February 25th through March 2nd of this year marks another Montessori Education week. This is a national week of recognition for this timely, amazing, "whole child" philosophy. Maria Montessori's great work and contributions to children's care and education are one focus. It is also an opportunity to dispel some misconceptions and highlight positives during new family tours, our Face Book posts and family nights.
Classrooms allow for freedom of movement not a "free for all." Children have a choice of materials to work with as long as they are being respectful. Children also follow a schedule throughout the day, a guideline that can change depending on the schedule and needs of the children. Often times, especially for toddlers, the daily schedule and routines become the curriculum. Concentration, problem solving, resolving conflict and just having fun are only part of what happens in a typical day. Skills we take for granted are being honed each day a child is in his or her classroom or outside in their play area.
Practicing the principle of "freedom within limits", Montessori schools inspire children to work at their own pace, alone or with others. Trained, certified Montessori teachers encourage the growth of self-motivated, independent children by balancing active, self-directed learning with small group collaboration and peer teaching. Classes are comprised of a range of ages and abilities. Older children take on the role of peer mentors, reinforcing their own skills and experiencing the responsibilities of leadership through helping others. Younger children revel in the attention and focus from the older children. Everyone learns to respect each other in a warm atmosphere of acceptance and joy.
Perhaps the hands-on materials, many designed by Maria Montessori herself and placed at the children's level in a specially prepared environment is the common denominator to all Montessori schools. Materials have a control of error built into their design (self-correcting). Children can see and learn from their own mistakes without a teacher pointing it out. This is one of the many ways a Montessori classroom fosters independence.
As the team of terrific educators and I prepare for the week, I can't help but be reminded of the importance of fostering independence but also the lifelong love of learning. It is when we do this that we transform the child into the world well equipped. Go Montessori go!