The Montessori Method
What is Montessori?
The Montessori method of teaching aims for the fullest possible development of the whole child, ultimately preparing him for life’s many rich experiences. Complemented by her training in medicine, psychology and anthropology, Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) developed her philosophy of education based upon actual observations of children. Children pass through sensitive periods of development early in life. Dr. Montessori described the child’s mind between the time of birth and six years of age as the “absorbent mind”. It is during this stage that a child has a tremendous ability to learn and assimilate from the world around him, without conscious effort. During this time, children are particularly receptive to certain external stimuli. A Montessori teacher recognizes and takes advantage of these highly perceptive stages through the introduction of materials and activities which are specially designed to stimulate the intellect.
Encouraged to focus her attention on one particular quality, the child works at her own optimum level – in an environment where beauty and orderliness are emphasized and appreciated. A spontaneous love of “work” is revealed as the child is given the freedom (within boundaries) to make her own choices.
Montessori teachers are trained facilitators in the classroom, always ready to assist and direct. Their purpose is to stimulate the child’s enthusiasm for learning and to guide it, without interfering with the child’s natural desire to teach himself and become independent. Each child work through his individual cycle of activities, and learns to truly understand according to his own unique needs and capabilities.
Everything in a Montessori classroom has a specific use or purpose. There is nothing in the prepared environment that the child cannot see or touch. All of the furniture and equipment is scaled down to the child’s size and is within easy reach.
A quality Montessori classroom has a busy, productive atmosphere where joy and respect abound. Within such an enriched environment, freedom, responsibility, and social and intellectual development spontaneously flourish!
“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.”
Respect, Intelligence and Independence
We know that young children are full and complete individuals in their own right. They deserve to be treated with the full and sincere respect that we would extend to their parents. Respect breeds respect, and creates an atmosphere within which learning is tremendously facilitated.
Montessori schools believe very strongly that intelligence is not fixed at birth, nor is the human potential near as limited as it sometimes seems in traditional education.
Success in school is directly tied to the degree to which children believe that they are capable and independent human beings. If they knew the words, even very young children would ask: “Help me learn to do it for myself!”
By allowing children to develop a meaningful degree of independence and self-discipline, Montessori sets a pattern for a lifetime of good work habits and a sense of responsibility. Students are taught to take pride in doing things for themselves carefully and well.
Preparing Tomorrow’s Innovative Thinkers Today
In a world of rapid change and new discoveries, we can only guess at the skills our children will need to succeed in the 21st century. Now, more than ever, the essential lesson is learning how to learn.
The most important years in our children’s education are not high school and college, but, instead, their first twelve years of life. This is when their character and values, self-image, basic skills and knowledge, and appreciation for culture and the arts are formed.
Hawai’i Montessori offers our children a world-class education, along with an education of the heart, that nurtures their self-confidence, personal creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. We see our children truly come to love learning and begin to discover their true potential as young men and women. Granted, this lies beyond the scope of traditional education, but then Hawai’i Montessori has set out to become a rather unusual school. As families, we come to schools like Hawai’i Montessori to give our children an outstanding preparation for high school, college, and life.
The Montessori Classroom
Montessori classrooms are bright, warm and inviting. You will not find rows of desks in our classrooms at Hawai’i Montessori School. Montessori learning environments are set up to facilitate student discussion and stimulate collaborative learning. One glance and it is clear that our children feel comfortable and at home.
Students will typically be found scattered around the classroom, working along or with one or two others. They will tend to become so involved in their work that we cannot help but be tremendously impressed by the peaceful atmosphere.
In her research, Dr. Montessori noted specific characteristics associated with the child’s interests and abilities at each plane of development. She argued that a school carefully designed to meet the needs and interests of the child will work more effective because it is consistent with basic principles of psychology. Rather than fight the laws of nature, Montessori suggested that we “follow the child” and allow our children to show us how to facilitate the development of their human potential.
This focus on the “whole child” led Montessori to develop a very different sort of school from the traditional adult-centered classroom. To emphasize this difference, she named her first school the “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House”.
There is something profound in her choice of words, for the Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adults in charge, but rather a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of the children’s independence and sense of personal empowerment.
In a very real sense, even the very youngest students at Hawai’i Montessori take care of their own child-sized environment. When they are hungry, they prepare their own snack and drink. They go to the bathroom without assistance. When something spills, they help each other carefully clean things up. Parents are often amazed to see small children in Montessori classrooms cut raw fruits and vegetables, sweep and dust, carry pitchers of water, and pour liquids with barely a drop spilled. These little ones normally go about their work so calmly and purposely that it is clear to even the casual observer that this is their environment: The Children’s House.
The Montessori classroom is commonly referred to as a prepared environment. This name reflects the care and attention that is given to creating a learning environment that will reinforce the children’s independence and intellectual development.
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