Children learn by actively engaging their hands and their senses. They progress at an individualized pace but as a collaborative community of learners.
Learning quickly from each other and by working with children of different ages, they experience success from their own effort
which builds a firm foundation of self-confidence. Montessori children are joyfully engaged and become passionate learners when they go
deeply into their subject of interest and they become "experts" in their diverse fields of study. Montessori children experience mastery
of a skill or concept when they apply their knowledge through presentations, teaching others or using the skills in creative,
challenging and real-life situations.
The Montessori approach, the trained guide, the prepared environment and the self-teaching materials
respond to multiple intelligences and a vast array of different types of learners. Children who grow up experiencing life and school in
this manner become confident citizens with a sense of responsibility for self and others and joyful life-long learners.
Based on her scientific observations, Dr. Montessori developed a comprehensive, child-centered approach to education founded on the following principles:
- Education should prepare children for life - intellectually, emotionally and physically
- Children learn best on their own, motivated by their innate need to explore and discover
- Specially designed environments will facilitate the child's development to their fullest potential
- Children should be allowed to progress at their own pace, regardless of ability level or age
Key Principles of the Montessori Approach
"If we want to help life, the first condition of success is that we shall know the laws that govern it." - Dr. Maria Montessori
Built around universal needs, tendencies and development of humans, the key principles include:
- The four planes of development
The universal needs and characteristics of children during these general age spans change and the Montessori approach to the child changes
in response to these planes of development:
- First Plane: Birth through 6 + years
- Second Plane: 6+ through 12 years
- Third Plane: 12 through 18 years
- Fourth Plane: 18 through 24 years.
- Human tendencies
Montessori responds to universal needs, tendencies, characteristics and inclinations of humans that are present throughout life, that are interrelated and
constant through time (humans past, present and future). The prepared environment and the method of teaching specifically addresses the
following human tendencies:
- Self perfection
- Sensitive periods
These are critical periods in a child's development between birth and age six that show key sensitivity for the child's attention and exploration of their
environment. These unique times of sensitivity help the child acquire certain traits and create a drive for the child's exploration
and particular activity. They may overlap but have differing critical periods. Once the special developmental acquisition is fulfilled, or that
window of development has passed, the sensitive period disappears. Acquiring traits outside of this sensitive period is not as deep
and requires more effort by the brain. The sensitive periods for children between the ages of birth and six years include:
- Refinement of the senses
- Tactile input
- Small details
- Social behavior
- Spatial relationships
- Writing and mathematics
In the elementary aged child, for example, there is a sensitive period for acquiring knowledge of grammar, and also for social orientation and justice.
- Normalization and adaptation
Normalization is the process that occurs during the first six years of life (the first plane of development) that allows the child
to self-construct through their own purposeful activity which Montessori calls "work". Through activity that is self-chosen and
that engages the child's innate capacities and tendencies, effort, repetition and concentration, the process of normalization aid the child to develop:
Thus, the child of the second plane of development becomes fully engaged in a conscious adaptation to their social culture and to the broader world. They develop
joyful, enthusiastic and inquisitive exploration and life long love of learning.
- Passion and purpose
- Attachment to caring for others in the social community
- A sense of responsibility for care of their environment
- Meaningful contribution
- A general sense of happiness with self and the world around them.
Integrating the Development of Character and the Whole-Child
Development of character is an integrated aspect and outcome of Montessori. It occurs when the child is provided the appropriate level of freedom and
limits, is treated respectfully and is given developmentally appropriate environments where their intellectual and emotional needs are met.
The lessons, materials and construct of the classrooms respond to the child's innate desire to meet their own needs while adapting and collaborating within their
social community and culture. The child develops greater personal independence and thus greater responsibility and engagement within the community.
This process of normalization is the foundation for developing character, and as such, is never separated from any experience in Montessori.
Learning from infancy through adolescence:
Consistent threads throughout all stages of growth in Montessori include:
- Activity, movement and the senses
- Engagement in activity that is developmentally relevant
- Purposeful work
- Classrooms as prepared environments
- Attractive, auto-educating and self-correcting materials
- Multi-age grouping
- Grace and courtesy
- Responsibility for self and community
- Learning through observation and peer teaching
- The AMI Montessori trained teacher
- Positive attachment with the teacher
- Scientifically proven, brain-based education (link to Brain Based research articles)
- Joyful living and learning
- Self-discipline, self-confidence, passion and purpose
Discipline, love of learning and love of community
These characteristics develop through all levels of the program through:
- Freedom within limits
- Purposeful activity: "work"
- Developmentally engaging and challenging activity
- Learning responsibility and collaboration in community