Explaining the Method

by Alex Fuller-Young on December 28, 2010

Thoughts from our veteran Montessori expert, Marie Scott, on the philosophies of Maria Montessori and the experience of implementing them in Nicaragua, at School of Louise’s Dreams…

  Maria Montessori’s teachings have been in the educational world for a long time — it’s been over a hundred years since she started a class in 1907, in Italy — with varying degrees of acceptance.  I have been in this field since 1962, and find that these practices work well for all children if followed according to Montessori’s principles:  one of which is to prepare an environment in which young children are allowed to explore learning appropriate to their age, and always with consideration for others.

     Among the criticisms I’ve heard over the years are that either the Montessori Method is too rigid, or else it is too permissive.

     The opponents who criticize it for rigidity say, “Look, in Montessori, there is only one way to do this certain activity.”  Not so.  Educators are taught one clear way to show a child an activity so as to ensure success.  Who doesn’t enjoy success?  Once a child has mastered the basic steps he is free to continue on his own, within limits, which leads to the answer to the criticism, “children can do whatever they like.”

     As for permissiveness in the learning environment, the child is shown consideration for others and the equipment in the classroom which is theirs for the use of everyone.  The teachers and later experienced children are models for new students of this respect and care.  Free choice is allowed as far as it does not harm the child, those around him or her, or the environment.

     Montessori differs from traditional education in so far that the children are not regarded as receptacles to be filled with knowledge given by the teacher.  By means of concrete materials the children explore, make their own discoveries, and retain this knowledge much more than any that could be handed to them by an adult.  There is also the opportunity for as much repetition as the child is interested in, which further increases retention of knowledge.

For me, the positive results of the Montessori Method have never been made clearer than through my experience at School of Louise’s Dreams. The teachers and students at our school have been utilizing the Montessori Method for over three years now. School of Louise’s Dreams has been an incredible resource and haven for the impoverished children of Nagarote for over fifteen years. But however wonderful our school was before, the quality of the education there has exponentially improved over these three short years. Having historically practiced traditional, rote learning techniques, our teachers now have a wide breadth of knowledge concerning the participatory, empowering Montessori techniques. This work has truly been a challenge and a wonder, to see both the teachers and students have their worlds broadened. Read more about all the work we’ve done with the teachers on our blog posts at www.therighttolearn.org/welcometoourschool2

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