The Montessori method is one of the fastest growing childcare approaches in the world today. A short history lesson that might enlighten you to as why Montessori Childcare is so popular not only in Australia but worldwide
Children build themselves from what they find in their environment. Dr. Maria Montessori, who in 1896 became Italy’s first female physician, discovered that fact through research on children with disabilities.
Her findings of how children learn inspired her to return to the University of Rome to study psychology and philosophy, and later teach anthropology. In 1906, Dr. Montessori founded her first Casa dei Bambini, (Children’s House) to teach sixty under-privileged children.
Through scientific observation of these children, Dr. Montessori recognised that they “responded to the materials with a deep concentration, resulting in a fundamental shift in their way of being, changing from the ordinary behaviour of fantasy, inattention and disorder, to a state of profound peace, calm and order within their environment.”
When Dr. Montessori observed this change with all the children in her environment, she concluded that she had discovered children’s true, normal nature, and she founded the Montessori Method.
The Montessori Childcare Method:
The Three-hour Work Period
In the three to six year old class there is one or two three-hour, uninterrupted, work period each day. In this time children have three hours to choose and carry out their own work and are not required to participate in any outside play, group story time, circle time, music, or any other activities which take time away from their own choice of activity.
During this time adults and children are asked to respect each other's concentration by not interrupting each other. Traditional group activities spontaneously arise according to the interest of a child or a group of children or are suggested by the teacher if necessary.
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: zero to three and three to six. Montessori teachers believe this encourages constant interaction, problem solving, child-to-child teaching, and socialisation.
The physical environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are free to move around the room. There is no limit to how long a child can work on any one project or activity.
Children are encouraged to develop independence and the environment has been designed to facilitate this through: Construction in proportion to the child and his/her needs, beauty, harmony and cleanliness of the environment, order, a floor plan that promotes movement and activity and limitation of materials, so that only resources that support the child's development are included.
The Montessori method encourages educators to: "Teach by teaching, not by correcting" and children's effort and work is respected as it is. Through observation and record-keeping, teachers plan individual projects to enable each child to learn what he/she needs in order to improve.
This is guided by national standards for the zero to six age group, however teachers are trained to guide a child's research and exploration and capitalise on his/her interest and excitement about a subject. Teachers do not set assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor do they set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.
Montessori teachers spend time practicing lessons and must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order to be certified. Teachers are trained to recognise a child's readiness according to age, ability, and interest in a specific lesson and are able to guide individual progress.
Areas of study
All subjects are interwoven and children are encouraged to have broad interests. A child can work on any material he/she understands at any time.
All kinds of intelligences and styles of learning are encouraged including: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math).
There are no academic requirements for children aged zero to six, but according to the Montessori.edu website ‘children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and often learn to read, write and calculate beyond what is usually thought interesting to a child of this age.'
Education of character is considered equally with academic education and Montessori encourages children to learn how to take care of themselves, their environment, each other - cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community, etc.
Montessori and Learning
One important foundation of The Montessori approach, particularly in daycare’s, is that the first 3-4 years a child experience are key in their growth and their potential.
With this in mind Montessori offers a range of learning environments: For working parents a Nido is for babies from two to three months until they are walking well. The Parent-Infant class enables parents and kids (aged two to 16 months) to get together with a Montessori educator and other young children to develop motor coordination, independence and language. Once kids are walking well they move into the toddler group.
Children, especially under the age of six, have an innate path of psychological development. Based on her observations, Montessori believed that children who are at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously for optimal development and therefore, have the best chance of an optimum development under a Montessori Daycare model
The sensorial materials give a child experience in perceiving distinctions between similar and different things. Children then learn to grade a set of similar objects that differ in a regular and measurable way from most to least. Each piece of equipment is generally a set of objects which isolates a quality experienced through the senses such as color, form, dimension, texture, temperature, volume, pitch, weight and taste. Precise language such as loud/soft, long/short, rough/smooth, circle, square, cube is used to describe these experiences to make the world meaningful to the child.
Oral language acquired since birth is refined through a variety of activities such as songs, games, poems, stories and classified language cards. Preparation for writing begins with the practical life exercises and sensorial training. Muscular movement and fine motor skills are developed along with the ability of the child to distinguish the sounds which make up language. Children hear and see sounds but they can feel them by tracing sandpaper letters. When a number of letters have been learned the movable alphabet is introduced. These cardboard or wooden letters enable the child to reproduce his or her own words, then phrases, sentences and finally stories.
Montessori advocates believe a child's mind is awakened to mathematical ideas through the sensorial experiences described above. Once children can see the distinctions of distance, dimension, graduation, identity, similarity and sequence they will be introduced to the functions and operations of numbers. Resources and materials available in the schools support the development of these skills.