The Montessori Advantage
Early childhood education significantly contributes to a child’s physical, emotional, psychological, and cognitive development.
Maria Montessori initially worked with and researched prenasthetic children– in other words, children experiencing some form of cognitive delay, illness, or disability. Soon her findings led her to integrate her education methods into mainstream education. The Montessori method has a very interesting concept of educating the whole child. This prepares the child to develop lifelong skills.
Children from birth to age six must go through different planes of development. Among those planes, ages 3 to 6 is called a sensitive period. During this period, the child can absorb and learn much from their surroundings. They have an ‘absorbent mind’ and can acquire a wide range of knowledge which develops in their higher education.
The Montessori curriculum focuses on practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, science, and geography.
Practical life teaches activities like pouring, scooping, tonging, tweezing, etc. This enables children to refine their fine motor skills for writing.
Care of self teaches them simple day-to-day activities such as buttoning their clothes, tying their shoes, zipping their jackets, etc. Care of the environment teaches them to take care of the material, plant life, and pets around them.
Sensorial area helps them differentiate visual perception of the size and form of objects, colours, and shapes used in geometry.
Learning alphabet phonetically helps them isolate sounds. Math teaches concepts of sets, decimal systems, and the four basic mathematical operations
Geography teaches the physical and political aspects of the globe. Further, it teaches the continents, their culture, landforms, etc.
Science teaches differentiation between living, nonliving, plants, and animals.
Physical science teaches magnetic and non-magnetic properties, sink and float - to name a few. Further, it also deals with animal and plant kingdoms.
All the above can be taught very interestingly in a prepared classroom environment. A prepared environment is key to success in a Montessori classroom. The materials will be arranged and should be inviting for the child to explore. Most of the didactic materials are self-correcting, which enables the child to feel successful, develop self-confidence and become a self-learner. The role of a teacher is that she or he is merely a guide. The environment kindles the child's curiosity, which motivates the child to become a self-learner. This method is very effective and plays an important role where the child can self-educate herself or himself.
Reflecting on my experiences, I think of Chris, a student with a minimal attention span. He was very hyper and was unable to focus on any task. Once I got an understanding of him, I was able to provide him with a choice of activities based on his interests to do. Chris was very kinesthetic in his approach to work, so I used that knowledge to create assignments that would engage him kinesthetically. Soon Chris could focus on his work, and his abundant energy was redirected to performing activities from the practical life and sensorial areas of the classroom. The repetition of these works brought a sense of calmness and purpose, enabling him to stay focused and complete his task. There are many such success stories where students have greatly benefitted from the Montessori teaching method.
Time and again, I get asked how Montessori education differs from traditional preschool education. The following table provides an overview of those differences. One must also recognize that the attributes listed below the Traditional column may not be the case in all instances of non-Montessori schools these days since many have tended to ‘borrow’ ideas from the Montessori system over the past 8-10 years.
The pedagogic model of Montessori allows a teacher to tailor the lessons to suit the needs of the individual child.
As a Parent and an experienced Teacher, finding the Right school system is the key to a child's Success. As the saying goes, "Children of today are Citizens of Tomorrow".
Author Bio: Sadhana Santaprakash is a Montessori teacher certified by the American Montessori Society. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literation from Chennai University (1988) and obtained her Montessori certification in 2000. She began her teaching career in 2001 and has been a lead teacher in Oakland Children’s Academy for the past 16 years.