The Montessori method of education is a unique form of early education. It's been successfully integrated into many private and public schools' curriculum, but none are as profound as an Authentic Montessori school.
As one of the few AMI Accredited Montessori School's in Texas, we want to provide prospective parents with the information that they need to make the right choice about their child's future.
Please explore our Montessori resource below to learn more about the Montessori method of Education.
What Is Montessori Education?
The Montessori method of education is a unique form of early education. It's been successfully integrated into many private and public schools' curriculum, but, in its true form, the Montessori method is a method of education that emphasizes child-led learning and discovery.
As one of the few AMI Accredited Montessori School's in Texas, Sapientia Montessori School wants to provide prospective parents with the information that they need to make the right choice about their child's future. After all, choosing an academically strong, yet nurturing environment for your child is one of the most important things you'll ever do as a parent.
We strongly believe that every child can benefit from a Montessori education.
Simply put, Montessori is a scientifically founded method of educating children founded on the belief that a child's education should be constructed to develop all aspects of a child: social, emotional, physical and academic.
Why? Because every child possesses the innate skills, abilities and qualities to achieve their highest potential. Even from a young age, children hold an amazing capacity for independence and to grow their physical, intellectual and emotional faculties to their fullest expression.
Another unique aspect of the Montessori method is that it emphasizes a learning environment tailored to each child's specific ability and needs.
Montessori in a Nutshell
If you were to sit down with a Montessori teacher, you'd find that they could spend hours talking to you about the curriculum, their personal philosophies and the wonderful experiences they've had with so many children. Montessori has made a huge difference in the lives of many children simply because it is designed to embrace a child's unique individuality and celebrate their personal abilities.
Components of Montessori Education
Although each Montessori school is unique, you'll find certain consistencies between schools. These consistencies are based on a common set of components that guide students and teachers throughout the program.
1. Multi-Age Groupings of Children
Multi-age groupings of children are a unique classroom component of the Montessori program. The reason for multi-age groupings within the classroom is twofold: Younger students naturally learn more from their older peers, and older students tend to retain more information when they teach it to younger ones. Besides that, having children of different ages and stages together in the classroom mimics the real world, teaching students how to get along with people of different ages and interests.
2. Student Choice of Activity
There's not a one-size-fits-all approach to Montessori instruction. Montessori teachers set up their classroom to promote safe, independent exploration and learning, often through hands-on activities and lessons. Learning in a space that encourages their natural curiosity, children will feel the freedom to explore and learn about the world around them. Typically, a teacher will give students a choice among a set of hands-on activities to fill their day. These activities introduce or reinforce concepts and skills a teacher selects based on the students' ages and needs. Among the benefits of this approach, teachers can design activities that match each child's age and ability.
3. Uninterrupted Blocks of Time to Engage in Activities
We love giving our students time to engage in the learning process. Whether they're three or 13, our goal is to give each child the time they need to explore and understand the world around them. Rather than spend 30 minutes on math, 30 minutes on history and 30 minutes on reading, a Montessori day is broken into two- to three-hour chunks of time, allowing children to dive in and master a variety of concepts.
Principles of Montessori Education
The Montessori curriculum is designed around a certain set of principles derived from our philosophies about how children think and learn. These principles include the following.
1. Child-Directed Work
The first, and perhaps most important, thing to understand about Montessori education is that our goal is not to fill your child's head with facts so that they can pass a test. While we agree that cultivating and expanding a child's knowledge is incredibly important, we also believe that facts are only a part of the knowledge a child can and should cultivate as they grow and develop.
To this end, Montessori encourages children to experience "freedom with limits," which can also simply be described as "child-directed work." Each day Montessori teachers give their students some choice of activity. Students are given the chance to choose an activity that captures their personal interest or attention and then, once an activity has been chosen, they allow the child to spend a lot of time on the activity they chose. In some cases, the child may be working on their activity independently. In other cases, they may team up with a couple of other students who share their curiosity over that particular subject or activity. Together as a team, they discover, learn and grow through exploration.
