynamic theories included such revolutionary premises as:

1. Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.

2. Children create themselves through purposeful activity.

3. The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.

4. Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials.

How does it work?

Each Montessori class, from Parent-Infant through middle school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differ from age to age, but is always based on the core Montessori belief in respect for each other and for the environment.

Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials should be introduced to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.

The three-year age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation-language experiences in the Montessori classroom than in conventional classroom settings.

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"Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future." - Dr. Maria Montessori