More About Montessori
Montessori is a scientific approach to child development supported by a set of specific educational practices. Both theory and method are based on the groundbreaking work of one of the first female physicians in Italy, Dr. Maria Montessori, during the first half of the 20th century. There are now Montessori schools in over 120 countries and every US state. As the most widely used single pedagogy in the world, Montessori education is also the subject of an increasingly impressive body of scientific research that puts it squarely at the center of developmental and educational best practices.
This is because Montessori education places each child at the center of their own hands-on learning experience and development. The goals of Montessori education go far beyond transferring a particular set of knowledge and skills. Our aim is to nurture a lifelong love of learning, social and emotional well being, and, ultimately, global citizens well adapted to take on the unique challenges of their time and place.
Montessori learning environments are distinctive in their bright, calm, and orderly appearance. Adults in each learning community are responsible for maintaining a highly cohesive and carefully sequenced set of universal Montessori materials as well as creating a set of supplemental materials based on the interests and cultures of the children in the community. These learning implements are typically constructed of natural materials and are intentionally simple to highlight their function and purpose. Children learn to take great pride in their environments and are supported in the best methods for caring for them.
In Montessori schools, children join mixed-age learning communities (i.e., classrooms) based on their stage of development. At Community Montessori Columbus, we have opened with two Children's House communities for 2.5 to 6-years-old children. Other fully-implemented programs may also have communities for infants up to 18 months and toddlers from 18 months through 3 years. Elementary programs are often divided into lower and upper elementary classrooms for children between 6 and 9 and children between 9 and 12, respectively. Programming for adolescents is similarly offered in three year age groupings, from 12 to 15 and 15 to 18.
All mixed-age Montessori communities benefit the younger children in the community through the opportunity to find mentors and teachers in older children. The older children are, in kind, given the opportunity to solidify their learning through teaching and leadership experiences. All community members benefit from the strengthened community bonds and close relationships with adults that can develop over multiple years.
While adults maintain the space and order necessary to facilitate community among the children, they also observe each child’s work with the materials and one another to determine their readiness to take on new challenges. One adult in each classroom, called the guide or teacher, is trained in the art of offering individual and small group lessons connecting children to the benefits of particular learning materials. This process of connecting to the materials also gives children the keys to repeated independent work with the materials once the lesson is completed.
Children in the community who are not working directly with a trained adult at any given time are expected to choose independent work from a set of good options based on their previous lessons. This system of individualized instruction and independent work, the most striking departure Montessori makes from other forms of education, offers each child the opportunity to have a considerable degree of choice in their own education while guided by the structure embodied in the Montessori materials and lessons. Each child is afforded considerable (but, importantly, not unlimited) freedom to work at their own pace, to learn through observation of others’ work, and to make mistakes, self-assess, and learn to do things differently.
The strong mixed-age communities, the cohesive hands-on sequence of lessons and materials, and the freedom of choice that Montessori classrooms provide have a variety of benefits over other educational models. Children are given greater opportunity to develop areas of executive function like focus, inhibition, appropriate prioritization of goals, and problem-solving. They are also given the opportunity to assess and correct their own work, a sure path to developing internal motivation to learn, grow, and create. Mixed-age communities and an emphasis on collaboration and service to others create opportunities to develop prosocial values. And yet, despite a near total absence of external rewards and competition in Montessori classrooms, most children are able to advance academically at rates far surpassing their peers in other educational settings. Exciting new research even suggests that students attending public Montessori magnet programs have stronger outcomes than their peers, regardless of economic background. This highlights the potential for Montessori education to reduce or eliminate the opportunity gaps so many students face in today’s education system.