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A Montessori education is student led and self paced. It is not “taught” but is rather guided and assessed by teachers. This philosophy appeals to, rather than fights against the nature of children.

There are many different educational philosophies, ideas and methods out there in the world. It can be confusing at times, because following one or more of these is also a personal preference. I want to look at some of the different philosophies over a series of vlogs (not all in a row though, just to give a heads up). Let’s start with Montessori.

Maria Montessori was a remarkable woman. She was one of the first Italian female doctors in Rome. Through scientific observation she was led to start a school in a poor inner-city district where many of the children were left to fend for themselves while their parents worked. This first school opened in 1907. 

What is the Montessori philosophy of education?

 A Montessori education is student led and self paced. It is not “taught” but is rather guided and assessed by teachers. This philosophy appeals to, rather than fights against the nature of children. For example, if your child needs to move while learning then let them. 

Here are some of the fundamentals of Montessori:

  1. Experiential learning – by doing rather than by memorizing facts. Concrete materials are used, like wooden cutouts of letters and numbers. 
  2. Mixed aged classrooms – they are also mixed skill levels. Younger children learn from observing the older, and the older ones solidify their learning from teaching the younger ones.
  3. No “Set lessons” with time constraints – rather than having a 20-30 minute lesson on one subject and then moving on, there are blocks of time to learn which enables all subjects to be covered.
  4. Practical and sensory education is also important, not just academics.
  5. Educating the whole child – physical, spiritual, social, mental and emotional.
  6. Individualized curriculum – group lessons are not taught but rather one-on-one according to your child’s ability, level and needs. 
  7. Prepared environment – designed with everything the children need to explore and learn independently. 

PROS:

  • Hands on independent learning
  • Mixed age classes foster peer-to-peer learning and social interaction
  • Independence and confidence
  • Cultivates a love for learning
  • Inclusive of special needs

CONS:

  • It can be expensive
  • Not enough spread for access 
  • Not for every child – some need structure and more direction.

How to incorporate some Montissori at home:

  • Organize your environment – everything has a place – keep books and toys on low shelves 
  • Emphasize life skills
  • Focus on inner motivation

Here is a great post about how you can incorporate more Montessori at home. 

We included some Montissori things in our house. I haven’t followed everything and set it up as a full on Montessori room or house. But there are definitely things I like and have incorporated. Toys and books easily accessible for the girls. Everything also has its place. We have tried to keep their toys to a minimum and have tried to focus more on toys that will foster imagination and play. I say tried, because we still have a LOT of toys!

mattress on floor
the mattress on the floor was the best option for our girls

When we moved the girls out of their crib at 11 months, we put a double mattress on the floor. Initially there was a railing around it, to prevent them getting out, but soon that was removed and they just had the mattress on the floor. We loved it. It made it so much easier for them to get up, to find us if needed, and to feel independent. They still share that double bed (though now we have it on the box spring – still no frame.) We have also been invested in developing life skills, like washing up, getting your own snack, etc. though not as strongly as we could be. 

NOT FOR EVERY CHILD

There are so many things I love about Montessori, but I will say that I do not think that it is right for every child, well for every family. And that is ok! It is very different to a traditional school setting, and you need to do what works best for you. For some children they like routine and structure, and it is comforting. Being able to do what you want when you want (within reason of course) can cause anxiety. And some children are more content to follow what someone else is doing, therefore not fully contributing to their own learning. 

It is also worth noting that there are a number of schools out there that might say “Montessori” but they don’t necessarily follow the full tenets of the method. It is important to do your research if you are interested in your child attending a Montessori school.

If you have any questions about what might be a good educational philosophy fit for your and your family, feel free to reach out. I love to help. It is ok if things change over the years. Right now we are unschooling (here is my vlog on why) and that might change. I am ok with that.

Carsten

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