My son is a very high energy child. VERY HIGH ENERGY. He’s also very independent. VERY. These are two qualities that I love about him (maybe not all the time when he’s asking 30 questions in 2 minutes) but I can still appreciate them because that’s just him. But I am also in awe of him because of what he has learned and continues to learn in his Montessori school. The hubs and I are constantly surprised when he casually exhibits or expresses a new concept he’s learned. For example, our little person is reading ya’ll! Like putting sounds together and legit reading. Granted he’s not reading full fledge Dr. Seuss yet but he is definitely able to decipher simple words and now reads to us more than we to him. Our clothing, billboards, our books, anything that has words, he is attempting to read. So I’m pretty geeked.
What is the Montessori Method of Learning?
It is a method of learning that is child centered and based on scientific observation. It seeks to develop the child in all areas including cognitive, physical, emotional and social.
What does that mean in laymen’s terms?
First let me rewind for a second, as a first time mom, watching him grow and hit new milestones, I knew that battery operated games and toys were not how I how wanted to engage him and promote learning on a daily basis. I’ll admit that pretty much any toy that was given to him as a gift that involved using batteries was promptly added to the donate pile. Being that I was new to all of this and had not clue where to begin, I started a search across the interwebs and struck gold. With the help of pinterest and tumblr, I was introduced to the montessori method of learning.
I began creating activities at home such as sensory boxes with things in my kitchen or items purchased from the dollar store. There were a few Melissa and Doug toys sprinkled throughout as well. If you’re not familiar with them, check them out please. (You can see some of them here + get ideas for somewhat quiet activities)The different tasks allowed him to not only visually study it but touch it, hear, play with and even sometimes taste it. As I watched him develop new skills quickly and sometimes spend what seemed like hours on an activity because he enjoyed it so much, I knew I wanted to continue this style of learning. When we moved to Austin and I started working almost soon thereafter, the time came to move him from home to school. With daycare never even being an option due to my own personal experience and the traditional style of learning provided, Montessori was the obvious and only choice for us. We haven’t looked back.
So What Makes A Montessori So Different?
Well, while I could list a number of reasons, I’m going to provide the ones that have meant the most to me.
Reason #1 - Independence
As parents, we’ve always made it a point to show our son how to do things rather than doing them for him. By doing so, he’s grown to be quite the independent little individual. He is quick to state that he wishes to perform a task by himself. Most times we do or at least offer some minor assistance if needed. If he asks to help in the kitchen, we let him. He’s helped prepare many a meal in his short lifetime. The montessori not only reinforces those same principles we’ve instilled at home but further builds upon it daily. Children are allowed freedom of parameters within the classroom.
When it is time for individual study, they are free to choose what subject they will focus on during that period based on the concepts they are learning at that time.
Reason #2 - Learning Goes Beyond The Usual Subjects
Unlike a daycare or traditional preschool, the curriculum isn’t limited to your standard subjects such as math, science or reading. They are also taught practical life skills such as chopping fruits or vegetables (this is done with kid safety tools and supervision of course), how to properly dress themselves caring for plant life (they have a classroom garden and indoor plants) or even set the table. Once again these were activities that I had introduced in the home and were further being reinforced at school while also learning new skills such as reading.
The montessori’s approach to reading is to learn the alphabet by phonetic sound. Once they have conquered that then they move on to learning its name. The same is true when learning numbers. It allows them to understand the concept of one, two, three, etc. which sets the foundation for math basics.
But I believe what has been my favorite to watch to so far is his developing desire to travel because of what he has learned about various countries, continents and landmarks. There have been plenty of days where he’s asked to go see Stonehenge or Big Ben and we tell him not today of course. But please believe we are going to do our best so that he can see them in person one day. Travel to distant lands and even around the states will always be at the top of our to do list every year.
Reason 3 - Children Are Taught And Challenged According To Their Skill Level
In today’s education system, many kids are left behind because they are forced to try to keep up with advanced skills of their classmates. While some would say that would be a motivator for them to get better, those children still to need to comprehend what is in front of them before they can begin to apply it fully. Within the montessori curriculum, kids are not forced to keep up with their peers if they have not mastered a certain skill or concept. Instead they are challenged accordingly to help get them to the next level. The materials provided are multi-level so that the child is able to build upon concepts. It allows for the transition from the concrete to the abstract as stated by The American Montessori Society. By this process, the little person graduated to a blue folder which is what some of the older kids are using and he’s pretty proud of that. But so are we. The blue folder entails decimal systems, more reading and complex spelling, writing and a few others.
Reason 4 - Mixed Age Groups Classrooms
Montessori classrooms aren’t all grouped together according to the same exact age. While in the toddler room and baby room (yes in some schools, they start as young as 3 months) the kids are similar in age, in the primary classroom the ages range from 3-6 years old. Why? Just as subsequent children within a family tend to master tasks their older siblings did at a faster pace due to the observations of their older sibling, the same holds true in a primary classroom. While we don’t have a second little person in the mix yet (but hopefully we will sooner than later), I think it has been good for him to mix with older kids. I see how he interacts with his older cousins who are 3 to 9 years older than him. Despite the age difference they are still able to find common ground.
Now I know that the Montessori Method of learning isn’t for everybody, but I definitely think it at least should be considered by every parent. Why? As parents, we want our kids to have the best chance of success in school by providing them with a quality education. I believe the montessori does that and more by also teaching in a way that speaks the “language” of kids by incorporating every aspect of their development. But then builds upon it by also including aspects of the real world. But hey, that’s just my POV. I can only tell you about what I see. From where I’m sitting, the view isn’t too bad.