In a Montessori classroom, this means you won't find a teacher hurrying a child through an assignment or putting time constraints on their exploration of a concept. It also means you aren't likely to find the whole group learning the same thing at the same time. Instead, you're more likely to see small groups of children working on several different activities simultaneously. And, rather than standing up in front of the room directing the class, you're more likely to find the teacher going from group to group of students, answering their questions and helping them along in their exploration.
2. The Absorbent Mind
A young child is naturally an eager, highly capable learner who can absorb a significant amount from their environment. That is why their preschool and early elementary years are such a critical time to expose them to as many experiences, concepts and lessons as possible. The ideal time to enroll a child in a Montessori program is during their toddler phase — anywhere from 16-32 months. Why so young? Although learning is a life-long concept, the brain of a toddler is similar to a sponge — it soaks up everything in its path. There is no better time to begin encouraging their natural inclination to explore the world around them.
As children continue through the Montessori curriculum into elementary school, the emphasis on exploration and discovery continues, but it becomes guided by a child's need to know "why" something is happening. With a significant focus on society and nature, the elementary school curriculum is designed to incorporate traditional core subjects like math, reading, history and science, but it is also designed to allow children the space to question why things are the way they are and explore how those things impact their daily lives.
The Montessori program also has a strong emphasis on personal accountability and practical concepts, such as time management and keeping personal space clean.
3. Sensitive Periods for Learning
Many parents don't realize their child’s growth takes place across four scientifically based stages, or planes, of development, and each of these stages has different needs within the learning cycle. So, rather than adapting a subject to "fit" a certain age or stage, the Montessori theory says the educational approach itself is what should change to suit each stage.
Montessori teachers receive special training to recognize and nurture these sensitive periods, maximizing the opportunity to help children learn at the time when they can receive it most effectively. For example, young students might be introduced to mathematical concepts by spending time counting wooden blocks. Then, as they become more comfortable counting, their teacher may guide them toward basic concepts of adding and subtracting blocks to the mix — rather than moving right to a traditional method of handing out worksheets or memorizing the idea that 2+2=4.
In a similar fashion, Montessori students use the "movable alphabet" to learn their letters and, eventually, learn to read. The movable letters allow children to hold letters in their hands and move them around to see how they look and how they can be combined to create words. The idea behind this is that students progress in their abilities as they grow, maximizing the times that they are best able to receive information and using those times to set them up for success later on.
4. A Prepared Environment
In a Montessori school, class environment is carefully designed to make learning an experience. We do not believe learning comes from memorizing facts — instead, we use a wide array of specialized materials that allow the child to learn with increasing levels of abstraction. These materials impart complex concepts, while the child enjoys their use and manipulation, through the guidance of a certified teacher.
The interesting thing about a Montessori classroom is that it is carefully designed, but that design is created with the intention that children will spend their days learning and exploring the classroom environment. "Prepared" never means restricted, and our teachers strive to provide open, safe spaces for children to discover and explore throughout their day. You'll never see a Montessori classroom with places that are "off-limits" to a child or items they can't touch.
This is also why we stress multi-age groupings. After all, there is more to the classroom environment than the materials on the shelves or the pictures on the walls. When children of varying ages and abilities work together, some of their discovery comes simply from their interactions with each other.
5. Independence and Discovery
Montessori also recognizes each child is different, and therefore their interests and educational needs will vary, as well. We emphasize an individual approach that allows teachers to figure out and develop activities and learning experiences that follow each child’s specific needs and readiness. Over time, these principles foster self-esteem, independence, exploration and creativity — the keys to ultimately promoting joy and a love of learning.
Child-directed learning means the child is leading their learning time. Instead, of directed 30-minute increments for an activity or task, children have longer blocks of time to engage in activities that cover subjects and things that interest them. These longer blocks of time give children the space they need to make discoveries and master new concepts.
What Is the Role of the Teacher in Montessori?
