What is Montessori?
For a lot of parents, deciding how their child or children spend their days prior to entering Kindergarten can be a stressful and difficult experience. Parents often have many options to choice from including babysitting, daycare, preschool and Montessori school among others. While babysitting, daycare and preschool are common and well understood by most parents, Montessori school from my experience is poorly understood. What children learn (curriculum) is an important aspect of early childhood education but parents often forget to consider how children will be learning and this is a big part what separates Montessori from other options.
Montessori is a specific method of instruction for children and includes its own guidelines not usually employed by other childcare providers. The Montessori Method teaches independence and freedom within prescribed limits. Children are given a range of activities to choose from as opposed to all children doing the same activity at the same time. Classroom and activities are designed to encourage children to work through problems on their own or with guidance only when necessary. This time is also to be uninterrupted and usually last for 3 hours.
Another aspect of Montessori education involves the conscience decision to respect the child’s environment. When you walk into a Montessori classroom, one of the first things you will notice is its scaled down nature. All of the desk and chairs are scaled down so as to make it a more natural fit for the children. Also, all materials and shelves are ordered and scaled down to make accessibility easy for children. You may also notice the ages of the students to vary considerably and some children may be as much as 3 years older than the youngest children. This is to aid in the social development and it gives the older children a chance to teach the younger children.
This is by no means a definitive guide to all aspects of the Montessori approach and is only meant as a brief introduction. The aim is to get parents to think of not only what children will be learning but how. Parents often assume that all approaches and outcomes to education are similar or that children do not have the capacity to do activities on their own at such a young age. The Montessori approach aims to give children the freedom to learn and explore in a child-centric environment as opposed to a teacher-centric environment and because of this the Montessori approach can differentiate itself from other forms of childcare and child education.