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Montessori Schools: What is Montessori?

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The Montessori philosophy believes that children learn best in a social environment that encourages individual growth. Classes operate on a “freedom within limits” principle. Children are able to direct their own learning at their own pace under the guidance of a trained teacher. “They’re able to choose their own work and complete it and repeat it to their happiness. Guidance is given by the adult when necessary, not overly imposed,” explains Katherine Poyntz, executive director, CCMA. Teachers then introduce children to the next level of complexity when they are ready. Children of different ages are placed in the same class to stimulate conversation, create community and allow the older children to be role models.

Characteristics of the Montessori philosophy

  • The Montessori philosophy is based on the idea that children are markedly different from adults. Ms. Montessori advocated children's rights and believed that if children were treated with more respect and understood more fully, the world that they helped create as adults would be an increasingly better place.
  • The Montessori philosophy downplays the notions of performance evaluation with numbers or letters.
  • Children should have much more say in what they learn. In fact, they are capable of self-directed learning.
  • The teacher as observer facilitates better ways for the child to direct his or her own learning by providing more material they are interested in. The development of the teacher-student dynamic in Montessori might be described as moving from "help me to help myself" to "help me to do it myself" and eventually "help me to think for myself."
  • Children are susceptible to "sensitive periods" or what might be called "intellectual growth spurts." Properly understood and used, these periods can provide great benefit to children if these bursts are not left ignored or lost in adherence to a rigid curricula.


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