The Montessori Method
Montessori Education to Aid Development
Palm Valley Montessori School follows the Montessori theory and practice of aiding development through her method of education, which she called Scientific Pedagogy. The Montessori Method and materials, as developed for the typical child by Dr. Maria Montessori, form the foundation for the school curriculum for children in the Infant Nido, Primary and Elementary School ages. The Adolescent Program is based on Montessori’s writings about the developmental and educational needs of children in the Third (Adolescent) Plane of Development. Our Adolescent program is modeled after the Hersey Montessori Farm School. Modifications to these curricula (method of presentation, instructional materials and learning environment) are made in order to meet the special needs of individual children who require additional help to access and be successful in an inclusive Montessori environment. Modifications are made through a collaborative process in consultation with specialists in the medical community—such as Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, Developmental Pediatricians, Neuropsychologists, and other specialists relevant to the child’s particular disability.
All Montessori lead teachers have AMI teaching credentials at the level in which they are teaching. All staff are trained in a baseline commonality of the school day – including the Montessori philosophy, appropriate interactions with children in Montessori classrooms, teaching children conflict resolution strategies, teaching children self-regulation strategies, and behavior management and discipline policies. All staff have received training in observing and supporting children with disabilities and/or learning challenges in an inclusive Montessori environment.
Following the Montessori educational philosophy, Palm Valley Montessori School strives to serve as an aid to the life of the child. This means that our mission is to provide environments rich with developmental materials and activities and teachers who are well-prepared to guide children in their work of building themselves into the adults they will become. These environments contain a multi-age community of children (with an age span of at least 3 years), and these children are be availed of a daily 2-3 hour uninterrupted work period.
Palm Valley Montessori School operates high quality, authentic Montessori programs. However, in our work serving the needs of all children in an inclusion school, we push the frontiers of current Montessori practice by introducing state-of-the-art modifications and additions that create not just an appropriate educational program for each child with special needs, but a therapeutic program that reduces/minimizes a child’s barriers to learning and to being included as well.
The Montessori Philosphy
Every child carries within himself the person he will become. Palm Valley Montessori School aims to provide children an education that fulfills their intellectual, social, and emotional potential. In order to fully develop, the child is given significant freedom in a specially prepared environment and is respected as an individual capable of great works. The child joyfully explores his environment and makes his own discoveries while guided and encouraged by his teachers. The child learns with deep understanding because he is allowed to interact thoroughly with the material. According to Montessori, all children share an aspiration to become competent and independent human beings. Palm Valley Montessori School aids this desire by providing the best stimuli at the ideal time. However, it is the child who is the author of his own education both in his preschool years and his lifetime.
The Montessori method of education was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori through a process of careful observation, scientific design, research on child development, and trial and error over five decades. Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. She gained recognition as the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. She was a scientific observer and it was through her clinical observations that she formed her theories about how children learn. She returned to university in 1901 to study psychology and philosophy and soon became a professor at the University of Rome. However, she was drawn to work with young children. In 1906, she gave up her medical practice and university chair to work with poor children in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she established the Casa dei Bambino or “Children’s House.” The results were extraordinary. Young children from the poorest families in Rome, thought to be incapable of civilized living, were transformed into excelling students. Montessori’s revolutionary teaching methods caught the attention of the world community and a movement was born. Today, thousands of Montessori programs exist in private, public, and charter schools all over the world. The Montessori method is revered as a natural and joyful way to engage the child in learning and develop his potential.
Montessori education moves the child toward normalization. This term is frequently used in Montessori education and, unfortunately, frequently misunderstood. Dr. Montessori did not intend to imply the child be made “average” or “typical.” Normalization is a technical word borrowed from the field of anthropology. Think of this term as meaning possessing an inner peace and confidence in one’s role. This confidence, peace, satisfaction in one’s role is developed through concentrated work and self-discipline. Dr. Montessori wrote, “Only ‘normalised’ children, aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others. . . . An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self-mastery. . . . One is tempted to say that the children are performing spiritual exercises, having found the path of self-perfectionment and of ascent to the inner heights of the soul.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1949) Assisting the child in this development is the true goal of Montessori instruction.
Academic success is only one of the yardsticks by which we can measure the benefits of a Montessori education. The Montessori method is truly an education of the whole person, not just the mind.
A Montessori child will…
understand himself and develop greater self-respect and self-assurance
develop critical thinking skills and apply past experience to solve new challenges
learn for the pure delight of learning and this trait will last a lifetime
work independently and think independently
develop great self-discipline and make appropriate choices
develop intrinsic motivation and the desire to challenge himself
judge his own performance and progress
develop excellent concentration
The Montessori classroom has three essential components: the child, the Montessori teacher, and the prepared environment.
