The first three years of life are the most critical in the development of human beings and their potential. The infant’s physical development is phenomenal as well as apparent and inspires our utmost care and attention.
The principle elements that one should be aware of are as follows:
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily 6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem solving, child-to-child teaching, and socialization.
Prepared Environments or Work Centers
The prepared environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the environment instead of staying at desks. There is no limit as to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects, namely; math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., are learnt across all levels.
Teaching method – “Teach by teaching, not by correcting”
There are no papers turned back with red marks and corrections. Instead the child’s effort and work is respected as it is. The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what she or he needs to in order to improve.
The Montessori adult spends a lot of time during his or her training practicing the many lessons with materials in all areas. She or he must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order to be certified. She is trained to recognize a child’s readiness according to age, ability, and interest in a specific lesson, and is trained and prepared to guide individual progress.
Except for infant/toddler groups, the most successful classes are of 30-35 children to two adults (who is very well trained for the level she is teaching), with two non-trained assistants. This is possible because the children stay in the same group for three to six years and much of the learning comes from the children and the environment.
All kinds of intelligence and styles of learning are nurtured: musical, kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math).
This particular model is backed up by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.
There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning and level of work.
Education of character is considered equally with academic education. This includes children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other – cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community etc.
As can be seen the Montessori follows a unique method that considers various aspect of a child’s growth and and addresses each such aspect in a specific manner.