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What is Montessori? Why is it Important?

What is Montessori? You might've met or heard of someone who has gone to a Montessori school, but you're not quite sure what that exactly means. You are definitely not alone! For many years, Montessori was something I would read in an educational text, read off a sign while driving past a school, or someone in a social setting would mention off hand that they attended a Montessori school once upon a time. I had no concrete knowledge of what Montessori was, how it was developed, or the wonderful philosophy behind it.

The Montessori Method of Education was created by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907 through her observations of children and their developmental needs. The Montessori Method promotes independence through various important work throughout the classroom, providing children with materials that enhance their motor skills, language, creative expression, concentration, and order. Dr. Montessori believed that children have the desire to do for themselves, and through modeling, the prepared environment, and respect of the child, we can foster these abilities during sensitive periods in development.

Montessori is important for ages 0-6 due to the important developmental stages that are taking place during this time. Through her observations, Dr. Montessori discovered that children are like sponges, soaking up everything in their environment. This is what we know as the Absorbent Mind. By providing an environment specified for children and their developmental needs, or sensitive periods, the children are able to meet these needs through independent work, and modeling, absorbing all going on around them. We must respect the child, their concentration and hard work, and where they are in development.

Why is the work important? We respect the child through the work that they do. We do not interrupt their concentration, we allow them to discover and interact with the materials, and we only offer guidance when necessary. We provide self correcting work, and challenging jobs that entice them to keep trying, working on their concentration. We have specific places for work, and our daily routines stay the same day after day to maintain the sense of order that is so important to them. We encourage self satisfaction through completing the work, acknowledging (if prompted) that a child has worked hard to achieve the outcome of their work instead of saying "good job." Children thrive on that sense of self worth that comes from working hard at something, and we seek to encourage that in a Montessori environment.

As Maria Montessori states in her book, The Discovery of the Child, "The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music (87)."

Observe in any Montessori classroom and you will see the important work taking place, and how it calms each child to come into an orderly classroom, knowing what to expect and when, allowing them to confidently approach work and complete it. It's a beautiful thing to see a child thriving in an environment built for them, and the things they learn in a Montessori environment continues beyond the classroom and into their every day lives, setting a base for which they continue to grow upon.

It's hard to explain the Montessori Method of education in just one blog post, but immerse yourself in the philosophy, observe in a classroom, or read a Montessori text and you will understand why it is so special. Montessori is more than education, it is a way of life.

Dr. Maria Montessori

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