The child is shown great love and respect in the Montessori environment. Maria Montessori often said, “The best for the smallest.” That is the motto of Montessori education. Because the young child is not simply influenced by his environment but is creating himself with what he finds in his environment, this period of growth is extremely important. If we want the child to reach his full potential then we must give him the best materials. This self-construction is aided by an “absorbent mind.” The child gathers information like a sponge. For example, no one sits down with a textbook and instructs an infant on the rules of grammar. The child’s native tongue is learned naturally in the environment. It is possible to learn foreign languages later in life, of course, but no language is ever learned as easily or grasped so well as the language (or languages) that a child learns in the first few years of life. All of education should be this natural. Learning is not a task for the Montessori child, it is a natural activity undertaken with curiosity and joy.
eacher is to prepare the environment for the child.
Within the Montessori community, the teacher is usually referred to as a guide. This term is a more accurate description of her duties. She is not there to teach the child, but to guide the child to self-discovery. The focus of activity in the Montessori setting is on the childrens learning, not the teachers teaching. You will not see a teachers desk in a Montessori environment, for example, because the class does not belong to the teacher. Everything in the environment is there for the benefit of the child. The teacher is there to inspire, model, redirect, and supervise, but she is modest figure in the classroom. When the child is presented with a new lesson, the teacher usually demonstrates one-on-one. Then she steps aside to carefully observe and to let the child manipulate the material and teach himself. The Montessori-trained teacher is a careful observer of children. She anticipates the needs of the child and provides the proper challenges at the ideal time. Her observations are meticulously recorded and used to assess where the child is in his development. Another essential function of the teacher is to prepare the environment for the child.
The Prepared Environment
The prepared environment is specifically designed to meet the needs of the developing child. Great care and attention are given to create a learning environment that will reinforce the childrens independence, active learning, and intellectual development. The Montessori environment does not have assigned seats or rows of desks. The rooms are instead set up to facilitate student discussion and stimulate collaborative learning. Students will typically be found scattered around the classroom, working alone or in small groups. The materials in the Montessori classroom are scientifically designed to meet the needs of the developing child. The materials have an inherent control of error so the child can self-correct his actions. Without interruption or interference from the teacher, the child works with the material, discovers, and enjoys a true sense of accomplishment.
Palm Valley Montessori School offers a genuine Montessori education. The curriculum is diverse and integrated. The Montessori method of instruction is truly a hands-on approach to learning where the student is fully engaged. Each skill or concept is introduced with an accompanying material specifically designed to guide the child to discovery and mastery. The four foundations of any Montessori classroom are:
The lessons in this category enable the child to care for himself and his environment. They are also known as the independence lessons. From these simple tasks, the young child builds concentration, self-confidence, motor skills, and autonomy. Exercises in this category include washing a table, arranging flowers, preparing vegetables, lacing a shoe, setting a table, and greeting guests. Once the child has mastered these activities he is ready to advance to the more complex lessons of language and mathematics.
All five senses are engaged in Montessori education. Dr. Montessori noted that “development of the senses precedes that of superior intellectual activity.” The sensorial materials train children to discriminate the differences in forms, colors, textures and smells. The child refines the use of his senses and develops critical thinking, concentration, and sequencing skills. Some examples of the sensorial lessons include the pink tower, baric tablets, tasting jars, constructive triangles, and superimposed geometric figures.
Children are capable of using sounds to build words before they can physically write. Therefore, the classroom uses a moveable alphabet so the child can literally combine the sounds to form words and sentences. Reading is taught by guiding the child to discover that sounds make words and those sounds have symbols. The environment stresses the importance of vocabulary with stories, songs, poems, plays, and conversation. The child learns not only to read and write, but to fully express himself through language. Activities in language include sound games, sandpaper letters, phonograms, logical adverb game, and simple sentences, attributes and appositions.
A love of mathematics will develop naturally if the young child is allowed to discover mathematic truths in the concrete and then apply those truths to the abstract. First, the child learns the symbol and the quantity for numbers. Next, mathematical processes are taught using the decimal system. Some examples of Montessori mathematics lessons include number rods and cards, formation of complex numbers with beads and cards, dynamic multiplication, linear counting, long division with boards and racks, and introduction to fractions.
The Montessori child also receives exposure in the Arts, Sciences, and Culture. Geography, history, botany, zoology, art, and music are all integral parts of the curriculum. The students study an artist and a composer of the month.
Diversity is treasured in the Montessori classroom. Foods, music, dress, language, art, and celebrations from cultures beyond our Western world are introduced to students so they are prepared to be citizens of the world.
Grace and courtesy, peace education, character development, gardening and outdoor activities, and movement education are also stressed in the Montessori primary environment. Children at this level of development are particularly adept to absorb these lessons.