Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was a pioneer of child-centred education, an innovator of classroom ideas and practice and continues to have a profound influence on the education of children all over the world.
As the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome and the first woman doctor in Italy, she was first drawn to children through treating children with, what today we call, children with special needs. As a trained physician she observed children as a scientist, using the classroom as her laboratory and finding ways to help them achieve their potential.
Following on from the success of her first ‘Children’s Houses’, Maria Montessori’s approach became recognised as a highly effective method of teaching which could be used with great success for each and every individual child. She travelled the world demonstrating her techniques, giving lectures, teaching and writing books.
Dr Montessori discovered that children learn best through doing and being happy and self- motivated, following their own inner needs. This will, she believed, promote confidence, understanding and a desire to learn more. This is similar to today’s idea that children learn through play.
She created specially designed materials to foster independence and a love of learning. Many of which you can see at Overton and Steventon Children’s House’s today.
The Montessori approach at Overton and Steventon Children’s Houses
The differences and key benefits
Montessori’s focus on the individual child allows each child to develop at their own pace, following their own individual path and needs. Through this method children at Overton and Steventon Children’s House’s have access to a broader curriculum.
We always ‘Follow the Child’, a key principle in Montessori education, rather than a set of criteria that need to be ticked. The teachers adapt and change activities to suit each individual rather than expecting the child to adapt to a fixed curriculum or what an adult decided should be in the room a few days earlier.
Children are given the freedom to learn through ‘hands on’ experiences, investigating and exploring, developing further understanding, confidence and the motivation to learn as they do so. They are not instructed on what to learn and the teacher’s role is to facilitate the child’s learning not to transfer a fixed stock of knowledge for the child to commit to memory.
Children learn independence and life skills as we encourage them to think and do as much as they can for themselves. This could be from washing their hands and getting dressed to choosing an activity for themselves to learning how to be sociable and finding out if there is another way to build that tower! We do not know exactly what skills the children will need when they become adults in tomorrow’s world, but we can encourage them to become creative thinkers and develop an understanding of other people and cultures. This will help them to tackle and resolve future challenges.
The co-founders of Google credited their Montessori education for the main reason for their success. They said they learned to be self-directed and self-starters and were allowed to think for themselves and given the freedom to pursue their own interests.
Montessori teachers undertake a large degree of training in child development providing them with a greater knowledge of how children learn. Through observation, their understanding and respect of how children learn, each child’s current needs, the environment and activities are adapted accordingly.
At both Overton and Steventon Children’s House’s we have children from 2 to 6 years of age. The mixed ages within the school enables the younger ones to learn from watching the older children and the older children benefit from helping the younger ones. This is an important part of social development as well as aiding intellectual and emotional development.
In both our settings mistakes are a means of learning. For example spilling drinks, breaking a pot or building a bridge that keeps falling down provide wonderful learning opportunities for the children to enjoy. “I did it all by myself” is a statement the children say every day when they come running up to us with big smiles having just zipped up their coat for the first time or matched up the letter sounds with the objects. The children don’t need rewards or stickers, but develop their self-respect naturally. And children who feel self-respect, naturally learn to respect others as well
If you’d like to know more about the Montessori approach, please ask for details of books, magazines and seminars which are available.