What are the benefits of Montessori education?
A Montessori-based education is child-centered; it is based on a child’s need, interests and learning style at that moment in their life. Instead of applying a “one approach fits all” style of learning to an entire classroom of children, the Montessori-based approach takes into account the fact that children do not all learn the same way nor have the same needs.
Montessori helps children to become self-motivated, self-disciplined and focused, and retain the sense of curiosity that so many lose along the way in traditional classrooms. Children are given the tools to be successful in their future lives. They typically become life-long learners and problem-solvers, innovators and good team players. They tend to act with care and respect towards their environment and each other. They are able to work at their own pace and abilities.
The Montessori curriculum encompasses not only an academic curriculum, but also focuses on a child’s personal and social development. Success in today’s world is not only measured by grades and degrees. Strong study and work habits, self-motivation, independent thinking and excellent communication skills are essential for academic and career success and an integral part of Montessori education.
What are the key differences between a Montessori-based and traditional curriculum?
At every level in a Montessori program, the child actively participates in learning; the teacher's role is to act as a guide. The child-centered, individualized learning approach allows the child to choose his/her own work based on their interests and abilities, formulate concepts from self- teaching materials and set his/her own learning pace. The classroom environment and mixed-age grouping encourage children to teach, collaborate and help each other while individual and group instruction adapts to each student’s learning style and level. Children are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities on their own, with materials that have been introduced to them by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do.
By comparison, in the traditional educational model there is an emphasis on learning by rote. The child is a passive participant while the teacher's role is dominant and active. Most of the teaching is done by the teacher, and is based on the adult’s teaching style. The child is usually given a specific time to work at an instruction pace set by group norm or teacher.
In a Montessori curriculum, the learning process or journey is as important as the end result. Montessori teachers lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate and discover. Their ultimate objective is to help their students learn independently and retain their curiosity, creativity and intelligence. Montessori teachers don't simply present lessons; they are facilitators, mentors, coaches and guides.
There is great respect for the choices of the children in a Montessori classroom; even so, they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. The children do not switch between classrooms and subjects at the sound of a bell. There are longer work cycles, no wasted time and children actually enjoy their work and study. In fact, oftentimes children will ask each other for lessons. Much of the learning comes from sharing and inspiring each other instead of competing with each other.
Why are the classrooms multi-age? What are the benefits?
One of the core principles of a Montessori-based education is the belief that mixed-age groups and flexible groupings allow the children to learn at the best rate.
A mixed-aged classroom is an inherent motivator for children to constantly challenge themselves. Older children benefit tremendously from this environment where they are teachers and leaders, developing confidence and independence. They reinforce their understanding of the material by teaching it to the younger students, while the younger ones have it taught to them in different ways. Sometimes another child can word a concept in a way that an adult can't, facilitating better understanding for both children involved. This process of knowledge sharing reaffirms what the children have already learned. Younger children usually want to do what the older children are doing and benefit from having role models in their classroom environment.
Multi-age classrooms also allow children to excel. Children can individually advance in the complexity of their work without waiting for the group as a whole. With higher-grade level materials easily accessible, and the possibility to teach children at different levels, students with a high aptitude in a subject matter can easily work above grade level. In other words, a well functioning multi-age classroom will be able to adapt to the needs of each child, promoting enrichment and support in the specific concepts that each child needs to work on.