The school’s program is based upon the principles developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, who observed that children learn best through active, hands-on experiences. She developed an educational method designed to fit each child instead of one that makes each child fit into a preset program.
Montessori schools are noncompetitive, they allow children to develop at their own individual rates. Classrooms are equipped with materials appropriate for all children, no matter where they are in their development. Dr. Montessori believed that development is based on three-year cycles. Multi-age classes enhance learning because younger children emulate older children, and older children assist younger ones.
Montessori education is child-directed rather than teacher-directed. It encourages initiative, independence, responsibility and self-discipline by allowing children to choose their activities. Teachers observe, support, and challenge children through “guided-discovery” learning activities, rather than controlling or judging their activities. Throughout their Montessori training, teachers learn how to be as nondirective as possible in order for the children to make their own discoveries. The child’s role is an active one, not a passive one as it is in many mainstream schools.
The Montessori classroom is a prepared environment: it is a nourishing place for children and has been designed to stimulate independent learning. The classroom allows children to learn as they move around, touch objects, and explore activities. Furniture, materials, and tools are child-sized. Math materials are concrete, three-dimensional. Materials which are designed to be self-correcting so that a child can accomplish a task independently (for example, pieces don’t fit where they don’t belong). The classroom setup encourages order: after finishing with an activity, the child picks up the materials and returns them to their proper place on the shelf. Other children then know where to find them.
Montessori classrooms are small, diverse communities in which children must learn to get along with others, not unlike the real world. In a mixed-age classroom, children with a broad range of interests and abilities learn to interact respectfully.
Montessori education encourages many useful, real world skills. Children see the connections between different subject areas because their education is interdisciplinary. They are allowed the freedom to be creative and spontaneous. They develop valuable interpersonal skills as they learn to be unique individuals in a larger community. They become self-disciplined and self-motivated and enjoy and feel in control of their own learning.
The above philosophy was synthesized from Paula Polk Lillard’s Montessori: A Modern Approach (Schocken Books: New York, 1972).