What is Montessori Education?
How Montessori Education started
First Montessori school
Benefit of Montessori Education
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” Maria Montessori
“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.”
“Children just need the time, space, and permission to be kids.”– Angela Hanscom
“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.”– Ernest Dimnet
“I agree that a love of reading is a great gift for a parent to pass on to his or her child.”– Ann Brashares
Imagine an education system that trained students to be creative innovators and leaders without the use of grades, tests or homework. It actually exists and it’s called the Montessori Method.
The Montessori Method focuses on fostering a hands-on, self-paced, collaborative and enjoyable learning experience. It teaches students to start small with their ideas, to build them through experimentation and to solve the problems that come up along the way with a sense of stimulating curiosity.
One of the most striking aspects of Montessori education is its similarities with the “fail fast, fail forward” do-it-yourself hacker mentality that has built many of the most innovative companies in Silicon Valley. Even the popular innovation frameworks in the global start-up scene, like agile development and lean startup methodology, share similarities with the experimental process of Montessori learning.
I believe that if we want to become better creators and innovators, we would be wise to study the principles of the Montessori Method. Even though the Montessori Method is usually associated with the primary education of children, the seven pillars of self-directed learning that it is based on also apply to adults who want to become more creative, adaptable and self-motivated:
7. Lifelong Learning
Montessori and The Importance of Lifelong Learning
With the rate of change in our world accelerating and all kinds of new opportunities being created by technological innovation, lifelong learning is now a necessity for keeping up-to-date, staying relevant and thriving.
Unfortunately, our public education system — with its narrow focus on rote learning and standardized testing — is failing students and jeopardizing the future prosperity of our society. While this traditional form of education was suitable for training people for 20th-century industrial economy jobs in factories and corporate bureaucrats (jobs that are on the road to obsolescence), it does a poor job of instilling the self-directed initiative and flexibility to adapt knowledge and skills as new challenges arise.
In his popular TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson points out the process of how our schools kill creativity (it’s the #1 TED Talk of all time so it clearly resonates with a lot of people). He argues that to thrive in the post-industrial 21st-century economy, the most important skills are self-directed initiative, curiosity and social intelligence. This is especially true for the most coveted high-paying jobs in our knowledge-based economy.
Most education reformers agree our public education system doesn’t do a great job of teaching students how to innovate. But the problem is that in a learning environment geared toward providing the right answers on standardized tests, failure is discouraged and conformity is encouraged. This makes it difficult for individual students to follow their own trial-and-error process of learning from failure, which is required to develop their capacity to become creative innovators.
If you want to learn about the differences between Montessori and traditional schooling, I highly recommend watching this video:
Silicon Valley’s Innovation Secret: The Montessori Method
The Montessori Method may just be Silicon Valley’s best kept secret. The connections between the innovators who built Silicon Valley and Montessori education run deep.
I frequently hear people joking around about the “PayPal Mafia” and their remarkable influence in Silicon Valley (three former members of PayPal have become billionaires: Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, early Facebook venture capitalist Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn) but there may be a “Montessori Mafia” also, which Peter Sims argues in his excellent book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.
It turns out that a lot of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds and most successful innovators have a Montessori education in common. Here are just a few of the innovators that went through an early Montessori education:
What’s most remarkable about their success is that Google didn’t begin as a brilliant vision to make the world’s information accessible for everyone to search, but as a project to improve library searches at Stanford University. As Peter Sims points out referencing Montessori: “most highly creative achievers don’t begin with brilliant ideas, they discover them.” Page and Brin discovered that their initial idea of improved library search had broader application and eventually unlocked a revolutionary business model and an indispensable tool you probably use many times each day.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon went through Montessori as child and he has made experimentation and discovery an integral part of Amazon’s workplace culture. Bezos thanks his Montessori education for his enthusiasm for experimentation. Talking about the risks of the experimental innovation process he acknowledged that most of their projects fail, “But every once in a while, you go down an alley and it opens up into this huge, broad avenue.”
