Montessori Education emphasizes learning through all of the senses, not just listening, watching or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace, and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Here's what you need to know about this independent schooling system, and if its right for your child.
In 1976 the first Montessori School was opened in South Africa by Mrs. Strilli Oppenheimer. Today there are numerous Montessori schools throughout South Africa as well as in Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Where did “Montessori Education” come from?
Montessori (education was founded in 1907 by Dr Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observations of children’s learning processes. Each Montessori class operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules that differs from age to age, but is always based on the core Montessori beliefs, that is, respect for each other and for the environment. The Montessori material allows concrete manipulation of materials that are multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting in nature, and hence facilitate the learning of skills as well as abstract ideas. The Montessori materials also have a built in 'control of error' which provides the learner with information as to the accuracy of his response and enables him to correct himself. The teacher demonstrates the lesson initially, and is available, if needed. The child is free to work at his own pace with material that he has chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher's role is to act as a facilitator to encourage active, self-directed learning.
What is the difference between Montessori and Traditional Education?
Montessori Education emphasizes learning through all of the senses, not just listening, watching or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace, and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning becomes an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, 15-18) – called VERTICAL GROUPING – forming communities in which older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger children.
Is Montessori Education good for children with learning difficulties? What about gifted children?
Montessori Education is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone has the opportunity to contribute in some way. Moreover, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling superior or inferior to its peer group. A policy of Inclusion allows children to realise similarities and differences in all. A key factor in successful inclusive education is parents support and commitment, and working with the school.
Can I do Montessori at home with my child and can anyone just “do Montessori”?
Only a trained and qualified Montessori teacher (also known as a directress) should assume responsibility for more formal Montessori Education by using the specialised equipment of the prepared environment, and her skilled knowledge of the complete philosophy and system. However, parents are educated in and encouraged to use the basic principles everywhere and whenever they can: Montessori Education is intended to be an Education for Life and an Aid to Life.
Are Montessori schools registered and accredited?
Montessori schools, which extend into formal education are required to register as Independent schools with the provincial Department of Education, and therefore adhere to the laws governing these schools. Through the Rights and Responsibilities for Independent Schools (from the Department of Basic Education) allows for the right to implement a Montessori curriculum. Our school is also a member of the Independent Schools A
How do I know I am making the right decision?
We can never really answer that question. However, parents need to make sure they are informed enough to make a decision that will work best for their child.
Ask questions when visiting schools: do you have vertical grouping? Do you have a good range of Montessori equipment? Is your staff Montessori trained? What is the long-term growth plan of the school? How do you manage discipline? …The questions are endless and you are entitled to ask them.
Remember too to trust your gut feeling/instinct. You know your child better than anyone ever will and so know best what will work for him/her.
Information for this article was provided by the Port Elizabeth Montessori School. Images Shutterstock