Teachers are a vital part of any Montessori classroom, but their role is different from what you might be accustomed to in a traditional classroom setting. In a traditional setting, you'll find a teacher standing in front of the class sharing facts and instructions at a rapid pace. Their role is to hand out information to their students and encourage them to memorize it in time for their next test. Teaching in this manner can often turn the joy of learning into a chore for children, taking away the fun of discovery.
In the Montessori environment, the teacher's role is to encourage children's natural ability to discover and create. The Montessori approach recognizes children learn best when teachers encourage them to use their natural creativity and intelligence to gather information and make discoveries. Their reward is the feeling of pride they get when they master a new concept.
Rather than standing in front of the class sharing facts, a Montessori teacher plans activities designed to introduce and reinforce concepts. These are chosen based on the ages and abilities of the students in the class and often take a hands-on approach to learning. Once the child chooses their activity, the teacher then assumes the role of a guide, answering questions or subtly leading the student into discovery.
Accredited vs. Non-Accredited Montessori
Just like you'll find in more traditional school settings, "accreditation" is an important consideration when you're looking at a school for your child. The Montessori name and curriculum are not trademarked, which means any school can claim to be a Montessori school. Although there are many schools that use parts of the Montessori method, the only way to ensure the school you're considering is accredited is to verify that the school is a member of a governing body such as the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI).
Membership in AMI and its U.S.-affiliate AMI-USA means the school is held accountable for implementing authentic Montessori principles and is regularly reviewed to make sure that its program continues to follow those principles over time.
Why Does Montessori Accreditation Matter?
Accreditation means a school has accountability and has been recognized for its authentic practice of Montessori principles. Many schools take bits and pieces of the Montessori curriculum, but when a school is accredited, it means they follow the complete curriculum without variation. In other words, it means you're guaranteed to get the full Montessori curriculum.
Ultimately, accreditation is there to give you peace of mind. It tells you that your child's school is subject to regular review of its practices and has been recognized and certified by an independent organization for its adherence to Montessori principles and best practices.
How to Tell If a Montessori School Is Not Authentic
Although each school is entitled to have some variation in practice and curriculum, a true Montessori school will adhere to an authentic set of principles. If you aren't sure whether you're looking at a true Montessori environment, ask these four questions.
1. Are Children Engaging in Active Learning Practices?
An authentic Montessori classroom will center around active, hands-on learning. Children won't watch videos or do endless worksheets. Instead, they'll be sorting objects, conducting science experiments and engaging in a variety of other multi-sensory activities.
2. Is the Classroom Set up for Self-Directed Learning?
Montessori classrooms are designed for children to take the reigns of discovery. Furniture is scaled to their size, materials are all child-friendly and the teacher spends most of their time assisting students in discovery than "teaching" in the traditional sense. You won't find Montessori students sitting quietly and listening to their teacher lecture them. You'll find them engaged in a variety of hands-on projects tailored to their individual needs and abilities.
3. Is There an Overarching Cultural Emphasis in the Curriculum?
One notable difference between Montessori and traditional education is that the Montessori curriculum includes a strong cultural component. Interwoven in the traditional subjects — such as math, science, reading and history — is the belief that every culture is unique and special. As children grow, they are taught to value world peace and inspired to make a change in the world as they grow into adults.
4. Does the Classroom Contain Multiple Age Groups?
A true Montessori classroom encourages children to learn at their own pace. It also places value on older children assisting younger ones with discovery. To accomplish this, you'll find a range of ages in each classroom. You'll also see them working together to solve problems and discover new things. However, remember that Montessori won't typically combine a three-year-old with a twelve-year-old. The purpose of combining ages is to assist in the learning process, not hinder it. Older and younger children can learn a lot from each other, but there are still limitations. An authentic Montessori school will place children among others closer to their developmental age and stage.
Advantages of Montessori Education
Now that you know what a Montessori education entails, then your next question is probably: What are the advantages of Montessori?
1. Montessori Education Creates Enthusiastic, Self-Motivated Learners
When children are given the space to learn at their own pace and in their own way, they actually enjoy learning! Montessori methods are designed to help your child develop a life-long love of learning and insatiable curiosity about the world around them. Dr. Montessori created the program in 1907, which means it's been around for more than 100 years. Its longevity speaks volumes toward its success in teaching students more than just basic reading, writing and arithmetic.
