About Montessori

about-montessoriDr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, developed a method of teaching based on her scientific observations of young children’s behavior. Her first “Children’s House” was established in Rome in 1907. She found children learned best in a homelike environment filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences, which contribute to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.

Dr. Montessori carried her message across the globe, including the United States in 1912. Dr. Nancy Rambusch established the American Montessori Society in 1960. Montessori education in the United States appeals to those who embrace it because of its outcomes for students. The American parents who originally chose Montessori education matched their views of child rearing. They saw their children as moral beings, which over time would become the socially responsible people Montessori had envisioned. And they saw their children becoming confident, competent learners.

Learning Environment

At Vineyard Montessori School, we approach learning together with the children in ways based on Dr. Maria Montessori educational theory developed in 1907.  She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Maria Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.

The role of the adult is not to be authoritarian, but rather to be functioning primarily as an observer, and then, after analysis of the stage of development of a particular child, becoming something of a catalyst, acting between the child and his/her environment. Not restricting the child’s attentions to the artificial environment constructed within, the adult expands the child’s experiences to reach beyond by relating what he/she learns through the materials to the reality of the outside world.

Principles of Montessori

principles-montessoriAt Vineyard Montessori School, we have witnessed that “curriculum” of any description will not really help learning happen unless there is consistency in the following principles:

  1. Respect for the child as a human being possessed of natural tendencies for growth and development as a whole person.
  2. A prepared environment which is responsive to the observed needs of the child in striving for mastery and understanding of the realities he/she meets.
  3. Provision of an observable control of error within the material to enable the child to function totally as a creative being, according to his/her sensitivity, unhampered by the obstruction of the adult or the other children.
  4. Attention to the development of the practical and social life of the children particular to their level of maturity.
  5. Admiration, compassion and patience towards the children and oneself in this joint venture of learning about the world and the role of the individual in it.
  6. Deep respect for children as individuals.
  7. Multi-age classes that allow teachers to develop close and long-term relationships with their students, allow them to know each child’s learning style well, and encourage older students to become role models, mentors, and leaders to younger students.
  8. Integrated curriculum that is carefully structured and connects subjects within programs (e.g., history and cultural arts to maximize the opportunity for learning and to build from program to program to progress from concrete to abstract learning).
  9. Independence which is nurtured and leads to children becoming purposeful, motivated, and confident in their own abilities.
  10. Peace and conflict resolution that are taught daily and children learn to be a part of a warm, respectful, and supportive community.
  11. Character development, which is a central focus of the AMS Montessori curriculum. The child creates, in a very real sense, the adult that is to be, through his/her experiences, interactions, and environments.
  12. Hands-on learning that is central to the curriculum in all programs and leads to children being engaged rather than being passive with their work.
  13. Environments that are responsibly and carefully prepared with multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials to support self-directed learning.
  14. Teachers and children and teachers and parents that work together as a warm and supportive community.
  15. Self-expression nurtured in all children. Children experience art, music, poetry, theater, writing, and other forms of creative arts with confidence and passion.

Source: Montessori in the 21st Century. The American Montessori Society. 2003.

Principles of Montessori

principles-montessoriAt Vineyard Montessori School, we have witnessed that “curriculum” of any description will not really help learning happen unless there is consistency in the following principles:

  1. Respect for the child as a human being possessed of natural tendencies for growth and development as a whole person.
  2. A prepared environment which is responsive to the observed needs of the child in striving for mastery and understanding of the realities he/she meets.
  3. Provision of an observable control of error within the material to enable the child to function totally as a creative being, according to his/her sensitivity, unhampered by the obstruction of the adult or the other children.
  4. Attention to the development of the practical and social life of the children particular to their level of maturity.
  5. Admiration, compassion and patience towards the children and oneself in this joint venture of learning about the world and the role of the individual in it.
  6. Deep respect for children as individuals.
  7. Multi-age classes that allow teachers to develop close and long-term relationships with their students, allow them to know each child’s learning style well, and encourage older students to become role models, mentors, and leaders to younger students.
  8. Integrated curriculum that is carefully structured and connects subjects within programs (e.g., history and cultural arts to maximize the opportunity for learning and to build from program to program to progress from concrete to abstract learning).
  9. Independence which is nurtured and leads to children becoming purposeful, motivated, and confident in their own abilities.
  10. Peace and conflict resolution that are taught daily and children learn to be a part of a warm, respectful, and supportive community.
  11. Character development, which is a central focus of the AMS Montessori curriculum. The child creates, in a very real sense, the adult that is to be, through his/her experiences, interactions, and environments.
  12. Hands-on learning that is central to the curriculum in all programs and leads to children being engaged rather than being passive with their work.
  13. Environments that are responsibly and carefully prepared with multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials to support self-directed learning.
  14. Teachers and children and teachers and parents that work together as a warm and supportive community.
  15. Self-expression nurtured in all children. Children experience art, music, poetry, theater, writing, and other forms of creative arts with confidence and passion.

