By Charlene Ann Buckles
A child, age three, walks into the classroom, pauses for a moment to look around the room, and greets his teacher with a delightful "Good Morning!" He then proceeds to walk toward the coatroom, looks intently on the set of hangers and chooses a red hanger. With great care, he takes his coat off and zips the oversized jacket onto the hanger.
Without hesitation, he walks back into the classroom towards a tray with two glass pitchers, one filled with dried corn. Slowly and intently, he carries the tray to a table and begins pouring the dried corn from one pitcher to the next. The child, with confidence, inner-discipline, self-responsibility and independence, is a Montessori student.
Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori pedagogy and pioneering Italian physician in the late-1800s, believed that such behavior is reflective of a natural state of being that can be found in all children. Young children do not need to be anxious, fearful, and aimless wanderers. Differing from such common conceptions of children, Dr. Montessori argued children, from birth to eighteen years of age, have the potential to make rational decisions of their own volition. She called children who display self-discipline, concentration, and joy in their work a "normalized child."
Montessori described the "normalized" child as this:
"We see him kindled with joy and indefatigable in his toil since his activities are like a psychic metabolism with which his life and growth are intimately connected... He eagerly assimilates means that enable him to develop his mind. But he turns from other things such as prizes, toys and candy. He further shows us that he has a need of order and discipline as mirrors of his inner life. And yet he is still a child, fresh, happy, sincere, and lively" (138).
To bring out the rational actor in all children or the "normalized child," Dr. Montessori developed a classroom to cater to such psychological imperatives. With an estimate of over 20,000 schools world wide, all Montessori schools have these essential characteristics in their environment:
- Furniture and fixtures that cater to a child's size
- Mixed-aged students within a classroom ! !
- Educational materials created by Maria Montessori and colleagues
- Montessori-trained teacher that gives precise lessons on how to use these educational materials
It is only through the environment modeled in the Montessori classroom that children can develop their intellect and individual self naturally. Dr. Montessori observed, "When the attractions of the new environment exert their spell, offering motives for constructive activity, then all these energies combine and the deviations [anxiety, fear, aimlessness, etc.] can be dispersed. A unique type of child appears, a 'new child; but really it is the child's true 'personality' [nature] allowed to construct itself normally" (203).
Thanks to the Montessori approach students around the world are able to realize their full potential. Montessori students are driven by their own interest to deepen their understanding about the world around them. Over a three-year cycle, through lessons from their teacher on the materials of the classroom, students will receive a rich understanding of language, math, sensorial, practical life, botany, zoology, geography, history, and art.
So, why choose Montessori? Because, simply, it just makes sense! The Montessori classroom unlocks the fullest potential in each child through a method delicately practiced and tested for over 100 years. Dr. Maria Montessori believed every child (Yes, even your child!) can be self-disciplined, joyful, concentrated, confident, creative, innovative, and caring beings.
Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York, NY: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1967. 203. Montessori, Maria. The Secret of Childhood. NY, NY: Ballantine Books, 1972. 138.