The proponent of this renowned education system was Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori whom the education system is aptly named after.
She proposed that children learn best when the environment provides and complements their natural desire to acquire skills and knowledge thereby supporting their intelligence and education.
She observed that in such specialized environmental surroundings, where children were free to choose what they want to work on, in the process, ended up teaching themselves.
Dr. Montessori thought of children as architects of their own minds. From this, she developed learning materials and enabling environments that supported a child's innate interest in their particular passions.
In summary, her guiding principle was that the internal construction plan in each human and the associated changes over time determined one's creativity, intelligence and development.
She equally believed in hidden creative energies innately present in individuals, that if nurtured positively, would result in an independent, free and creative child.
While designing the training methods, Maria established three core areas necessary for a child's learning, that is, the class, child and the environment. All these interact in order to successfully support the Montessori system teaching methods.
Follow the child
In the Montessori system, it's common to hear ‘Follow the child’. This means educators and parents, just as well should concentrate on each child as one with different interests and abilities.
This enables each child to learn at their own pace thereby increasing their inner drives and motivations. It is therefore safe to conclude that there will be no comparison in the Montessori educational system
Encouraging an absorbent mind and sensitive period
Children below the age of 6 years learn effortlessly according to this system because their minds are highly absorbent at this point. This point is popularly known as the sensitive period in their lives.
If the child's facilitators (educators and parents) can identify these periods, they can be able to create a conducive environment for the child to dig deep and develop their interests.
In these sensitive periods, the children are extremely absorbed and engaged in whatever activity they are participating. This results in increased intensity in whatever they are learning.
It is important to avoid interruption to ensure the child's total concentration on the learning activity.
This sensitive period is present in the four stages Dr. Montessori proposed and they are dubbed windows of opportunity. In each phase, a child will set their own goals for learning and will be driven to acquire appropriate skills to accomplish their goals.
The first phase is the development of an individual self, social development, then the 'birth' of the adult phase and finally the mature phase.
During these windows of opportunity, educators, parents and the environment alike should be poised and designed to provide stimuli in form of age-appropriate tasks and materials.
Depending on how enabling the environment is, a child's learning experience will be maximized or minimized.
Another fundamental principle of Maria Montessori is freedom. Children need to be given freedom to explore and discover places, tasks in the environment and how they operate.
This should of course be done under supervision which is basically freedom within a certain setting with ground rules to be followed as opposed to supervision that entails interruption.
The most basic Montessori ground rules are respects yourself, respect others and respect the environment. This results in extremely creative children who are highly inquisitive but still mindful of their surroundings.
In the Montessori system, if a child can do something by themselves, their educators or parents should not try to do it for them. Allow your child to pour their own milk and get their own cookie.
It might make a mess at first but the child's innate drive to gain independence and autonomy will thrive. They will eventually master the art of not spilling half the milk onto the counter.
How about you allow your toddlers pick out their outfits and shoes then let them try putting them on.
Providing the right setting
The Montessori school setting is beautiful and gives off such warm inviting tones that sometimes make the parents want to stay.
In terms of the physical setting, the chairs and tables should be low, the room colours should be light and warm tones. Educators could draw or stick up flowers on the walls.
The room should be organized in an orderly and harmonious manner providing a certain flow of activities famous in Montessori classrooms.
In these classrooms, the children are in mixed age groups. The educator is merely a facilitator and does not need structured age groups to impart knowledge as the children explore different avenues.
For the learning environment to be conducive, it should be centered on the child's passions and interests.
This means there could be materials related to their passions and interests that they are exposed to that another child from a different age group is equally interested in.
Parenting with the Montessori education system can get quite frustrating for the parent, especially the over involved parent who desires to set things straight as the child learns.
As a parent you might get too involved by interrupting the child as opposed to playing your supervision role. This infringes on the child's freedom which is a fundamental part of Montessori.
Subsequently it sets back the child's innate passions and interests so that they may copy their closest environment.
Children are more of observational learners and will watch and imitate if they are repeatedly told that is the right way to do an activity.
The child's home and school environment could also infringe on the child's independence. More often than not, parents will want to do certain activities for the child as opposed to having the child do them.
How many times do you let your child pour their own milk? When did you let you'd children start serving themselves food at the table? When did you stop helping them put on their own shoes and tie, their laces?
One of the most popular Montessori toys used to teach language is the Sandpaper Letters.
They are alphabetical letters cut out and then mounted onto separate pieces of wood with the consonants mounted on blue wood while the vowels are on pink.
There's also a Sandpaper Numerals, which serves a similar purpose in terms of mathematics plus wooden hundred squares, place value cards and checker boards among others for Mathematics.