The word Montessori is often used, but commonly misunderstood. The widespread misunderstanding is caused by a lack of information on Maria Montessori and her original work.
a. Montessori is not an accelerated learning programme, though academic achievement is often a result due to the fact that the Montessori Method takes full advantage of the child’s desire to learn. It empowers the child to master skills at their own pace, thus building their self-esteem.
b. Montessori is not disorganised or undisciplined. Some parents complain that Montessori allows too much freedom or not enough. This paradox can be explained by appreciation of the true meaning of liberty. The freedom given to the child is to do what is right, not what is wrong. Montessori did not believe in absolute freedom. In fact she instructed her teachers to check the children whenever they displayed selfishness or lack of self-control. Freedom within the environment can only exist when rules are obeyed.
c. Montessori is not rigid structured and disciplined. The order within the environment is not arbitrary, but is a response to the child’s need for structured experiences as he tries to make sense of the world around him. Everything in the room has a permanent place. The materials are arranged along the shelves in order of difficulty. Order in the environment helps the child to work independently without needing an adult’s assistance. The child knows how to select what is appropriate for his developmental level and personal needs.
The order of a Montessori classroom is not the structure of a conventional classroom. There is no assigned seats, no compulsory break period, no graded placement of children by age.
d. Montessori children do adjust well to other school’s programmes. Obviously how well a child adjusts will generally depend on the quality and latitude of the public or Independent school he/she enters. The child however, will be well equipped because of the desire to learn that has been fostered throughout his Montessori training.
An adjustment to Grade 1 is necessary for all children regardless of what preschool training they have received. Parents also have an influence on their child’s adjustment to public or other Independent schools. They should observe the new school and then prepare their child for any changes they have noticed (e.g. teacher at the front of the class, fixed seating and set timetable).
e. Montessori herself, however, found that a concrete basis is needed at the beginning of the learning process. The development of the senses precedes that of superior intellectual activity. We can only give the child the power and the means for observation and these means are procured through education of the senses. The child then teaches himself/herself (auto-education). Experience has shown that the child himself/herself will disregard the apparatus and work without it when he is ready to do so.
f. Montessori does permit social development. In a Montessori school there are friendships and sharing. Children interact with each other and with the adults. Because there is no artificially induced competition, the children learn to co-operate with each other. There is usually a three year age grouping so that the youngest child may learn from older one. The respect which the directress shows towards each child is a model for the children to follow in learning to respect each other.
There are areas and activities provided for solitude and small and large group activities. However no child is coerced into joining a group activity.