This page provides general information about the Montessori system of learning. It will be most useful if you are unfamiliar with the philosophy and science that underpin it. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about Montessori methodology. You can also review our FAQs, which provide additional information about the Montessori system. Click on the topic titles below to learn more.
In 1907, Dr. Montessori opened casa dei bambini (children’s house) where she began trials in educating disadvantaged children in Rome.
Montessori found from observation that children have sensitive periods between ages 3 to 6 years during which time children are primed to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. Montessori emphasized learning through all five senses and developed hands-on self-correcting materials. She refined her materials and methods and applied them to children of other cultures for over 50 years.
Montessori classrooms are different from traditional public schools and daycares in that children are placed in three-year age groups (3-6 years, 6-9 years, and 9-12 years).
Dr. Montessori found from her studies that older children act as peer examples and teachers for the younger children. Montessori classrooms have evolved to engage the child for learning. Instead of a teacher lecturing in front of the class, the Montessori educator demonstrates for the child the proper use of the classroom material and allows the child to learn at his or her most optimal pace thereafter.
Recent comparative studies have shown that children educated in the Montessori methods have a significantly deeper/longer-lasting base of knowledge, a heightened interest in their environment, and better abilities for investigation, thus preparing them for independent learning later in high school, college, and life.
The following comparisons show specific differences between Montessori approaches in the classroom compared with the traditional approach to education.
|Views the child holistically, valuing cognitive, psychological, social, and spiritual development||Views the child in terms of competence, skill level, and achievement with an emphasis on core curricula standards and social development|
|Child is an active participant in learning; allowed to move about and respectfully explore the classroom environment; teacher is an instructional facilitator and guide||Child is a more passive participant in learning; teacher has a more dominant, central role in classroom activity|
|A carefully prepared learning environment and method encourages development of internal self-discipline and intrinsic motivation||Teacher acts as a primary enforcer of external discipline promoting extrinsic motivation|
|Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to students’ learning styles and developmental levels||Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to core curricula benchmarks|
|Three-year span of age grouping, three-year cycles allow teacher, students, and parents to develop supportive, collaborative, and trusting relationships||Same-age and / or skill level grouping; one-year cycles can limit development of strong teacher, student, and parent collaboration|
|Grace, courtesy, and conflict resolution are integral parts of daily Montessori peace curriculum||Conflict resolution is usually taught separately from daily classroom activity|
|Values concentration and depth of experience; supplies uninterrupted time for focused work cycle to develop||Values completion of assignments; time is tightly scheduled|
|Child’s learning pace is internally determined||Instructional pace usually set by core-curricula standard expectations, group norms or teacher|
|Child allowed to spot own errors through feedback from the materials; errors are viewed as part of the learning process||Work is usually corrected by the teacher; errors are viewed as mistakes|
|Learning is reinforced internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success||Learning is reinforced externally by test scores, rewards, competition, and grades|
|Care of self and environment are emphasized as integral to the learning experience||Less emphasis on self-care, spatial awareness, and careof the environment|
|Child can work where he / she is comfortable and the child often has choices between working alone or with a group that is highly collaborative among older students||Child is usually assigned a specific work space; talking among peers discouraged|
|Multi-disciplinary, interwoven curriculum||Curriculum areas usually taught as separate topics|
|Child learns to share leadership, egalitarian interaction is encouraged||Hierarchical classroom structure is more prominent|
|Progress is reported through multiple formats: conferences, narrative reports, checklists, and portfolio of student’s work||Progress is usually reported through conferences, report cards / grades, and test scores|
|Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and help each other||Most teaching is done by the teacher; collaboration is an alternative teaching strategy|
|Child is provided opportunities to choose own work from interest and abilities, concepts taught within context of interest||Curricula organized and structured for child based on core curricula standards|
|Goal is to foster love of learning||Goal is to master core curricula objectives|
We have found that the children in our program benefit greatly from the collaborative efforts of the home environment. This consistency is important in reinforcing the concepts and methodologies presented at the school. In order to assist parents, we have provided a collection of suggested readings which will provide you with more detailed information on the Montessori philosophy.
By Dr. Maria Montessori
Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook
Spontaneous Activity in Education
The Child in the Family
Discovery of the Child
Secret of Childhood
To Educate the Human Potential
The Montessori Method
By other authors:
Barron, Angela The Growth and Development of Mothers
Bettleheim, Bruno Dialogue with Mothers
Berends Whole Child, Whole Person
Dreikurs, Rudolf Children, The Challenge
Galinsky, Ellen Between Generations, The Six Stages of Parenting
Kaplan, Louise Oneness and Separateness: From Infant to Individual
Lillard, Paula Montessori, A Modern Approach
Malloy, Terry Montessori and Your Child, a Primer for Parents
Rambusch, Nancy Learning How to Learn