In my other life in Ireland I trained as and worked as a Montessori teacher for the 2-4 age group. I cannot say often enough how much I LOVED it and I am a super proud (and probably annoying) supporter of Montessori theory and education, especially for the preschool years.
When I was studying, the overwhelming thing that constantly occurred to me was “this makes so much sense!”. Montessori philosophy at its heart is all about allowing a child to grow, learn and be independent within a prepared environment. This simply means if we as teachers (or parents) provide a environment that is structured, orderly and full of safe opportunities for learning, the child will take it upon themselves to do just that.
From the outside, Montessori can look pretty free and easy. There are not a lot of classic and obvious learning tools in evidence, not a lot of sitting all day and working as a group on your numbers or the alphabet etc. but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s just done differently.
The awesome thing about Montessori education is that it’s entirely child led. In fact a massive part of the role as a teacher is just observing each child regularly and seeing just what it is they are drawn to, what tasks they are trying to master and what they are doing on a social level.
This means that every single child gets offered activities and tasks that they are ready to learn from, which in turn means they have a greater chance of success and therefore a excellent shot at feeling good about themselves, which helps them grow even more independent and resourceful.
A preschool montessori environment is set up with open shelves that have materials a child can access at most times in the day, and they can do them independently or with a friend or class leader. These shelves cover the areas of culture, maths, language, and practical life (more on this one below) and the materials are often rotated, and adapted to reflect the seasons and cultural events.
Can you tell how passionate I am yet?
The other awesome thing about Montessori education at this level is it draws on the real world the child lives in for resources so much. In fact a whole area of the classroom is set up with work that reflects skills they need in their day to day. Skills like pouring, spooning, sweeping, brushing, buttoning etc. Have you ever met a toddler who did not want to “do it myself!”? Can you imagine how much they would get out of an environment set up to teach them to do just that?
Oh and you may have noticed I used the word “work” above? Yup Maria Montessori (the brilliant owner of this theory) believed that children’s learning is their work and should be respected and valued as much as our own work would be.
I’ve only given you a taste here of Montessori, and only as I know it in my own experience and education with the toddler and pre-school age group. If you are interested in knowing more there are many, many awesome websites and blogs set up to show you more and to give you easy ways of integrating these principles into your own home.
My fave of all these is Living Montessori Now and it’s an excellent place to start to learn more.
On that note I hope you join me as I experiment with bringing a little more Montessori into Rorys life! I will post along the way from now about the tasks we do and how they go and feel free to share your own experiences too!