Will Wright, the inventor of best-selling video games series “The Sims”, heaps similar praise on his Montessori education: “Montessori taught me the joy of discovery, it’s all about learning on your own terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori…”
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia went to a Montessori-influenced school and like many of today’s tech elite he sends his children to a Montessori school. As you can imagine, Montessori schools and similarly structured Waldorf schools are very popular in Silicon Valley.
Even Thomas Edison, the American inventor and in some ways the Godfather of modern America’s innovation culture (I recommend watching this biography The Wizard of Menlo Park) founded his own Montessori School. He said, “I like the Montessori method. It teaches through play. It makes learning a pleasure. It follows the natural instincts of the human being . . . The present system casts the brain into a mold. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning.”
Other prominent people who went through Montessori education include singers Taylor Swift and Beyonce Knowles, renowned celloist Yo-Yo Ma, legendary management guru Peter Drucker, actor George Clooney, illusionist David Blaine, author Helen Keller, techno-philosopher Jason Silva and English royals Prince William and Prince Harry.
While Montessori education may not be ideal for everyone, it provides a great philosophical blueprint for anyone to follow to become more curious innovators. It teaches a process that is fundamental to innovation: that we must take action and start building things by taking small, achievable steps toward making our ideas happen. When we are following a deep sense of self-directed experimentation and inquisitiveness this leads us to create new things that may have value to society.
What is Montessori Education?
Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.
Montessori classrooms are beautifully crafted environments designed to meet the needs of children in a specific age range. Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that experiential learning in this type of classroom led to a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, music, social interactions and much more. Most Montessori classrooms are secular in nature, although the Montessori educational method can be integrated successfully into a faith-based program.
Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development, creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities. Children can learn through their own experience and at their own pace. They can respond at any moment to the natural curiosities that exist in all humans and build a solid foundation for life-long learning.
The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) was established by Maria Montessori in 1929 to protect the integrity of her work and to support high standards for both teacher training and schools. Today, AMI continues to uphold Maria Montessori’s vision while collaborating with contemporary research in neuroscience and child development. Montessori Northwest is proud to be an official teacher training center of AMI, training teachers to work with children from birth to age twelve. Why become a Montessori teacher? Why choose AMI?
Montessori environments support the learning of children from birth to middle school:
for children aged birth to three years
• provide a safe, engaging and nurturing environment for the child
• promote trust in themselves and their world
• develop confidence in their emerging abilities
• develop gross motor coordination, fine motor skills, and language skills
• offer opportunities to gain independence in daily tasks
Click here to learn about the Assistants to Infancy (0-3) Teacher Training Course
PRIMARY (ALSO CALLED THE CASA OR CHILDREN’S HOUSE)
for children aged three to six years
• foster the growth of functional independence, task persistence and self-regulation
• promote social development through respectful, clear communication and safe, natural consequences
• contain a large variety of materials for the refinement of sensory perception and the development of literacy and mathematical understanding
• offer opportunities for imaginative exploration leading to confident, creative self-expression
Click here to learn about the Primary (3-6) Teacher Training Course
for children aged six to twelve years (Lower Elementary, ages six to nine; Upper Elementary, ages nine to twelve)
• offer opportunities for collaborative intellectual exploration in which the child’s interests are supported and guided
• support the development of self-confidence, imagination, intellectual independence and self-efficacy
• foster an understanding of the child’s role in their community, in their culture and in the natural world
Learn more about the Elementary (6-12) Teacher Training Course
ADOLESCENCE (ALSO CALLED ERDKINDER OR FARM SCHOOLS)
for adolescents aged twelve to fifteen years
• ideally a working farm in which adolescents engage in all aspects of farm administration and economic interdependence, but also include non-farm environments in urban settings
• assist the young adult in the understanding of oneself in wider and wider frames of reference
• provide a context for practical application of academics
• emphasize the development of self-expression, true self-reliance, and agility in interpersonal relationships.
• Dr. Montessori died before the educational approach to this level was completed. Consequently, there is currently no AMI teacher training program for this level. However, many Montessori adolescent learning environments exist, with Montessori professionals working towards standards for this level.
