Dr. Maria Montessori once expressed the idea that by unlocking a child’s potential, they can be transformed and have a positive impact on the world.
She put this belief into action by formulating an educational philosophy centered around a comprehensive understanding of human development.
In Montessori elementary schools, students have the freedom to work at their own pace and explore subjects at their individual level of understanding.
The curriculum is designed in a way that allows students to delve deeper into any topic of their choosing, fostering a more profound knowledge and engagement.
But before we delve deeper into the realm of the Montessori education philosophy, it is important to paint the picture of the Montessori method and education programs.
What is Montessori Education?
The Montessori method of education is an educational approach that prioritizes children’s natural interests and activities over traditional teaching methods.
In a Montessori classroom, child-centered, hands-on learning, and the development of practical skills are emphasized.
The method values independence and recognizes children as inherently curious and capable of initiating their own learning within a supportive and well-prepared environment.
Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori developed this early childhood education method in the early 20th century which evolved through her observations of children and her scientific experimentation with her students.
Montessori believed that education in elementary schools should revolve around personalized growth and development.
It diverges from conventional measures of achievement, moving away from grades and tests, and instead prioritizes the holistic progress of the student.
Since then, it has been known that Montessori education fosters, nurtures, and unleashes the innate potential within every child and foster their love of learning.
At the core of Dr. Montessori’s educational philosophy and methods is the fundamental belief that every child is born with immense potential.
Her unique philosophy was crafted to empower children to take ownership of their own learning journey and embrace their innate capabilities during sensitive periods and be role models for younger children within the Montessori classroom.
What is the Core Concept of the Montessori Philosophy of Education?
The Montessori education approach is rooted in a model of human development that encompasses two key beliefs.
Firstly, it recognizes that children and developing adults construct their psychological selves through their interactions with the environment.
Secondly, it acknowledges that children, particularly those under the age of six, possess an inherent path of psychological development.
Drawing from her observations, Montessori concluded that children who have the freedom to make choices and engage in activities within an environment designed according to her principles would naturally and spontaneously experience optimal development.
The development of the whole child unleashes the child’s natural curiosity to gain knowledge and be capable of initiating learning by themselves.
- Development of an individual through self-determined learning
Dr. Montessori advocated for a student-centered and self-paced approach to education while ensuring that students learn and receive guidance, assessment, and enrichment from caring and knowledgeable teachers, as well as their peers, and a nurturing environment.
In the Montessori method of teaching, teachers embrace the principle of “follow the child,” promoting a sense of responsibility, granting freedom within certain boundaries, and creating a prepared environment that facilitates joyful and effortless learning.
Under the Montessori philosophy, students are introduced to a comprehensive range of subjects, including art, music, history, language, mathematics, biology, geography, and physical education.
The emphasis is on multi-sensory learning, fostering inquisitiveness and curiosity.
As unique individuals, Montessori elementary students are provided with the necessary space and time to deeply grasp each concept and achieve their personal learning objectives.
Through this, students learn concepts from working with different areas of the environment and initiate self-construction and building functional independence.
- Inherent path of psychological growth
The philosophy of the Montessori program embraces the concept of multi-age classrooms as a means to foster independence, citizenship, and accountability naturally.
By providing students with the freedom and support to challenge themselves, explore, and establish connections, the Montessori method cultivates confident and self-directed learners who also embody good citizenship.
According to Dr. Montessori’s philosophy, this approach nurtures students who can collaborate effectively, think critically, and act with integrity.
The students get to learn from one another and work and socialize in groups. This results in psychological changes in children being engaged in developmental work.
Dr. Montessori identified several fundamental aspects of human psychology known as “human tendencies,” including activity, communication, exploration, order, and purposeful activity.
These innate human tendencies are deeply explored and nurtured within the Montessori educational framework, acknowledging and harnessing children’s inherent instincts as humans and as learners.
4 Learning Planes of Development in Montessori
Montessori’s observations led her to identify four distinct stages, referred to as “planes,” in human development.
These planes encompass the periods from birth to 6 years, 6 to 12 years, 12 to 18 years, and 18 to 24 years.
In each of these planes, Montessori recognized unique characteristics, learning styles, and developmental needs that require tailored educational approaches specific to each stage.
- The initial stage, known as the first plane, encompasses the period from birth to approximately six years old.
During this stage, children possess an absorbent mind, actively exploring their environment through their senses and engaging in the process of psychological self-development and acquiring functional independence.
In Montessori education, the classroom is designed to cater to the needs of learners in this plane by providing a range of materials and activities for their exploration and development.
- From the age of six to twelve, children enter the second plane of growth.
Dr. Montessori closely observed the significant physical and psychological transformations taking place in children during this phase, which led her to devise specific lessons, create an appropriate classroom environment, and develop materials to meet their evolving needs.
According to her, the work of the second-plane is to help children demonstrate a growing inclination to work and interact within groups, and their reasoning and imaginative abilities undergo significant development.
Driven by these observations, her educational philosophy emphasized the importance of fostering academic independence, instilling ethical values, and cultivating social skills in second-plane learners.
- The third plane of development encompasses the period from twelve to eighteen years of age, which corresponds to adolescence.
During this stage, Dr. Montessori placed particular emphasis on the psychological changes that occur, as well as the challenges related to concentration.
Additionally, she recognized the emergence of creative tendencies and the development of notions of justice and personal dignity.
According to the philosophy of Montessori, the work of the third plane is to help the child construct their adult identity with the guidance and assistance of their teachers and peers.
- The fourth plane of development encompasses the period from approximately eighteen to twenty-four years of age.
Dr. Montessori dedicated relatively little written material to this stage and did not specifically design an educational program for this age group.
However, she envisioned that young adults who had gone through Montessori education in the earlier stages would be well-prepared to embrace the study of culture and sciences, with the aim of influencing and leading society.
Dr. Montessori emphasized the importance of attaining economic independence through meaningful work during this period amidst physical and psychological changes.
She also believed that there should be no arbitrary limit on the number of years spent in higher education, as the pursuit of cultural knowledge could continue throughout a person’s lifetime.
Since the inception of Montessori schools, over a hundred independent institutions were established in the first year alone.
Presently, Montessori schools can be found worldwide, including in the United States, where this educational approach initially faced significant criticism.
The establishment of the Scarborough School in 1913 marked the beginning of a growing number of similar Montessori classrooms today, testifying to the enduring impact and legacy of the Montessori pedagogy.
What is the importance of Montessori philosophy? The Montessori philosophy is important because it provides a framework for creating a supportive and stimulating learning environment for children. The principles of respect, freedom, hands-on learning, real-life experiences, and adult guidance are all essential for helping children reach their full potential.
What did Maria Montessori believe about education? Montessori observed children and through that believed that children are naturally curious and eager to learn and that they should be given the freedom to explore their environment and learn at their own pace. She believed that children learn best by doing and that they should be given opportunities to learn through hands-on activities that allow them to explore their environment and make discoveries.
How does Dr. Maria Montessori advocate teaching kids to read and write? Compared to traditional education, Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children should be taught to read and write in a natural way, through hands-on activities and materials that are designed to stimulate their interest and curiosity. She believed that children should be allowed to learn at their own pace and that they should not be forced to learn before they are ready. Montessori teachers then facilitate this learning through guidance.