Montessori Philosophy and Principles
Montessori School House Philosophy of education is based on child-centered approach to teaching, developed by Maria Montessori and most often used in the early childhood years, that features a wide range of graded, self-motivational techniques and materials specially designed to provide sensory-motor pathways to higher learning.
One basic idea of Montessori philosophy is that carried unseen within each child is the person the child will become. To develop to the fullest physical, spiritual, and intellectual potential, the child must have freedom – achieved through order and self-discipline.
To a child the world is full of sights and sounds which appear chaotic. From this chaos the child gradually creates order and learns to distinguish among the impressions which assail the senses, thus slowly gaining mastery of self and the environment.
Five basic principles fairly and accurately represent how Montessori School House implements the Montessori Method in programs. These principles include: 1. Respect for the child, 2. The absorbent mind, 3. Sensitive periods, 4. The prepared environment, and 5. Self-Education.
Respect the Child
Children learn best in an environment of mutual respect and one that provides opportunities for cognitive, social, emotional, moral and physical growth.
Teachers show respect for children when they help them do things and learn for themselves. When children have choices, they are able to develop the skills and abilities necessary for effective learning autonomy, and positive self-esteem.
Maria Montessori observed that young children learn in a unique way from infant to about six years old. The absorbent mind is the image she created to describe, ". . . this intense mental activity."
Infants have no conscious mind, rather work sub-consciously. Since an infant has to learn everything (he has no tools other than reflexes to survive), but has no language or conscious will to learn the way adults do, he must acquire his survival skills in some other way. Montessori said that the child learns by unconsciously taking in everything around him and actually constructs himself. Using his senses, he incarnates, or creates himself by absorbing his environment through his very act of living. He does this easily and naturally, without thought or choice.
Montessori saw the absorbent mind in two phases. During the first phase, from birth to three years old, the young child unknowingly or unconsciously acquires his or her basic abilities. She called it the period of sub-conscious creation or the sub-conscious absorbent mind. The child's work during this period is to become independent from the adult for his basic human functions. He learns to speak, to walk, to gain control of his hands and to master his bodily functions. When these basic skills are incorporated into his schema, by about three years old, he moves
into the next phase of the absorbent mind, which Montessori called the period of conscious work or the conscious absorbent mind. During this period, the child's mathematical mind compels him to perfect in himself that which is now there. His fundamental task during this phase is freedom; freedom to move purposefully, freedom to choose and freedom to concentrate. His mantra is "Let Me Do It Myself!"
Another of Montessori's contributions was the discovery of the sensitive periods. A child passes through special times in his life when he easily incorporates a particular ability into his schema if allowed to practice it exhaustively during this
time. She referred to it as, ". . . a passing impulse or potency." Her prescient understanding of these critical periods is now confirmed by scientists and even the popular culture, with Time magazine calling it "Windows of Opportunity"
Regardless of what they are called, the sensitive periods are critical to the child's self development. He unconsciously knows
that the time to learn a specific skill is now. The child's intensity reflects his need for that particular acquisition in order to live. However, once the period passes, he'll have to learn the skill with much more difficulty at a subsequent time. Adults often do not realize that a child has sensitive periods, perhaps because they do not remember them in themselves. But a thwarted sensitive period will manifest itself in a cranky child. Montessori viewed these "tantrums of the sensitive periods (as) external manifestations of an unsatisfied need."
The child ages birth to six years old will pass through three significant sensitive periods; those for order, movement and language. During the period of unconscious creation, the child acquires the above mentioned abilities. Then, in the period of conscious work, he concentrates on refining these newly acquired
Montessori referred to four specific types of order to which the child is sensitive. They are spatial order, social order, sensory and temporal order. All through the period of unconscious creation, the child seeks order so he can acclimate
himself to his environment. The young child may or may not realize he is separated from his surroundings. Order in his world helps him make the distinction. Thus he uses an external order to build on his internal orientations.
He is sensitive to a spatial order; that is, everything has a place. When his environment is arranged the same way day after day, he comes to rely on it and can get his bearings. Gradually, he absorbs the concept that if the table is there, for example, then he must be here. Little children returns to a familiar point not for any other purpose, but to pause, seemingly as a way of reorienting himself.
The child is also learning about the people around him. This social order allows him to discern who is who and to distinguish between himself and the mass of "them" out there. It is critical at this stage that the same people come in contact with the child, over and over, so that he can accomplish this distinguishing
work. Children in child care centers often require the same teachers to give them care.
The child is sensitized to a sensory order, in other words, to the differences in things; that some are soft or hard, that objects have color, different colors, and shades of the same color. He needs to freely explore his prepared world so he can differentiate among these qualities. Infants often cry because of sensory deprivation.
The young child needs ritual, or temporal order. If his life has a predictable rhythm and his routine is maintained, he begins to trust the environment. If his needs for food, sleep and bodily comfort are predictably met as they arise, he uses this satisfaction as the basis to feel secure and to explore his world. One child I observed spent most of the morning fussing and crying. The Guide told me it was this child's first day at the Center. The unfamiliar place and routine obviously upset her.
Keeping the sensitive periods in mind, Dr. Maria Montessori created what she called “the prepared environment.” Among its features is an ordered arrangement of sequential learning materials, designed to be developmentally appropriate and aesthetically appealing. Used in the noncompetitive Montessori classroom, the materials allow each child to develop at his/her own individual rate.
“Never let the child risk failure until he has a reasonable chance of success,” said Dr. Montessori, understanding the need to acquire basic skills before participating in a competitive learning situation. The years between three and six are not only the prime time for laying an academic foundation, but most importantly the years when a child learns the ground rules of human behavior most easily. These are the years to help a child prepare to take her/his place in society through the acquisition of good habits and manners.
Dr. Montessori recognized that self-motivation is the only valid impulse to learning. Children move themselves toward learning. The teacher prepares the environment, offers activities, functions as a reference person and exemplar and observes the child constantly in order to help the process of “learning how to learn.” But it is the child who learns, motivated through the work itself, to persist in a chosen task.
The Montessori School House children are free to learn because of having slowly acquired an inner discipline from exposure to both physical and mental order. This is the core of our philosophy. Habits of concentration, perseverance and thoroughness established in the early years will produce a confident and competent learner in later years.
Montessori School House introduces children to the joy of learning at an early age and provides a framework in which individual and social discipline goes hand in hand.