Oh Montessori, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
After 10 years of Montessori education for my children, my daughter “graduated” Kindergarten today and we had to say goodbye to the wonderful education that we have fallen in love with over the past decade. As we say goodbye to Montessori, I am so grateful for what it has brought into our lives and how it has taught and influenced me as a Mother, with teaching my children. Montessori education is fundamentally different than traditional public education, and if you don’t know much about it, here are just a few examples of the differences:
Montessori is a student-led model: “We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” ~ Maria Montessori
Teachers allow students to learn at their own pace, learning core concepts through hands-on exploration, but they are available when/if children need/want help.
Montessori always has a beautifully prepared environment: “To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” ~ Maria Montessori
A Montessori classroom is one that is that is organized, categorized and boasts wood materials. Nature is always incorporated – fresh flowers are a delightful part of the prepared environment; each week a student is responsible for bringing in fresh flowers and arranges them for the students to enjoy throughout their days.
3 hours of “Work Time” with complete hands-on learning: “The children must be free to choose their own occupations, just as they must never be interrupted in their spontaneous activity.” ~ Maria Montessori
Students have this uninterrupted “work time” to choose what “work” to do and how long they want to do it (which is radically different than traditional public schools). The space is open for them to work… students chose a work space space (aka rug), place it wherever they’d like to work, chose their work materials, and then work at their own pace. They use this time to explore, play, discover, challenge, experiment with the HUNDREDS of options prepared for them. They can take as long, or as little, amount of time as they choose. Most “jobs or works” are fundamental and stay the same year to year – continually challenging the students as they master concepts and grow. Many others works, or jobs, are rotated on a regular basis according to season, holiday, etc.
Montessori education addresses all facets of life and development; “practical life” is a big component of a Montessori education, as well as “care of your environment”, which is an integral part of the children’s day at school: “The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment and efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education.” ~ Maria Montessori
Children are encouraged to take responsibility for the practical aspects of life, such as; shoe cleaning, window washing, floor cleaning, floral arrangement, a hand-washing station, cooking (a biggie and favorite!), washing dishes, preparing their snack each day, pouring their drinking water, and cleaning up after themselves after all the fun messes are made while learning.
There are age groups, not “grades”, for example:
- Children’s House is aged 3-6 (traditional: preschool and Kindergarten)
- Lower Elementary ages 6 – 9 (traditional: 1st grade – 3rd grade)
- Upper Elementary ages 9 – 12 (traditional: 4th grade – 5/6th grade)
- Middle and High School Montessori schools are less “available”
The beauty of age grouping is that
#1) children get to be with the same teacher for multiple years, forming trustworthy relationships, allowing the teacher to know their students on a deeper level and the absence of the traditional yearly “grade,classroom,teacher,peer” change helps with stability in their learning, etc.
#2) this age span allows children to excel and grow according to their individual strengths and weaknesses. It’s a beautiful thing to see children of varied ages and levels work together – the 6 yr old may excel in math and work with the 8 yr old while the 9yr old may have challenges reading and work with the 8 yr old. It is all fluid and allows children to learn and grow according to their personality and strengths. Additionally, it allows for the older children to learn how to be role models for the younger children, learning leadership skills, and patience too 🙂
There are many more incredible things I could say about Montessori, but what I want share with you right now, is if you have children or grandchildren and don’t know much about Montessori – I highly suggest you look into MONTESSORI for this summer, and beyond (especially with these unknown days of Covid-19)… it’s never too early, or too late and there are so many wonderful resources online about Montessori philosophy and work ideas —–> check out Pinterest boards for ideas too. If you’re in the North East Ohio Area, I can’t speak highly enough about Hudson Montessori School, it is a phenomenal school and they have done a superb job continuing to provide a quality Montessori education these past few months during this Coronavirus, distance learning situation. We will dearly miss you all HMS!
I hope this post was enlightening and that you check out some Montessori educational experiences for your child(ren). Kids don’t have to go to a “Montessori school” to benefit from Montessori-esque experiences and summer learning at home!
RESOURCES: To learn more about Montessori, here are some links to get you started:
Hudson Montessori School: https://www.hudsonmontessori.org/
Everything you’d like to know about Montessori: http://parents.montessorisynergies.com/
Montessori vs traditional education: http://ageofmontessori.org/differences-montessori-traditional-education/
Pinterest ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/teachers/montessori/
BACKSTORY: When I was looking for preschool for my son, 10 years ago, we found a great Montessori school, pre-k – 8th grade, which was pretty pricey – but comparable to other all-day preschool care in our area. When it was time to enroll him in Kindergarten, we knew that we couldn’t pay that tuition for the private Montessori school so I did copious amounts of research and found a charter school, which happened to be just blocks away from our home, and was a FREE MONTESSORI SCHOOL – admission based on an application lottery system. We applied to 3 different California Montessori Project campuses, hoping to increase our chances to win that lottery and let me tell you – when we got the letter in the mail that he was accepted to our #1 choice, it felt better than what I imagine winning the lottery would be.
And so our love affair began. My son had challenges in Kindergarten… perhaps a “typical”, overly energetic and intelligent boy. Montessori is drastically different than public education (which my husband and I both attended growing up), and that 1st year I was questioning our decision. In one of the many meetings we had with his teacher, I was sharing my concern about it being a right “fit” and his teacher said something so incredibly impactful to me, she said, “if he has troubles managing himself, his time, and his work – then this is the PERFECT place for him to be, so he can work it out and learn it now, because everyone eventually needs to master this skill in life. What better time to have him figure it out now, in elementary school, rather than in high school or college?” WOW, just another reason why I love Montessori so much!
Unfortunately, when we moved out of California, across the country, there was not a “free charter Montessori school” option near us in Ohio. My son switched to public school when we moved but we made the decision to invest in our daughter’s primary education as a catapult for her love of learning. After 2 years of this investment, I am heartbroken that it is just not feasible for our family at this time… as a small business owner who works part-time at a church, this is not an option any longer. I will research diligently this summer to see if there are grants or scholarships available, but at this time we have decided that we can no longer afford this. So today, I celebrate and mourn Montessori.
Currently accepting 1st grade tuition sponsorships – if you’d like to sponsor my daughter for another year of Montessori 🙂