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What is a Montessori school?

Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian educator that created the Montessori method of education. Her approach to learning built on a child’s innate ability to learn in a suitable environment. Named after its founder, the Montessori method encourages a child’s independence and choice.

Since the 1900s, the Montessori method has continued to deliver child-centered learning in classrooms where children of different ages focus on group activities with teachers’ assistance.

If you’ve been exploring education options for your child or preschool, you may be wondering what the Montessori method means for your child or children under your care.

Read on as we discuss the advantages of Montessori education and how it measures up to other methods.

The Pros of a Montessori Education

If you have explored elementary schools near you, you may have heard about the pros of Montessori schools. What are the benefits of the Montessori method for your child?

Hands-on Learning

When you visit a Montessori School, you immediately notice the difference. The classrooms are bright and airy, with plenty of materials on display for the children. There is plenty of natural light and space in the classrooms to create an environment that fosters a child’s natural learning ability.

The children use materials at their disposal to understand arithmetic and complex vocabulary. Shapes, geometric solids, sandpaper, and bead stairs are some of the materials and physical objects that children use to digest information. In addition, the kids use these materials to develop their concentration and coordination during learning.

While the learning is student-led, the teachers provide guidance and respond to student queries. Rather than simply fill a child’s mind with knowledge, the Montessori method invites the child to participate in their learning process and develop a curiosity for information.

Independence

Building child independence is one of the hallmarks of a Montessori classroom. Children are encouraged to be leaders in their learning. The teachers put out the learning material, and children can select projects they are interested in and learn at their own pace. As such, a Montessori school may feel like an entrepreneur’s workshop.

Giving children agency over their won learning develops independence from a young age. Over the years, the child is more likely to know their interests and learning style, unlike traditional learning, where the majority of the classroom decisions are made for kids.

Independence is an essential skill set in the world because rather than encouraging compliance, it demands creativity. With the freedom to develop interests and ask questions, children develop the self-confidence and curiosity needed to thrive in a complex world. In the end, children develop a healthy relationship with learning rather than feel burdened by it.

Social interaction

Children have a natural ability to work in groups and develop a common interest in activities. Montessori learning builds on a child’s ability to interact with others by supporting group projects. Children of different ages are grouped in one learning environment and encouraged to learn from each other.

The mixed-age classrooms encourage learning and development that may not occur among kids of the same age. However, the children are within the same peer, hence the peer-to-peer-based learning system.

Both younger and older children learn from each other and build the confidence to approach others and the empathy to assist others. Just as adults within the same age enjoy working on each other, the kids also find it easy to build natural alliances and friendships around a learning goal.

Inclusive of special needs

Maria Montessori developed a vision of learning for all children. She tools time to study children and developed a model of learning based on different children’s abilities. The Montessori method emphasizes the creation of an environment that supports various learning styles.

Children with ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders can thrive in a Montessori environment. The environment helps children retain creativity, social interaction, and curiosity. These are key ingredients in helping a child make sense of their world and absorb information. The use of objects to process information supports different children’s creative patterns.

What’s more, children are grouped with the same teacher for years, which allows for less pressure and relationship building. The stable environment allows the kids to form relationships and focus on learning and teaching others.

The Cons of a Montessori Education

While a Montessori preschool is a great way to kickstart your child’s education, it’s not without disadvantages. Here are several challenges you might face when finding a Montessori preschool near you.

Cost

While a Montessori preschool provides a child-friendly environment to support your child’s development, it’s expensive to operate. Children need materials and time to absorb and develop complex learning systems.

Availability/accessibility

Unfortunately, because the costs of implementing a Montessori program are high, Montessori preschools tend to be limited in availability. The preschools run private programs with high tuition fees and strict admission controls.

It’s more often the case that the Montessori preschools are limited to certain areas. Consequently, it’s harder for children in low-income areas to access Montessori systems of learning. However, organizations and donors are pushing to increase availability. As a result, there are Montessori public schools across the country, and more are coming up. Since these programs are federally funded, they are accessible to everyone.

Lack of structure

While the Montessori method adopts a child-first approach to learning, it’s not a leeway for letting the child do whatever they want. Instead, the teachers have to examine a child’s progress and pace, but more loosely than in a traditional classroom.

Due to the loose structure, a child may focus more on their interests and less on non-interest. Unfortunately, some activities are crucial, even when a child is not immediately aware of them. As a result, a child may be highly prepared for one thing and severely unprepared for another.

In addition, while the open seating style system allows children to move around, it also encourages the creation of unstable relationships.

Independence Has Limits

While the Montessori method focuses on building independence, it’s not the overall skill. The employment space and work environment are diverse and often call for diversity and openness to teamwork.

Children may find it challenging to work in teams where the structure and operations are pre-set for them. It’s important to emphasize more teamwork and adaptability to highly rigid environments.

Montessori vs. Other Methods

Montessori is one of the few methods adopted in today’s learning systems. Other popular methods of preschool learning are the Waldorf and Harkness methods.

Waldorf Method

The Waldorf method with an Australian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. This technique focuses on cultivating experiences and testing them to encourage a child’s learning. The system accomplished this goal by providing music, dance, theatre, and literature training in the learning environment and subjects.

The Waldorf method also focuses on developing thinking rather than memorization. Children are encouraged to take intellectual risks while learning to foster their leadership skills. Likewise, the trainers have high ethical standards to pass down initiative and passion. As such, the children are trained to be prepared for the modern work and life environment.

While the Waldorf system focuses on training different subjects, it still focuses on a child’s inner enthusiasm. Competitive testing and rewards are put aside, and instead, the child is taught to uphold freedom and enjoy learning.

The students are tested through qualitative tests. These tests help the teachers determine growth but are not restrictive to the child’s growth. In addition, a child trained under the Waldorf method utilizes artistic expression to process instructions.

Harkness Method

Philanthropist Edward Harkness developed the Harkness method. This technique also encourages students to sit around a table instead of desk rows. Instead, students learn in a conference method to open up discussion and encourage group activity.

The students can comment on a topic, ask questions, disagree, and find ways to interpret new concepts. As such, children experience learning by engaging in thinking through verbal and written and social expression.

The Montessori Technique For Educators

If you are an educator, you may ask yourself how you can become a Montessori teacher. Montessori trainers are vastly aware of the children and the world around them. Therefore, you have to be observant to identify children’s interests and learning styles. In addition, you should establish systems to ensure a child’s progress at a reasonable pace.

The first step is taking Montessori teacher training. There are programs available across the country and provide the teaching required to prepare you for Montessori learning environments. You can also upgrade your training to prepare for a school administrative role. It’s important to get Montessori Inclusion Endorsement (MIE) to cement your credentials as a Montessori expert.

Need Help Finding a Child Care Solution?

At Wonderschool, we believe that education should be available to all children, parents, and educators. Our listing brings Montessori preschools closer to you, whether you are an educator or a parent. What’s more, we have solutions for directors and educators looking for tools to run Montessori preschools. Whatever your educational concern, we’re ready to listen. Feel free to reach out for more information on the Montessori method.

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