Why Our World Needs Montessori

In today’s crowded world of power struggles and ego trips, the Montessori method serves as a guide to raising unselfish, self-regulated, caring human beings who are problem solvers and have the self confidence to lead successful lives by their own efforts, rather than at the expense of their fellow citizens. The world needs as many people with these qualities as possible to shift the balance away from the good-of-the-few mentality that plagues many cultures today. The world needs Montessori.

Why Would You Choose Montessori For Your Child?

Every parent has the duty and the choice of determining which qualities they wish to instill in their child. Our habits and our methods of meeting life’s daily challenges inform our children of the ‘correct’ way to live, and they carry these teachings with them into adulthood. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori school of thought, firmly believed that young children have incredibly absorbent minds, assimilating all that they see, hear and experience. The child self, and subsequently the adult self, is created from this absorption of total surroundings. By thoughtfully planning the environment in which children live and learn, the Montessori method provides the positive experiences most parents want their children to have in order to grow up with healthy minds, healthy attitudes and healthy life strategies.

If you think it’s important for a child to…

* be vibrantly inquisitive about new things
* enjoy the process of learning
* acquire fine motor skills
* develop an analytical mind
* work independently
* work without disrupting others
* work well with others
* be able to focus his/her mind on the task at hand
* respect others
* respect his/her own mind and abilities
* feel purposeful and valuable
* derive satisfaction from achievements
* become an independent, confident adult

…then you might wish to choose Montessori for your child.

How does the Montessori method work?

There are two main principles governing the Montessori method. The first is that teachers (be they parents or Montessori directors) must respect children. The second is that children are born with an inherent, natural love of learning. With these two beliefs setting the tone, the Montessori method can be applied both in the homeschool and classroom environment. Over the past century, Montessori educators have developed an excellent set of tools and learning materials that enable children first to develop the basic skills they need to learn effectively, and then to use those skills to acquire knowledge in the areas of language, science, history, mathematics and all of the subjects considered essential to a modern education.

Youngest children develop focus, motor skills, methodical habits and a sense of achievement by mastering physical tasks such as sweeping, scrubbing, polishing, and scooping. Sequencing, sorting, and problem solving are made enjoyable with blocks, models and puzzles of all kinds. Math basics begin with beads and cards and counters, and language skills improve with movable alphabets and language cards. Music and art play an important role in daily activities, and children investigate the habits of plants and animals. Older children then progress to more complex math, history, science and language arts with age-appropriate tools and materials. Throughout all levels, the child is guided to be orderly and tidy, and to help keep the classroom a good place for all of his/her classmates to work.

How is Montessori different than a typical public school program?

Unlike a typical public school program:

* The child is the focus of the Montessori classroom, not the teacher.

* The child sets his/her own learning pace. Progress is not dictated by the average progress of the class or by school board timelines.

* Montessori learning materials are built around controls that signal to the child when he/she has mastered a subject or when more work is needed. This self-governing learning process removes any sense of failure or public shame a child might feel in a classroom where the teacher judges and ranks students against one another. There is no need to compete, only to achieve skills for one’s own sense of accomplishment.

* Direction from the teacher is only provided as needed. Beyond this the child is guided to work independently, thus developing the ability to learn effectively on his/her own.

* Montessori classrooms are not laid out with desks for student and teacher. The learning environment is carefully constructed of shelves with beautiful materials that the children can choose from throughout the day.

* The end goal of a Montessori education is to develop a well-rounded, excellently socialized human being with a rational, inquisitive, well-organized mind.

It is this worthy end goal that truly sets the Montessori method apart. Unlike typical public education goals of having a child obtain proficiency in basic subjects considered to be essential by the public school system in order to receive a graduation certificate, the Montessori method focuses on the whole person and his or her need to develop habits and life skills that will serve them well as adults far beyond the classroom setting. If you attended a public school, chances are, you’ve forgotten the majority of the dates, facts and figures that you committed to memory in order to pass your finals. These particles of trivia are unlikely to be playing a major part in your present day life. But the attitudes you developed toward learning, the habits of organization you learned, the very way in which your mind was forming during your formative years is absolutely affecting the way you handle life’s challenges and opportunities today. The Montessori method strives to produce adults who adapt to new situations, learn new skills, and interact with others in a positive, productive way throughout life.

Is the Montessori method superior to the average public school method?

