Why Our World Needs Montessori

In today’s crowded world of power struggles and ego trips, the Montessori Method serves as a guide to raising unselfish, self-regulated, caring human beings who are problem solvers and have the self-confidence to lead successful lives by their own efforts rather than at the expense of their fellow citizens.

How does the Montessori method work?

There are two main principles governing the Montessori Method.

      The first is that we must respect children.

      The second is that children are born with an inherent, natural love of learning.

 Youngest children develop focus, motor skills, methodical habits and a sense of achievement by mastering physical tasks such as scooping. Sequencing, sorting, and problem solving are made enjoyable with blocks, models and puzzles of all kinds. Math basics begin with beads and cards and counters, and language skills improve with movable alphabets and language cards. Music and art play an important role in daily activities, and children investigate the habits of plants and animals. Older children then progress to more complex Math, history, science and language arts with age-appropriate tools and materials. Throughout all levels, the child is guided to be orderly and tidy, and to help keep the classroom a good place for all of his/her classmates to work.

How is Montessori different than a typical public school program?

Unlike a typical public school program:

* The child is the focus of the Montessori classroom, not the teacher.

*  The child sets his/her own learning pace. Progress is not dictated by the average progress of the class or by school board timelines.

*  Montessori learning materials are built around controls that signal to the child when he/she has mastered a subject or when more work is needed. This self-governing learning process removes any sense of failure or public shame a child might feel in a classroom where the teacher judges and ranks students against one another. There is no need to compete, only to achieve skills for one’s own sense of accomplishment.

*  Direction from the teacher is only provided as needed. Beyond this the child is guided to work independently, thus developing the ability to learn effectively on his/her own.

*  Montessori classrooms are not laid out with desks for students and teachers. The learning environment is carefully constructed of shelves with beautiful materials that the children can choose from throughout the day.

*  The end goal of a Montessori education is to develop a well-rounded, excellently socialized human being with a rational, inquisitive, well-organized mind.

It is this worthy end goal that truly sets the Montessori Method apart. Unlike typical public education goals of having a child obtain proficiency in basic subjects considered to be essential by the public school system in order to receive a graduation certificate, the Montessori method focuses on the whole person and his or her need to develop habits and life skills that will serve them well as adults far beyond the classroom setting. If you attended a public school, chances are you’ve forgotten the majority of the dates, facts and figures that you committed to memory in order to pass your finals. These particles of trivia are unlikely to be playing a major part in your present day life. But the attitudes you developed toward learning, the habits of organization you learned, the very way in which your mind was forming during your formative years is absolutely affecting the way you handle life’s challenges and opportunities today. The Montessori Method strives to produce adults who adapt to new situations, learn new skills, and interact with others in a positive, productive way throughout life.

Is the Montessori Method superior to the average public school method?

In 2006, Dr. Angeline Lillard (UVA) and her colleagues conducted a study of Montessori and non-Montessori students in two age groups: five-year-olds and twelve-year-olds. The results of this study indicated that the kindergarten-aged Montessori children tested higher in both Math and Reading than the public school children, using the Woodcock-Johnson Test Battery. The Montessori students also displayed more advanced social cognition and executive control, and demonstrated a greater concern over concepts of fairness and justice. The older group of Montessori children evinced a stronger feeling of community in their school than their public school counterparts and tested higher in Math and writing skills.

An earlier study, conducted in 1991 by Alcillia Clifford and Carol Takacs, reached much the same conclusion. In general, Montessori students were more proficient at Language Arts and Mathematics, and expressed more positive attitudes towards their schools. This study concluded that Montessori students were more likely than public school students to complete their education rather than dropping out.

The success of a Montessori school is largely dependent upon the qualities and gifts of the director and teachers. Some schools will be superior to others. Parents should actively interview and investigate any Montessori classroom to which they might be considering sending their child. Statistics like the above indicate that Montessori-educated children test higher and have better social skills than their public school peers, but it remains vital that the parent choose wisely for the individual child.

Children were evaluated at the end of the two most widely implemented levels of Montessori education: primary (3- to 6-year-olds) and elementary (6- to 12-year-olds). They came from families of very similar income levels (averaging from $20,000 to $50,000 per year for both groups).

The children who attended the Montessori school, and the children who did not, were tested for their cognitive and academic skills, and for their social and behavioral skills. “We found significant advantages for the Montessori students in these tests for both age groups,” Lillard said. “Particularly remarkable are the positive social effects of Montessori education. Typically the home environment overwhelms all other influences in that area.”

Among the 5-year-olds, Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children. They also tested better on “executive function,” the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.

Montessori children also displayed better abilities on the social and behavioral tests, demonstrating a greater sense of justice and fairness. And on the playground they were much more likely to engage in emotionally positive play with peers, and less likely to engage in rough play.

The authors concluded that “when strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools.”