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What is Montessori?

a brief summary

Many parents come to us with basic questions about Montessori. What is it? How is it different from other forms of education? What do children get out of a Montessori education?

The word Montessori is actually the name of an educator who lived from 1870 to 1952.  Her name, Maria Montessori was the first female doctor of medicine in Italy. Her observations of the way children learn naturally by investigating their environment led her to develop a new system of education in which various aspects of development are stimulated by special pieces of equipment.

Giving up her medical practice to pursue educational reform, Montessori opened her first school in 1906 called the 'Casa dei Bambini' or 'The Children's House'. Her success in teaching children from deprived and neglected backgrounds there earned her international fame, and later in her life she travelled extensively giving lectures about her methods.

Montessori schools and colleges can be found today all around the world, embracing children of every age and background.

The Montessori Method aims essentially to help children develop themselves by directing their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. We use unique equipment originally developed by Maria Montessori to let them explore colour, texture, shape, length, area, volume, letters, words and numbers. And of course we encourage more traditional expressive activities like painting, drawing and craftwork.

During the ‘work cycle’ ,a period of uniterupted work cycle, the children themselves choose what activities to do and when, so that during what Montessori calls their "sensitive periods" they will naturally maximise their learning. One of the key roles of the Montessori teacher is to ensure that children are helped through these particularly receptive times.

The Montessori method is not just to do with the physical equipment though. It encompasses everything from our tone of voice in the classroom, to how we interact with the children, and giving them responsibility for getting out and putting away their work. Developing independence is a vital part of education and we go to great lengths to ensure that everything in the classroom is on a "child scale". Because of this, the children see the classroom as "their" space, not ours.

Having worked with the Montessori material for a number of years I have seen the benefits it has brought to children.  The material itself are truly amazing pieces.  It is extrodinary how such simple pieces of equipment can teach a child to read, draw and learn colours for example.  Having observed my eldest daughter begin to start reading and writing I have felt the need to introduce her at this stage to Montessori equipment to help support her growing interest to learn. Over the last month I have witnessed her interest in using the Small Moveable Alphabet and this has enticed her to enjoy learning using material that she can hold and feel.  This goes for many children today who enjoy the idea of using material to support their learning acheivements.

If this all sounds a bit nebulous, the results can best be appreciated by a personal visit to the classrooms - seeing is believing!

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