The Montessori philosophy of education is founded on the premise that all young children pass through a well-defined sequence of steps to maturity, but at different rates and in different ways. Growth is as individual as each child. Advancement within a child varies from skill to skill. Presented with the proper instruments and direction, however a child’s curiosity and eagerness to comprehend the world will motivate him/her from mastery of one task to another with a tenacity seldom seen in adults.
Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, worked with and observed children in many parts of the world for over 60 years. Montessori Education is both a philosophy of child development and a rationale for quality in that development. She stressed the importance of building a healthy self-concept. Education she believed, is a preparation for life, not merely a search for intellectual skills. The child has an intuitive aim – his/her self construction. The child desperately wants to develop its inner resources and its ability to cope with a strange, complex world. The child who accomplishes this moves into harmony with its world and becomes a full person. This program pursues the fact that the mind of the very young child is absorbent and thus the environment should be prepared carefully to train the senses, stimulate curiosity, to satisfy the need to know and to protect him/her from unnecesary failure. Montessori’s philosophy led her to devise a carefully graded series of self-teaching devices that are now commonly accepted and supported by current research. Each school typifies Montessori education through its concern for the environment, the child and the teacher.
Each Montessori school provides a precisely prepared Montessori environment which fosters satisfaction in learning by discovery and a joy in achievement. The scientifically tested sensory-motor apparatus has been proven to appeal to the innate interests of the child. This is the time to give the child the best of what the world has to offer. The Montessori materials develop basic problem solving and observational techniques. The child begins with the concrete and manipulative materials and gradually works toward the abstract. Montessori’s recognition of the importance of a stimulating environment as a means of “freeing the child’s potential” is now supported by a multitude of studies in early learning. The classroom is equiped with specially designed and sequenced materials. These materials, together with highly trained guides (teachers) and administrators, provide a classroom where the child is stimulated and challenged, but never pressured. In such a climate the child learns to feel good about him/herself. His/her right to dignity and worth are protected.
The very young child is in the process of forming his first impression of his/her own nature and ability; of other people; and of life in general- impressions that can last a lifetime. To reach the highest potential possible, the child must develop a healthy self-concept, wholesome attitudes and values; desireable skills and habits; independence and self-reliance; the ability to adjust and to think reflectively; as well as a sensitivity in human relationships and a curiosity and appreciation of nature and the world that surrounds him/her.
The role of the Montessori Guide differs considerably from that of a traditional teacher. The Guide observes and assists the child according to the child’s individual interests. S/he is trained to recognize periods of readiness and to demonstrate the use of the material to the children. S/he reinforces in a positive manner. At other times, the Guide may divert a child who chooses material beyond his/her ability. S/he protects the child’s integrity and allows the child to have the freedom of choice to make decisions. The child’s decisions are expected to reflect a sense of responsibility. The child is helped by the Guides manner, which is firm and consistent, yet patient and gentle.