2. Montessori Education Results in Improved Social and Problem-Solving Skills
Because of the multi-age classroom atmosphere, children who study under a Montessori program typically interact better with their peers. They learn positive ways to resolve differences and find connection and camaraderie in their joint pursuit of discovery. Because of Montessori's emphasis on cultural diversity, children also grow up learning the importance of connecting with others from different perspectives and backgrounds, a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
3. Montessori Students Possess Advanced Reading and Mathematical Abilities
Reading is a huge part of Montessori education. Montessori kids love to read! We put a huge emphasis on literacy because it's a foundational component of discovery. You'll also find that Montessori students display an advanced understanding of abstract and practical mathematical concepts. In a 2017 study of 140 students — some in Montessori programs, others in traditional classrooms — the students who were enrolled in Montessori programs displayed a more advanced set of literacy and math skills than their non-Montessori peers by the end of their third year in a Montessori program.
4. Montessori Students Become Compassionate, Confident and Polite Children
Montessori is designed to do more than teach children to read and write. Montessori students typically display high self-esteem and great respect for others around them. Not only are they more self-confident, but they also demonstrate more kindness and compassion toward their peers. An interesting benefit of our emphasis on these areas in school is that it translates into their home life as well. Parents of Montessori students report that their children show great improvement in organization, cleaning and household chores. As they grow, their abilities to help and maintain their spaces at home grows.
Myths About Montessori
Montessori education is one of those things that a lot of people have heard of, but many times they associate the term "Montessori" with incorrect or exaggerated information. So let's clear up a few misconceptions.
MYTH: Montessori Schools Are Faith-Based Programs
FACT: Montessori is not a faith-based program, nor is it based in new-age philosophies. In fact, the Montessori curriculum is more than 100 years old and was created by a doctor whose experiences working in both medicine and education shaped her theories about how children learn and grow.
MYTH: All Montessori Schools Are the Same
FACT: Although accredited Montessori schools follow certain principles and guidelines, depending on how a certain school applies the principles Dr. Montessori established, you're sure to find some variation among each Montessori school. That's why it's important to make sure you understand what a true Montessori curriculum looks like and the foundations behind its methods. Knowing the basics will prepare you for selecting the best environment for your child, regardless of their age.
MYTH: Young Children Won't Grasp Montessori Principles
FACT: Parents often ask us, "What's the best time to start my child in a Montessori program?" While there is no age limit, we find somewhere between 18 and 36 months is the ideal time to introduce Montessori principles to a child. In the early years of Montessori education, children spend much time on sensory activities, designed to develop their senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and taste. That is what drives the program at Sapientia Montessori School.
As they move into their elementary school years, Montessori students will move into more abstract topics, applying what they are learning to real-world situations. This effort to help them organize their thoughts will benefit them as they continue to grow. In the adolescent years, the Montessori program relies on this foundation to prepare students to combine reason and emotion to understand the broader concepts of equity, justice and freedom.
MYTH: Montessori Teachers Don't Have the Same Levels of Education and Training Traditional Teachers Do
FACT: Montessori teachers are some of the best and brightest educators out there. They come to us with an impressive combination of experience and advanced degrees that back up their outstanding abilities to lead a classroom. What makes Montessori teachers special is that they are able to focus first and foremost of cultivating an atmosphere of creativity and discovery that will encourage learning and growth in children of all ages and abilities. Their patience and creativity are unparalleled, and their love of learning knows no bounds.
Sapientia Montessori School in Cedar Park, TX
Housed within a network of some of the oldest Montessori programs in Greater North Austin, Sapientia Montessori School has received official recognition from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and its U.S. affiliate, AMI-USA. Our outstanding teachers boast an impressive slew of advanced degrees and years of experience in child development and education. But, perhaps most importantly, we have chosen instructors who hold the highest regard for children and their unique capacity for exploration and learning.
For more information about our programs, contact us today.