One of the most powerful aspects of Montessori education is witnessing the power of a child’s natural inclination to learn and absorb their environment. When provided with a well thought-out environment, natural inquisitiveness and desire to learn motivates children to explore and soak up information. In this kind of prepared environment, students are enabled to work independently and at their own pace.
One of the tools Montessori children are given from a very early age is a method to create their own workspace within the classroom. Toddler, Pre-Casa and Casa students define their work area using a small mat, which is unrolled and placed carefully on the floor. Once the workstation is prepared, the child can select materials to work with, which are brought to the workstation. The classroom expectation is very clear that individual workstations are to be respected by others working in the room, which is treated quite earnestly. This is a wonderful example of the “freedom within limits” tenet practiced by authentic Montessori schools.
Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.
– Maria Montessori
The above example illustrates the importance of the prepared environment. In order to give students the freedom to make their own choices, they need to be provided with a precise selection of suitable materials in the classroom. When constructed properly, children are able to have more influence into their own activity cycles, starting and stopping or moving on to a new set of work according to their own appetite as they master each subject within the curriculum. Similarly, students also have the alternative of changing subject matter more quickly or moving through materials at a faster pace than another child who is more engrossed or simply taking their time to further explore a topic.
In a more traditional classroom setting, students are managed by a timetable to which they must strictly adhere, even when that means stopping just when enthusiasm for a topic may be reaching its peak, or moving on before students have grasped the subject matter.
The Beauty of Montessori
“Freedom within limits” provides the flexibility for each child to have their unique needs met, while ensuring that the entire curriculum is well represented and accessed within an adequate timeline. This is the beauty of Montessori.
Within the Montessori classroom, curriculum develops along with each child – ahead in one area, behind in another – we work with the child at their level in each area of the curriculum. For students requiring additional time or support in any given area, they have the opportunity to slow down and take the necessary steps to ensure understanding. This could mean slowing down a single lesson or a series of lessons over a period of days or even weeks. In a traditional classroom, teachers are largely unable to accommodate students who need more time to reach understanding, or those who are quickly ready to move on.
Self-regulation skills flourish as students have such a wide variety of opportunities to practice these skills within the structure of the classroom. Confidence builds as students take an active role in their own learning and teachers assume the role of careful observer reserving “Centre Stage” for students.
When learning is planned and implemented according to the time honoured and proven Montessori methodology, children are naturally incented to learn. Education is so much more that the transmission of knowledge and it is within the process of student discovery and action that true knowledge emerges. It is truly our privilege to witness the development of our students each day.