The Philosophy & Method
Eden Montessori International School Algarve Portugal
Montessori is not just a different way of schooling with more freedom, as many are lead to believe. It is, in fact, an entirely different way of thinking about children and learning. Montessori education follows the neurological development of the human brain, taking advantage of what Maria Montessori referred to as “sensitive periods” for learning a particular skill. If a child is in the right environment during these “windows of opportunity” for learning they will learn the skill without even having to be taught; they literally absorb it from what they are being exposed to in their environment. Maria Montessori referred to “The Absorbent Mind” from birth until the age of 6, within which time the mind absorbs these skills (or knowledge) effortlessly from the environment.
So, for example, a baby who is exposed to multiple languages in the first 3 years of life, which is a critical time for language development, will be able to speak those languages with fluency and the correct accent, without ever being “taught” the language. Languages can be LEARNT later on in life, but it takes significant effort and study; whereas during a “sensitive period” if the environment has what is needed, the skill is learnt effortlessly.
For those who are new to Montessori it might be useful to know how it differs from mainstream traditional schooling.
New to Montessori?
It might be useful to know how it differs from mainstream traditional schooling
Below are the main differences between Montessori education and traditional schooling
Sensorial learning process
Montessori is a sensorial learning process using all seven senses. It is not limited to sight and hearing and is an active learning environment where children engage with learning materials freely and are not expected to just sit still and listen to the teacher all day long.
Learning is self-paced
Learning is self-paced. Children are not all doing the same thing at the same time. Individual learning needs are catered for with an uninterrupted ‘work period’, wide choice of activities and materials, and multi-age setting.
Freedom to choose
Children have the freedom to choose what activities to do each day from a wide range of possibilities. As long as a child has been presented to the chosen materials and knows how to use them they are free to practice with them for as long as they choose.
Extended time allowed
There are 3-hour work periods with extended time allowed, enabling children’s concentration to develop and “work” to happen and flow naturally. There are no block times of 30, 45, or 60 minutes.
Learning is exciting
Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to a love of learning.
There are multi-age classes (3-6 years, 6-9 years, and 9-12 years) that work alongside one another. This allows children to work at levels higher, lower or equivalent to their own ability levels. Therefore the youngest learn to try new things as they watch older children, who become leaders and practice skills. In the elementary programs the group stays together for many years; during this time children learn how to solve problems, be inclusive, learn from their peers and respect and look after each other.
Controls for error
The Montessori materials in the classrooms have built-in controls for error, or models that make the correct skill or information evident. This feature eliminates the constant need for the teacher to be correcting mistakes and allows the children to “figure it out themselves” helping build self confidence, and allowing the teacher to observe and help where really needed.
The physical layout of the room fosters independence. Children are free to access materials and go about their work with little help from anyone. They are encouraged to be independent in self-care activities (dressing etc.) and care for the environment they are in (putting away materials and their work etc.).
Freedom within limits
There is freedom within limits in a Montessori classroom. It may seem that the less restrictive schedule and honoring of children’s choices can result in an unstructured classroom. To the contrary, Montessori environments carry appropriate expectations and allow children to develop their own internal structure over time. The children are allowed freedom in their work time choices, but it is a freedom within appropriate limits.
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