Defining Montessori

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By Morenike Ololade Taiwo

(AMI 3-6 Primary Montessori/Early Childhood Development Educator)

What is Montessori?

Montessori is a holistic approach to education that values all the areas of the child’s development. It could be physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Montessori is a way of life for the child. Children wants to be like adults, the practical life activities help them to learn what daily lifestyle looks like. Montessori helps the child develop in a way that will be self-dependent. It develops the child’s movement, independence, and language. It prepares the child for a proper and realistic adult life.

For example, an eighteen-year-old teenager will be able to live comfortably on her own without having tom worry and bother her parents on what to eat, wear and do. She will be able to take responsibility for her actions. She can be self-dependent, make her own plans and decisions – like forming her own study guide to help her excel academically. There will be no need for her to be coaxed into doing what naturally will benefit her life before she gets them done. She will be able to apply her initiative appropriately as at when the need arises.

Montessori is a pedagogy of education based on scientific observation of how the child learns by Dr Maria Montessori, a renowned medical practitioner. It is a child centred approach it brought to limelight the innate energy/power of the child to acquire knowledge.

With reference to the Bambini home, where the whole CASA experiment started, the children were in an asylum where they are not being properly cared for because they are destitute. Dr Maria Montessori was invited to care for them as a medical practitioner and in her study and observation, she deduced that the children needed not only medical attention, but they also lack love, care, kindness, and empathy just as our work in Montessori education has taught us that we must first offer the child the gift of love and care. The children were homeless, hungry and the lack basic social amenities of life and this life they were subjected to live has reduced their self-esteem to nothing.

What the child shows about independence:

From the experiment Dr Maria Montessori performed on the Bambini children after showing them love, it was proven that children want to be like adults. They want to eat by themselves, wear their own clothes, do things that adults do like cooking and other domestic chores, that was why the children continued to practice that hand washing lesson long after Dr Maria Montessori finished presenting it to them. The children repeated the activity several times until they gain mastery of the act of washing hands. This is a show of independence, being able to do things on your own as a child without getting support or help from an adult. Achieving success all by yourself. The joy of satisfaction that the child displays when he attains success with an activity goes a long way to emphasize how important independence is in childhood development.

This independence in the child will start developing once he gets into the children house with the first set of activities, he will be introduced to which is the practical life activities in the care of self, care of the environment, grace and courtesy lessons which will help him achieve his eagerness to be like an adult since he will be exposed to how he can do things like an adult even when he is only a child.

What the child shows about freedom:

The teaching approach in Montessori is ‘freedom with limit’. When the child is not under any pressure to do anything in the Montessori prepared environment, the child can develop faster and better compared to compared to a traditional school that there is a prepared curriculum of what activities to learn. It does not matter whether the child is ready and prepared psychologically for the lesson. Once it is part of the curriculum, it must be taught at the scheduled periods. This is not so in the Montessori classroom.

Every child is free to choose an activity he is comfortable working with for as long as he pleases. No set time to start and stop in the casa house. So, the child takes his time to have his hands on the materials for as long as he pleases without feeling intimidated by the other children in the classroom. This is because most of the exercises are individualized. Each child works independently and freely on his own without interference until he has had his hands well enough on the material. This is freedom – freedom to choose what you are comfortable with, which works well with your age, freedom to work for as long as you want on the activity.

Another aspect of freedom in the casa house is regarding the older children in the environment, as the children are all mixed age from three- to six-year-old, this also applies to the faster children. Freedom allows them to select any activity even when they have not been introduced to it. In as much as they are comfortable working with the material and they are curious to learn about the activity, they are free to select it and try their hands on it. By so doing, the guide gets a clue during observation that the child in question is ready to progress to the next activity without being slowed down by the rest of the children.