In 2006, Dr. Angeline Lillard (UVA) and her colleagues conducted a study of Montessori and non-Montessori students in two age groups: five-year-olds and twelve-year-olds. The results of this study indicated that the kindergarten-aged Montessori children tested higher in both math and reading than the public school children, using the Woodcock-Johnson Test Battery. The Montessori students also displayed more advanced social cognition and executive control, and demonstrated a greater concern over concepts of fairness and justice. The older group of Montessori children evinced a stronger feeling of community in their school than their public school counterparts and tested higher in math and writing skills.

An earlier study, conducted in 1991 by Alcillia Clifford and Carol Takacs, reached much the same conclusion. In general, Montessori students were more proficient at language arts, mathematics and expressed more positive attitudes towards their schools. This study concluded that Montessori students were more likely than public school students to complete their education rather than dropping out.

The success of a Montessori school is largely dependent upon the qualities and gifts of the director and teachers. Some schools will be superior to others. Parents should actively interview and investigate any Montessori classroom to which they might be considering sending their child. Statistics like the above indicate that Montessori-educated children test higher and have better social skills than their public school peers, but it remains vital that the parent choose wisely for the individual child.

Why does our world need Montessori?

To answer this question, let’s go back to the beginning. Maria Montessori first began developing her methods in the early 20th century while she was training to become Italy’s first female physician. She was assigned to observe a ward of children who had been classified as mentally retarded by the government. These children were being raised without the benefit of outside stimuli or toys of any kind. Montessori saw that the little children were so desperate for activity that they picked up crumbs from the ground and rolled them about in their fingers, just to have something to do. Montessori spent the next few months of her life providing these children with her basic educational materials and at the end of that time, the children were able to pass national tests, and even to test higher than so-called ‘normal’ peers.

Montessori learned that adults are prone to underestimate the intelligence of children in general. In today’s world, toys, games and educational materials are dumbed down for the child ‘consumer’ to a never-before-seen low level. We don’t simply give a child a set of wooden blocks or a book. We give him or her flashing cartoons and flickering video games with a deafening explosion per minute. As a result, we have youngsters who are unable to concentrate, focus, play on their own, understand the rights of peers, or pay attention to anything that isn’t being spoon-fed to them via the dubious medium of constant, unceasing entertainment.

Oftentimes, parents are shocked to discover that their children become ‘functional’ the moment they are given something interesting, useful and engrossing to do. Meaningless, adrenaline-filled boredom is replaced with purposeful activity and the child is suddenly focused and able to concentrate. Montessori materials provide that ‘something-to-do’ that children so yearn for in their quest to become helpful, recognized, active members of the human family.

Concerned adults are shaking their heads over the disorganization, inequality, violence and general chaos of our modern civilization. Psychology has long recognized that our experiences in our formative years dictate a great deal of our adult behavior. The antidote to the rude, selfish adult is the loved, respected child. A system of education that devotes itself to creating a safe, positive atmosphere in which children can learn, grow, achieve, succeed, and come to respect themselves and others gets my vote.

The Montessori method is currently celebrating its centennial anniversary. Its contributions to the world – including many thoughtful, responsible, useful citizens – are ones which we can all appreciate. Congratulations, Montessori! May our world continue to benefit from your respectful philosophy for another hundred years.

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20 Responses to “Why Our World Needs Montessori”

  • Cindy said at July 12th, 2007 at 8:22 am :

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

  • Stephanie Conrad said at July 12th, 2007 at 8:58 am :

    Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I would like to have your article available on parent night? Could I have permisson to do so?

  • Meredith said at July 12th, 2007 at 9:02 am :

    Fantastic Lori, so well said!!!

  • montessori_lori said at July 12th, 2007 at 10:03 am :

    I don’t think it would be a problem, Stephanie, as long as you attributed it to me. Thank you!

  • Ann said at July 12th, 2007 at 10:05 am :

    Thank you, Lori. Your response is as beautiful – and appropriate – as the materials you make. Well done! Ann Isenberg, Khalsa Montessori School, Tucson, Arizona

  • Theresa said at July 12th, 2007 at 11:08 am :

    Beautifully written and perfectly said. Great article, Lori.

  • SAB said at July 12th, 2007 at 11:58 am :

    As an M. Ed. special educator,B.S. Criminal Justice, and A.G.S. Theological Studies, working on an Ed.D./Transformational Leadership, I have used Montessori methodology for years in the public arena, simply to educate educators in several states, as to successful address of student needs.

    Some who genuinely CARE about their students vs. pressured dogma, negative attitudes, and failure to embrace collaborative professional development, are relieved to have the opportunity to explore and encompass Montessori as a classroom delight! It virtually and thoroughly integrates classroom climate, and develops the learning experience as a holistic implementation, inviting all learning styles in a beautifully interwoven and positive environment.

