As parents of young children, we often ponder which Early Childhood Program to enroll our children in. At one point in time they were non-existent. As early childhood educators emerged, programs were created. Interestingly, the Montessori approach is a specialized method created by Maria Montessori. The Montessori Method; which is widely used today was created with the focus of children learning from their environment (Morrison, 2009). Montessori’s are not aimed at talented and gifted children; this method is expressed in public and private school settings in conjunction with children attending up to age 18.
In addition, Montessori serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical abilities (Stephenson, 2011). In 1870, Maria Montessori, the first Italian woman to secure a medical degree (Stephenson, 2011). With her degree she entered the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She had a passion for young minds. She believed that children educate themselves. Montessori became a physician in 1896, attending the University of Rome psychiatric clinic. During her tenure, Dr. Montessori developed an enthusiasm for the study of children with special needs; where she also spoke on their behalf.
Twenty-six years later, Maria relocated to San Lorenzo, Rome to study children without disabilities. There she observed fifty children which resulted in success. This success was recognized and spread all over, attracting travelers from all over to this remarkable case study. An in-depth explanation of what a Montessori truly is, Stephenson (2011) clearly states: A Montessori can be defined as a revolutionary method of observing and supporting the natural development of children.
Montessori educational practice helps children develop creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and time-management skills to contribute to society and the environment, and to become fulfilled persons in their particular time and place on Earth.
The basis of Montessori practice in the classroom is mixed age group (3 ages- 6 ages in one class), individual choice of research and work, and interrupted concentration. Group lesson are seldom found in a Montessori classroom, but learning abounds. Since Montessori’s death, educators all over continue to implement and notice this method has worked all over the world with all kinds of children (wealthy, poor, gifted, normal, learning disabled, etc.) and environments (from slums, to elegant schools, etc. ).
Maria agreed that when physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs are met, children glow with excitement and a drive to play and work with enthusiasm, to learn, and to create. In conjunction, children exude a desire to teach, help and care for others and for their environment (Stephenson, 2011). During her lectures and travels, Maria Montessori was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition to the explanation of a Montessori, the following is the Montessori Method.
This method meticulously exemplifies how Montessori educators implement the method in various programs across the country. There are five basic principle associated with the Montessori Method. They are: Respect for the child, The Absorbent child, Sensitive periods, The Prepared environment and Auto-education. Respect for the children occurs when educators assist children with new projects, allowing them to learn for themselves. Giving the child room to explore their boundaries flourishes abilities for positive self- esteem (Morrison, 2009). Montessori also believed having respect for the child is a key element.
She said (Morrison, 2009), As a rule, however we do not respect children. We try to force them to follow us without regard to their special needs. We are overwhelming with them, and above all, rude; and then we expect them to be submissive and well-behaved, knowing all the time how strong is their instinct of imitation and how touching their faith in and admiration of us. They will imitate us in any case. Let us treat them, therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them. When it comes to a child’s mind; it can be described as a sponge.
Their young minds continuously “absorb” information. Unintentionally, children cannot help but learn. In their own environments and in shared environments. The Absorbent mind refers to the idea that the minds of young children are receptive to and capable learning (Morrison, 2009). From birth to age six, these are the most important years of the absorbent mind. Shortridge (2003), compiled an essay about the absorbent mind in which Montessori states that the child learns by unconsciously taking in everything around him and actually constructs himself.
Using his senses, he incarnates, or creates himself by absorbing his environment through his very act of living. Morrison (2009) adds, “What they learn depends greatly on their teachers, experiences, and environments”(Ch. 9). In the sensitive periods; learning is most likely to occur (Morrison, 2009). In our text (2009), Montessori recalls a sensitive period: A sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait.
Once this trait or characteristic has been acquired, the special sensibility disappears. It is imperative for an educator to observe and ascertain sensitivity periods and sustain the proper environment. Many theorists believe this stage is considered the critical period. The critical period and the sensitive period contain a sensitive difference. The critical period mildly describes a child not receiving the “right” or enough stimuli during the window; they will be stagnant in learning in the future (Oswalt, 2008).
However, theorists who believe in the sensitive period noted it would post difficulty for the childcare giver to attain what was not learned during the learning window of opportunity, still there is room for the child to learn at a later time (Oswalt, 2008). In a prepared environment it is believed children learn best. In an environment where children can do things for themselves; children are at liberty to explore materials of their own choosing. Within these prepared environments, are six principles: Freedom, Structure and Order, Beauty, Nature and Reality, Social environment and Intellectual environment (Irinyi, 2009).
Freedom environment includes freedom of movement, the child must experience freedom of exploration. All of these freedom movements lead to a greater freedom (Irinyi, 2009). Structure and order in the classroom mirrors the sense of structure and order in the universe (Irinyi, 2009). A beautiful environment should suggest harmony and should invite the worker to work. Nature and reality strongly influenced Maria Montessori and believed children should actively interact with nature.
Social environment promotes the freedom of children socially interacting with one another and also develop a sense of compassion and empathy for others (Irinyi, 2009). Briefly, auto-education is last principal of the Montessori Method. The prepared environment also stimulates auto-education which is the idea that children teach themselves through appropriate materials and activities (Morrison, 2009). Children who decide to “work” in the “kitchen” are able to role play as chefs and are able to make themselves and their peers something to eat.
In the Early Childhood Education field, Montessori’s are not the only education program developed to focus on children’s developments. The High- Scope theory is based on Piaget, constructivism, Dewey and Vygotsky (Morrison, 2009). Children help establish curriculum. Experiences guide the programs of studies in promoting children’s active learning (Morrison, 2009). The Reggio Emilia approach founded by Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994), a city in northern Italy, based on the philosophy and practice; that children are active of their own knowledge (Morrison, 2009).
Curriculum is project oriented and learning is active. The Waldorf Education founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) highlights the teaching of the whole child-head, hands, and heart (Morrison, 2009). Steiner strongly believed that education should be holistic. The study of myths, lores, and fairy tales promotes the imagination and multiculturalism (Morrison,2009). Combining all of the early childhood education programs, there is no one perfect curriculum. Today, there is a combination of all four education types being taught in school districts. Each approach is important and critical.
Personally, I would agree that The Montessori Method best serves the needs because this approach allows children to grow and learn at their pace. They are not forced to retain information if the brain is not processing at the pace that is requested and required for children. Also, the environment plays a serious role in this learning and teaching process. If a child is in a stressed environment, the child is less likely to participate and socialize with his or her peers. When a child is in a peaceful or beautiful environment, the child is more inclined to interact with the world with a clear mind.
Indeed, while there are multiple Early Childhood Education programs available, the Montessori Method was created with the focus of children learning from their environment (Morrison, 2009). Not to say that this particular method is paramount, but beneficial results have emerged from this program. In Head Start facilities, High- Scope, Reggio Emilia Approach, the Montessori Method and the Waldorf Education should be integrated in facilities today and for the future. References Irinyi, M. (2009, March 18). Principles of the montessori prepared environment. Retrieved from http://montessoritraining.
blogspot. com/2009/03/principles-of-montessori-prepared. html Morrison, G. S. (2009). Early childhood education today. (11th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Oswalt, A. (2008, January 17th). Senisitive periods in mental health. Retrieved from http://www. mentalhelp. net/poc/view_doc. php? type=doc&id=7923&cn=28 Shortridge, P. D. (2003). The absorbent mind and the sensitive periods. Retrieved from http://www. pdonohueshortridge. com/children/absorbent. html Stephenson, S. M. (2011). The international Montessori index. Retrieved from http://www. montessori.
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