There are many education pedagogies available to families today, and children are no longer restricted to just the mainstream classroom. Montessori is one method that has steadily grown in popularity since Dr Maria Montessori opened the first ‘Children’s House’ in 1907. Today, this child-centric learning model is recognised as one of the leading frameworks in education.
What are the five principles of Montessori education?
- Respect for the child. Respect is shown by not interrupting children’s concentration. Children have the freedom to make choices and to learn for themselves.
- The absorbent mind. Simply by living, children are continually learning from the world around them. Through their senses, children continually absorb information from their world. They make sense of their world because they are thinking beings.
- Sensitive periods. There are specific periods during which children are more ready to learn specific skills. These are known as sensitive periods, and last only as long as is necessary for the child to acquire the skills. Through observation, Montessori teachers must identify sensitive periods in their students and provide the resources for children to flourish during this time.
- The prepared environment. Children learn best in environments that enable them to do things for themselves. Always child-centred, the learning environment should promote freedom for children to explore materials of their choice.
- Auto education. Children are capable of educating themselves without external guidance.
What role does the Montessori teacher play?
A Montessori teacher is less like the traditional idea of a teacher that stands at the front of a classroom and instructs. Instead, they are seen as a gentle guide. They don’t consider it their job to give a child information, but rather to give the child the tools they need to find information for themselves.
Smeeta Vanmali, Montessori Advisor at Habitat Early Learning Centre, Peregian Springs, says the role of the teacher is to guide children in their learning, without inserting themselves too much in that natural learning process.
“Adults need to be a guide to the child. We’re all trained to step back and really observe what children are doing. The Montessori teacher is a facilitator not a leader. We try not to intervene or disrupt an engaged child,” Ms Vanmali says.
“We may demonstrate and model learning activities, but we provide freedom for the student to learn in their own way,” she says.
As Maria Montessori once said: “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.”
What does a Montessori classroom look like?
Instead of presuming children of the same age develop and progress at the same rate, Montessori schools believe multi-age classrooms enable children to work more productively at their natural pace. Therefore, Montessori classrooms are typically set up in three-year age ranges.
“A Montessori teacher works constantly to create situations and experiences that allow children to be independent and to trust themselves as learners,” says Ms Vanmali.
Dr Montessori believed multi-age settings enable children to learn better social skills. They also develop academically in a cooperative, non-competitive learning environment.
Ms Vanmali continues, “The ambience of a Montessori early years classroom is quite distinct. Minimising distraction and overstimulation, neutral shades adorn the walls and the classroom is quiet and calm. In preference to play materials, children have access to resources appealing to all five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, sound) and are natural, real-life items.
What is at Habitat Montessori Early Learning?
- Purpose built classrooms to support the Montessori method
- Parent room
- A breastfeeding lounge
- A multipurpose studio for yoga
- A curriculum room for collaboration
- Outdoor space with sensory components and edible plants
- Natural, real-life items
“The learning is not just inside the classroom. Many components of the indoor environment are emulated in the outdoor environment,” Ms Vanmali says.
“They take care of the plants and they water them everyday. Children can pick the herbs and discover the different smells, and give to the onsite chef to incorporate into a meal. This way, the children can see the whole cycle.”
Ms Vanmali says Montessori is not just about the end product, it’s about the process. Children are involved every step of the way.
Who can benefit from a Montessori education?
Because it follows a child’s individual learning pathway, the Montessori Approach caters to all children—far more so than traditional classroom learning.
“Because we focus on independence from a young age, we teach children all the life skills they’re going to need for success. It is a learning method that can improve outcomes for all children,” says Ms Vanmali.
Habitat Early Learning is located at 2 Longwood Drive, Peregian Springs. The Centre caters for 91 children from birth until school entry.