Dr. Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870, was a medical doctor and pioneer educator. As her life’s work she developed a teaching philosophy that balances freedom with responsibility and also sets high standards of intellectual and social development for children.
The Montessori curriculum focuses on the development of the whole child which includes their intellectual development. The goal of a good Montessori program is the integration of the child’s personality and the organization of his or her thought process. This provides the basis for later academic success, and is accomplished through direct experiences with meaningful activities and materials in order to “develop interest rather than give facts.”
Young children have amazing mental concentration if given activities and materials that fulfill their need to grow and discover themselves. The Montessori program is a learning program with a curriculum wherein the children enjoy the work/play environment created for them. When a young child has a positive experience with the process, it influences him or her for the rest of their life.
Educational research demonstrates that children ages 3 to 6 are extremely capable of learning meaningful things:
- Intellectual stimulation given at this age level helps to create the foundation for later academic success.
- A program of play alone does not help the young child to organize his or her mental processes, which is necessary for academic learning.
- Given the choice, children will prefer meaningful work to play.
- Children literally absorb knowledge from their environment. Therefore, if the environment is enriched with special materials suited to their needs, children will learn easily and joyfully.
- Children can learn to read, write and work with numbers in the same natural way that they learn to walk and talk.
- Children are not happy without a sense of self-discipline, self-esteem and order.
- Children who are taught kindness achieve greater academic success, have more friends, and develop better relationships with teachers.
The Montessori classroom is not graded, permitting the children to learn according to their ability and not forcing them to keep up with “the group”. The childrens’ accomplishments are their reward. We allow each child to experience the excitement of learning by his or her own choice, and he or she will maximize their potential to become an independent, secure, loving and balanced human being.