“Education is not something which the teacher does, but it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment.” — Maria Montessori.
The philosophy of Montessori education is focused on the child who constructs him or herself through individual innate interests and abilities while acting upon an enriched environment. It maintains that the child has an inherent drive to perfect him or herself and a natural love of learning.
Montessori education understands the formation of the child through:
- The Absorbent Mind: The child under six has a genius capacity for mental absorption; impressions from the surrounding environment form the child’s mind.
- The Psychic Embryo: This is the inner “blueprint” for life which includes the individual proclivities and tendencies. It has to do with the development of the child’s personality through a protective environment as their consciousness seeks expression.
- Sensitive Periods: These are transitory periods of interest when a child is most amenable to particular development and is especially attuned to particular characteristics of the environment.
- Human Tendencies: These included order, precise movement, language acquisition, independence, exporation, working hard, repeating and perfecting one’s efforts and sharing with a group.
The prepared adult (teacher) is a guide to the materials and one who is encouraging, loving, and available as a listener. The teacher is a consultant and a participant in the child’s growth. The adult must be disposed to the task by being a child advocate in the deepest sense. The guide needs to be a visionary insofar as she/he maintains hope and belief in the goodness of life and works for the transformation of society.
The teacher is required to design and maintain the prepared environment, allow the children the liberty to engage in spontaneous activities and relate with each child in his/her specificity. Additionally, the adult must work on building a relationship of respect and trust, thereby providing the child with a sense of safety and security. This, in turn, allows the child to feel free to explore.
The practice of observation, keeping up-to-date behavioral and work records and trusting in the gradual emergence of the child are also important in being a good teacher and guide. Appropriate guidance can then be made through individual observation and a more complete understanding of the child’s particular development.
The prepared environment is the instrument of education in the Montessori Method. Children are allowed to act freely on their own initiative while meeting their own needs through individual and spontaneous activity. Freedom of choice and freedom of movement are crucial to the child’s development.
In addition to self-directed activity, learning takes place through direct instruction when requested by the child or when initiated by the teacher. The children are encouraged to develop positive attitudes as well as to learn certain skills, such as large and small motor control, concentration, a sense of order, visual acuity, and pattern recognition.
There are six basic components to the Montessori classroom:
- Structure and Order
- Nature and Reality
- Beauty and Atmosphere
- Montessori Materials
- Development of Community Life