Montessori schools are much different than standard elementary schools where academic learning is the primary objective. The Montessori method is based on the belief that education should be built around the whole child, which includes their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. Teachers are trained to be very observant so they can best support individual children’s needs. Lessons are also structured to cater to children’s interests and needs during specific ages, to support their natural tendencies. These schools are also well known for encouraging self-led learning and classrooms are often filled with students working independently on projects of their own choosing.
In a Montessori environment, children are encouraged to direct their own course of learning. Students are asked to identify projects that they are interested in and teachers will guide and support their choices. Students are encouraged to work at their own pace. They can work independently or collaboratively, but the choice is their own. Researchers have found that students who get to pursue their own interests are often more engaged and that this kind of philosophy supports life-long learning.
Natural Stages of Development
Maria Montessori, Montessori method founder, believed in working with a child’s natural stages of development to enhance their learning experience. She believed that children can learn specific concepts much more easily during times that she called Montessori sensitive periods. These are certain times during a child’s development that they will demonstrate a strong interest in certain areas, and Maria Montessori believed in supporting those natural tendencies. She said that specific concepts are learned much more easily and naturally than during any other time in their lives, and children will show strong inclinations for certain lessons.
The Montessori method encourages hands-on learning. Unlike traditional classroom settings where children sit in desks and listen to a teacher lecture, Montessori lessons involve tactile experiences and concrete learning, as opposed to philosophical or abstract lessons.