Above all, Montessori classrooms at all levels nurture each child’s individual strengths and interests. Montessori education encourages children to explore their world, and to understand and respect the life forms, systems and forces of which it consists.
It all starts with a trained teacher. Learn more about Montessori teacher training.
The Montessori Method is a child-focused educational approach that is based on scientific observations of child development. It takes the view that children are naturally eager to learn, and capable of absorbing a tremendous amount of knowledge through experiences in their environment.
The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) was the first female Doctor to graduate from the University of Rome. She first became world renowned for her work in children’s education after developing a set of educational principles that followed the natural development of the child.
From her earliest experiences of working with children, Montessori came to develop theories about the development of the child, and how they learned. She then applied these theories in an educational setting, and observed how children reacted when provided with different stimulus.
Especially relevant to Montessori’s observations, was how avidly children absorbed information from their environment. She discovered that given developmentally appropriate materials, and the freedom to follow their interests, that children would teach themselves.
Crucial to Montessori’s ideas, was a child-centred approach to education that was hands on, experience based, and followed the needs of the child.
Over more than 50 years, Montessori refined her observations and theories to form the principles and practices of Montessori education.
The First Montessori School
In 1907, Maria Montessori established her first school, ‘Casa dei Bambini,’ also known as the ‘Children’s House’. This name emphasised that children were the centre of the school, and that following the lead of the child, was paramount.
The Montessori school was a special environment for children. Students were free to choose their work, follow their own interests, and move freely from one activity to the next. The role of the teacher within this space was to “follow the child,” and carefully guide them based on skilled observation.
Within several years, the success of the Montessori Method was well renowned in Italy, and soon spread overseas. Today, there are more than 20,000 Montessori schools world wide that continue Maria Montessori’s legacy.
As a result of her work, Maria Montessori is recognised as a pioneer of children’s education and human rights. She is credited with several important discoveries, including identifying the importance of the first six years of life, and sensitive periods for learning. In addition, she also discovered the important link between children’s emotional development, and their ability to learn at an optimal rate.
Choosing a Montessori environment for your child has many benefits. Known for individually paced learning and fostering independence, the Montessori Method also encourages empathy, a passion for social justice, and a joy in lifelong learning.
Given the freedom and support to question, to probe deeply, and to make connections, Montessori students become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. They are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—a skill set for the 21st century.
How does this happen?
• Each child is valued as a unique individual. Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are free to learn at their own pace, each advancing as he is ready, guided by the teacher and an individualized learning plan.
• Beginning at an early age, Montessori nurtures order, concentration, and independence. Intentional classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the student’s emerging “self-regulation” (the ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), in toddlers through adolescents.
• Students are part of a close, caring community. The multi-age classroom—typically spanning 3 years—re-creates a family structure. Older students enjoy stature as mentors and role models; younger children feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. Teachers model respect, loving kindness, and a peaceful conflict resolution.
• Montessori students enjoy freedom within limits. Working within parameters set by their teachers and the classroom community, students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be.
• Students are supported in becoming active seekers of knowledge. Teachers provide environments where students have the freedom and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions. Internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest and results in joyous learning that is sustainable over a lifetime.
• Self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of the Montessori classroom approach. As they mature, students learn to look critically at their work, and become adept at recognizing, correcting, and learning from their errors.
• Montessori supports social-emotional skills. Contemporary research supports the 100-year-old Montessori Method’s effectiveness, indicating that children who learn in Montessori classrooms demonstrate stronger social-emotional skills in many areas than children in more traditional environments.
In Their Own Words
Parents share their thoughts on what makes Montessori special:
It’s an amazing feeling to see her go off to school every day, smiling and happy and knowing that she’s doing what she loves.
“I think that all children have an innate sense of wonder and curiosity…Montessori encourages and expands upon that.”
“All children are different. They have a different outlook, a different spirit. Montessori caters to those differences.”
“Students develop leadership skills, find their own way.”
“Montessori gave [my children] a foundation for all of their academic achievement.”
“Montessori is life preparation.”