Parents unfamiliar with the Montessori teaching method may be inclined to believe that a classroom full of “free” children allowed to do what they want will be chaotic; a rule-free, out-of-control classroom. Instead, however, in just five minutes, most parents are pleasantly surprised (and a little confused) about how organised the room is, and quiet too.
A Montessori classroom will have children in a range of ages learning together in one classroom – Toddler Community 1.5-3 years in one classroom, Primary 2.5-6 years in one classroom and Elementary 6-12 years. The younger ones learn from watching older children work and the older ones learn more about a material from being tutors, and sometimes, even learning a new way from the younger ones. The children are encouraged to work together and help each other learn. The idea is also to create a non-competitive learning community and encourage positive social interaction and cooperative learning while taking care of oneself and the surroundings.
Montessori delivers an unshakable self-confidence and a can-do attitude based on real life skills, a pro-work attitude, total ownership of learning and pride in real achievements.
The materials are available in easy access to all because the materials are intentionally child-sized. Children can choose their own work, but that does not mean there isn’t any structure. The classroom is perfectly designed and very structured, in plan, and in how a lesson is given to each child. The child is given the freedom (with responsibilities) to learn how to make choices suited to his needs, while being aware of others’. The works are presented to the child based on his interests and readiness to progress to the next step and this is determined by the teacher’s observations of child’s own actions. Teachers at a Montessori preschool serve primarily as guides to discovery rather than providing direct teaching. If the child has never had a certain lesson but has taken it from the shelf to his workplace, the teacher will demonstrate how it is worked with and then allow the child to work with it for as long as he wants.
“When the child gets to choose what he wants to do he is more open to doing it, and that too with focus”, says Malvika Venkat, Montessori Educator.
Children can work alone or with a friend so it is more like playing with their friends, but while learning at the same time. When they’re finished with an activity, they clean it up and put everything back exactly where they got it from on the shelf. It’s truly quite amazing to witness.
Children are encouraged to take care of their own belongings and personal needs, such as cleaning up after themselves and using the toilet, and are helped only when needed, and even then, only to the extent necessary to enable them to do it themselves. Montessori schools aim to foster a healthy self-esteem and sense of independence.
Montessori education is beyond physical concepts, there are social and emotional learning advantages as well. Respect, sharing, collaboration, problem solving and even common courtesy become part of the way the child conducts himself. And there are so many world-renowned people we know who conduct themselves ethically, skilfully and admirably (see pictures of famous Montessori educated people).