The Montessori Method of Education was created and refined by Dr. Maria Montessori, one of Italy’s first female medical doctors at the turn of the 20th Century.
The method is based on observation of young children by Montessori, who came to understand the child’s naturally absorbent mind. It is this unique capacity to absorb information which allows children to naturally incorporate experiences in the environment directly into their whole basic character and personality for life.
This mental faculty, which is innate in young children, allows them to learn many concepts in an effortless, spontaneous and joyful manner. During this time, children are particularly receptive to certain external stimuli.
Our Montessori teachers believe, recognise and takes advantage of these highly perceptive stages through the introduction of materials and activities which are specially designed to stimulate the intellect.
There are four pillars of the Montessori Method of Education. They are the unique characteristics that can be seen and felt in any quality Montessori setting.
Pillar 1: Environment
Our prepared classrooms are an essential part of the Montessori educational philosophy. The furniture and materials are relative to the ages of the children; activities are set up for success and allow freedom of movement and choice. Our environments are warm, inviting settings for our children to explore freely. The classrooms are always kept ready and beautiful enticing the children to learn.
The founding principle of Montessori education is a profound respect for the children and the environment in which they learn. When our children enter their classrooms which have been prepared especially for them, they can sense the respect their teacher has for them; they know they belong; this gives them the opportunity and inspiration to discover the world around them and the interaction and activity brings out a calmness and kindness in the children that indicates the success of the interaction.
A place for everything and everything in its place: the order found in our classrooms allows our children to find want they need giving them independence and security. Returning things to their place becomes natural to our children in the Montessori classroom and imparts a sense of responsibility and citizenship in the children.
Pillar 2: Materials
Everything in our classrooms has a specific use or purpose. There is nothing in the prepared environment that the children cannot see or touch. All the carefully prepared materials and activities are deliberately selected by the teacher to assist the children in taking their learning to the next level and are within easy reach, ready for the eager minds of the children. The materials are aids to the children to absorb, explore, refine their senses, motor skills and hone their concentration in a concrete way.
The foundation in concrete learning allows for greater abstraction as the children progress through the curriculum. The materials are designed to encourage the children to focus on a particular quality, sense, skill or topic.
Children work at their own optimum level – in an environment where beauty and orderliness are emphasised and appreciated.
In these carefully designed and constructed classrooms a spontaneous love of learning is revealed as the children are given the freedom (within boundaries) to make their own choices regarding the materials they use, leading them to be confident and focused learners with a keen sense of community and responsibility.
Pillar 3: Community
Our quality classrooms have busy, productive atmospheres where joy and respect abound. Within these enriched environments, the right to freedom within boundaries, responsibility, and social and intellectual development spontaneously flourish.
The mixed age classrooms are an important feature of our classrooms. This approach allows each classroom to be a “mini society”, where children can work together without being segregated into divisions. In this “society” the older children model the proper code of conduct and the younger children learn by example. In just the same manner, the work of the older children inspires the younger children to greater achievement.
Qualities of leadership and collaboration, teamwork and problem solving are developed in a natural and empowering way.
In Casa Mia we are interested not only with what the children learn, but also with the person they become, and how they will function outside of the classroom, which is why our curriculum is just as much about social and emotional growth as academic achievement.
Pillar 4: Teachers
Our team of Montessori teachers are expertly trained facilitators in the classroom; always ready to assist the children and direct their learning based on observations of the children. The teacher’s purpose is to stimulate the children’s enthusiasm for learning and to guide it, without interfering with the children’s natural desire to teach themselves and become independent. Each child works through their individual cycle of activities and learns to truly understand according to their own unique needs and capabilities.
It is the teacher’s aim to be the link with the children’s needs and the learning materials and experiences abundant in the environment; creating lessons and learning opportunities to interest and inspire the children. Leading by example, our Montessori teachers are role models for consideration, respect, humour and love of the children in the school community.
Planes of Development
Dr Montessori outlined four consecutive planes, or stages, of development from birth to maturity, each plane spanning approximately six-years. At each plane of development children and young people display intellectual powers, social orientations and creative potential unique to that stage. Each plane is characterised by the way children in that plane learn, building on the achievements of the plane before and preparing for the one to follow. The timing and nature of the transition between planes vary from individual to individual.
- The first plane of development is the period from birth to, approximately, age six. During this stage children are sensory explorers, learning to become functionally independent in their immediate environment and community. Children at this stage construct their own intellect by absorbing every aspect of their environment, language and culture.
- The second plane of development is the period from, approximately, six to twelve years. The developmental focus of this period is intellectual independence, hand in hand with the development of ethics and social responsibility. During this stage children become conceptual explorers. They use reasoning, abstract thought and imagination to explore and develop their understanding of the world.
- From age twelve to eighteen young people become humanistic explorers seeking to understand their place in society, and to contribute to society. They have a huge capacity for creative expression, and their style of learning becomes more practical and experiential, an approach they use to explore previously introduced concepts in more depth and in real-life contexts.
- From eighteen to twenty-four young adults develop specialist knowledge and skills, preparing them to take their place in the world and to establish social and economic independence.
For each plane of development there is a specific Montessori learning environment. Montessori environments for each plane maintain distinctive Montessori characteristics, including freedom of choice and movement, and an emphasis on independent exploration and self-directed learning. At the same time the design of each environment is customised to the specific needs, interests and potential of each developmental stage.
Within each plane of development there are periods during which children and young people display intense interest in a particular activity or aspect of the environment. These periods were called by Dr Montessori sensitive periods for learning, especially in the context of early childhood. The sensitive period for language, for example, is active during the first plane of development from birth to six years. This sensitive period provides a window of opportunity that enables children to learn language with ease and enjoyment. If, for any reason, a child does not learn to speak during this time, the sensitive period disappears and the learning of language requires much greater effort. The particular learning sensitivities and needs of children at each stage of development are reflected in the design of the Montessori environment and in the resources and activities for that stage of development.