After years of observational and academic research, Maria Montessori founded the first Montessori school in Italy in 1907. The Montessori approach believes that each child is an individual who will best develop, if allowed to do so at his own pace. Montessori schools allow the child to control his own development and education. The educative approach aims to foster each child's independence. There are over 200 Montessori schools in Australia today.
What Is The Montessori Approach?
The Montessori philosophy is applied differently from school to school. This could be due to varying interpretations of Montessori ideals, or the school may be limited in terms of financial support or space. Most Montessori schools follow the main principles, including:
- Mixed age classrooms – these are often separated into 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 and 12+ years. Unlike most schools where children are kept in year groups according to their age, Montessori schools believe children should learn and socialise with people of mixed ages.
- Child led – the very core of the Montessori approach, is that education should be child-led. The child will be able to choose any of the classroom materials to use at any given time. Learning materials are accessible to all children which often means they are kept on low down shelves. The child should take charge of his own learning.
- Facilitator rather than teacher – the teacher is seen as a facilitator to help the children educate themselves, rather than an authority figure who leads the room.
- Montessori materials – wooden materials are used to aid learning. These materials were devised by Montessori and her colleagues many years ago, and are still used in classrooms today.
How Is Montessori Achieved?
Each school will vary, but some Montessori approaches include:
- Lots of outdoor exploration and learning. Den building, nature walks and wildlife conservation are all popular activities in Montessori schools.
- Domestic duties. Many Montessori nurseries expect the children to set the table and clean up after themselves after lunch. Things are kept lower down to allow younger children to take care of themselves too.
- A focus on the arts. Montessori schools tend to allow more time for creative learning such as music, drama and art.
- Peer learning. The older children in a class will often help the younger pupils to master new skills and concepts.
- Hands on learning. Children learn by undertaking tasks and activities. Often, there is no blackboard present in the room, and the teacher will not lead the lesson.
Children are usually allowed to develop at their own pace at Montessori schools, and the older pupils select which exams they would like to sit and when.
Montessori schools are particularly good for self motivated children. Children with special needs, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, are said to thrive in Montessori schools due to the small class sizes, independence and attentive teachers.
If you are interested in sending your child to a Montessori school, you should contact your local school. Each school is different, and the best way to learn about your local school is to speak to them directly. Ask if they will put you in touch with current parents as this will help you to find out more about the school, and how it is working for existing pupils.