Source: Montessori in the 21st Century. The American Montessori Society. 2003.

Prepared Environment

The design of the child’s learning spaces calls upon our common sense and creativity. A Montessori classroom takes into consideration:

  • The size of the children who will live and learn here. Not only tables and chairs must fit, but distances between one area and another, the height of bookshelves as well as the dimensions of sponges and the weight of trays, the level of paintings and mirrors.
  • The layout of the room (s). It should provide for accessibility, proper lighting, and varied-use spaces. That is, group and individual, busy and contemplative. The environment should call from the child varied responses for total participation of the personality.
  • Choice of materials and changes. Originally based on knowledge of child development and Montessori principles, choices and changes depend on astute and ongoing observation of the particular children in our care.
  • The preparation – use- preparation cycle. Maintaining the materials and the space in tip-top condition is the on-going responsibility of the adult team and of the students as well.
  • Aesthetics. Each and every choice we make, whether color scheme, a painting or sculpture, even the number of items on a shelf matters. Cluttered shelves, a carelessly chosen drawing with little merit, a puzzle of poor design are not only marks of disrespect for a child’s being, but make for a cluttered mind and slow development of good taste.

Preparation of an environment is an art and a delight to the adults who care and participate in the growth of the children in their care.

Learner Outcomes Common to Montessori Education

The outcomes we aspire to teach at VMS are lifelong developments. The original American Montessori agenda of learner outcomes are as follows:

Independence

Is the child able to choose his or her own work, apply energy to that work, complete it to a personal criterion of completion, take and return the work to the place it is customarily kept, in such a way that another child will be able to find the work ready to do? Is the child able to seek help? Is the child able to locate resources to continue the self-chosen task without necessarily involving the teacher?

Confidence and Competence

Are the child’s self-perceived successes far more numerous than his or her self-perceived failures? Is the child capable of self-correcting work, upon observation, reflection, or discussion? Can the child manage the available array of “stuff” with a clear sense of purpose?

Autonomy

Can the child accept or reject inclusion in another child’s work or work group with equanimity?

Intrinsic Motivation

Is the child drawn to continue working for the apparent pure pleasure of so doing? Does the child, once having achieved a particular competence, move on to revel in mastery by showing others?

Ability to Handle External Authority

Is the child able to accept the “ground rules” of the group as appropriate in his or her dealing with other children? Is the child, distant from the teacher, able to function as if the teacher were nearby?

Social Responsibility

Independent and autonomous persons are always a part of a group and must attain independence and autonomy through participation in group activity. The loss of these qualities by one of a group is a loss for all. Do students attain independence and autonomy and, at the same time, develop social responsibility?

Academic Preparation

In Montessori education, children learn to learn by learning. Academic preparation entails activation and cultivation of inherent powers and processes through which the learner becomes a supplier of meanings or of things-meaningfully-known. Academic skills are essential to learning and knowing, not the aim of learning and knowing. Do students acquire academic skills and apply them in learning to learn?

Spiritual Awareness

Montessori views the child as a spiritual embryo. Implications are conveyed by the metaphor. All humans are spiritual beings as well as physical beings. They have spiritual health as well as physical health. Montessori sees no need to establish whether or not the source of spirit is theological and does not offer theological explanation. The spiritual embryo simply thrives on spiritual investment. The investment can be theological, humane, or a combination of the two. What are the spiritual outcomes of school experience?

Citizens of the World

All children are part of both a world political system and a world ecological system. Both systems have their constitutions and all must learn to live by the letter and spirit of their laws. As a naturalist, Montessori knew about the laws of mind and of nature and understood the consequences of disobeying either of them. What are the citizenship outcomes of school experience? Are the children acquiring civic virtue? Are they acquiring dispositions to understand the natural world, to cherish it, and to live harmoniously within it?