“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of 6. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.”
~ Dr. Maria Montessori
Over the course of the last century, the Montessori approach to education has proven itself to be universally applicable in many countries and cultures all over the world. This Montessori approach to learning was developed after years of careful observation of children in a “prepared environment” and is based on a profound respect for the needs of each individual child.
As a medical doctor, Dr. Maria Montessori was steeped in the tradition of scientific observation. This enabled her to “see” what others had not seen in the development of children. It was through her keen sense of observation that she deduced the need for didactic (concrete, hands-on) material to form a bridge between experience and knowledge.
Through her observations of children, she was also aware of the intangibles of the learning “atmosphere,” which included a special preparation of the teacher to allow freedom and social life to emerge in the learning community.
Beauty, Order and Accessibility
Walk into an authentic Montessori classroom, anywhere in the world, in any suburb of any city, and you will invariably see happy and busy children working purposefully. The classroom itself will typically be beautiful and enticing. Great care has been taken to create a learning environment that will reinforce the child's independence and natural urge toward self-development. This is achieved in three ways: beauty, order and accessibility. The Montessori materials are beautifully developed and are displayed on low open shelves. Each piece of material has a specific purpose and is presented to the children in a manner that will enable them to direct their own learning.
The Montessori materials are tools to stimulate the child into logical thought and discovery. They are enticing and simple. Each piece of material presents one concept or idea at a time and has what is known as a "control of error". If the child has done something incorrectly it will be self-evident. The child is able to correct himself or herself through the use of the material, thereby consolidating the skill being learned and creating greater independence.
The Montessori classroom is not merely a place for individual learning. It is a vibrant community of children, where the child learns to interact socially in a variety of ways. The three-year age range enables older children to teach the younger and learn much themselves from the experience while the younger children are inspired to do more advanced work through observing the older ones. With such a variety of levels in the classroom, each child can work at his or her own pace, unhindered by competition and encouraged by cooperation. Children attend daily for a three-year cycle.