    My own children, now grown remember simple terminology and exploration they were given as a result of Montessori introduced through paraprofessionals in the WA public arena who assisted Talented/Gifted children as well as those with special needs. It is so thrilling to hear grown young adults,in turn, pass on these learning opportunities to their own children, in parenting skills.

    Children are not to be addressed in terms of politically imposed ‘methodologies’, but rather as individuals with great potential as future leaders and societal developers in terms of their own strengths…which Montessori most wonderfully addresses, as have you here addressed.

    Well Done! Keep up the good fight! It will be recognized and adopted individually, where negativity surfaces and eventually subsides. SAB/New England

  • jenmack said at July 12th, 2007 at 12:13 pm :

    Very thoughtfully written Lori! Thanks for a great article!

  • Anonymous said at July 12th, 2007 at 6:28 pm :

    Margreet said…
    Thank you Lori for the wonderful article, I have been teaching montessori for 40 years. I hope lots of people will benefit from your article.

  • expandedlearningconcepts said at July 15th, 2007 at 8:15 am :

    Authenticating Montessori

    In response to the recent article by Emily Bazelon, I would like to address one the valid points she raises in the article. Emily states, “The biggest problem for American Montessori Education at the moment may be about identification. Any school can all itself a Montessori school, which doesn’t bode well for quality control. The real test of a school’s worth is probably teacher training.”
    One organization which is addressing this issue is the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) http://www.macte.org. Through the development of strict guidelines and competencies for Montessori Teacher Training programs, MACTE has developed a way to authenticate training centres that train teachers in the Montessori Method of Education. There are many umbrella organizations that offer teacher training such as AMI, AMS, Private Colleges and Universities, to name a few. All these organizations can now apply for and offer MACTE accredited courses. In Canada, many school administrators and owners will only hire teachers that have a MACTE accredited teaching diploma.
    On-going training and development are also essential tools to keep Montessori teachers and schools enriched on new theories and methodologies in addition to their Montessori training. Mentoring programs for first year teachers, networking groups for teachers and continuous support training for administrators are essential elements of any thriving and successful Montessori program.

    Keeping the movement alive,
    Charlene Abrahams
    Inspiring, Enriching and Supporting
    Expanded Learning Concepts

  • montessori_lori said at July 15th, 2007 at 10:25 am :

    It’s true, the fact that any school can call itself “Montessori” is a problem. That’s one reason I stressed that parents should always observe before choosing a school for their children.

    Making sure the teachers are Montessori-trained and the school is accredited by AMI or AMS is a good idea too.

  • yasmeen said at July 15th, 2007 at 10:39 am :

    Thank you for sharing this article with us. I have just open my one and only Montessori school in moose jaw,Saskatchewan on the (celebration of 100 years of the Montessori) 6 of jan 07 in moose jaw. Over here people have limited knowledge of montessori and this kind of article is helpful to hand over to them to read. Can i print and pass it on to those who has no knowledge so far what is montessori.

    Thank you Yasmeen warsi (Child’s View Montessori School in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan Canada.

  • montessori_lori said at May 18th, 2008 at 4:17 pm :

    Hi, Yasmeen! It’s fine with me if you print and distribute this, as long as you credit Montessori for Everyone. Thanks!

  • nazmeera.com said at November 24th, 2008 at 7:27 am :

    what a great article!!!
    i hope people read this and educate themselves and others towards the wonders of montessori

  • Montessori, Montessorian World said at May 8th, 2010 at 4:15 pm :

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  • Genz said at August 5th, 2010 at 6:35 am :

    Hello, LORI. What a wonderful article! I hope you have posted it to your Facebook account so that more parents will be aware of what Montessori can do to their children…
    I hope you won’t mind me forwarding your article to my Montessori colleagues and parents.

    Best regards!

  • Lori Bourne said at August 5th, 2010 at 6:39 am :

    Thanks, Genz! I actually haven’t mentioned this one on Facebook, great idea! Feel free to forward it to anyone!

  • A Japanese Rubber Stamp Kit said at July 24th, 2012 at 3:16 am :

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  • Marides said at August 7th, 2013 at 12:55 pm :

    This is a wonderful article. You covered many important aspects of Montessori. Would you mind if I shared this article with the parents in my class? Thank you for writing a very thoughtful article.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 7th, 2013 at 9:11 pm :

    Hi, Marides! Thank you so much for your kind comment. If you would like to give the parents a printed copy, please put “Used by permission of Montessori for Everyone, http://www.montessoriforeveryone.com” on it. If you’d like to share it on Facebook or through email, just link to it. Thanks!