The 'Whole-Child' Approach
Montessori believes in ‘Whole Child’ approach that supports child’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth. Children are provided with continuous opportunities to experiment, practice and scaffold their growth based on those grasped skills. As a result, children progress happily and develop a desire to learn and love for knowledge.
Everything in the Child's Reach - no, it won't be misplaced
Classroom is prepared with the above philosophy in perspective. Furniture is within the child’s reach including shelves and material. Suitable height furniture is arranged without obstructions so children can freely access material and move around. Children transport their work from shelves to floor or to their tables with ease and comfort. Everything being in the reach creates a sense of control and belonging which ultimately flows creating harmony and peace in the classroom. Children feel confident and happy in their environment thus ready to take on bigger challenges. Sense of belonging is extremely strong in these children. They develop respect for their Montessori House and take great pride in keeping their rooms clean and returning material in its original place. Things hardly get misplaced and find their way back in their trays or container quickly by children.
Montessori Method is a child directed approach. Children just like adults have their own goals. Their goal might be slightly different but they are there. An adult needs to know that they have a job, pay check coming, and bills are paid. But before that there was a school to go to, to learn skills to get a job. Being a complex creature, human beings are naturally built that way. An adult’s goal might be have dinner on the table by 6 pm. A child’s goal of the same task might be taking dinner plate to the table or targeting the spoonful in the mouth without dropping it on the way. Remember target is to get the food in the mouth without a spill. That requires skills like eye-hand coordination, pincer grip and arm muscle control. Finishing dinner by 6:45 pm is NOT on the child’s agenda.
Montessori Environment provides children with vast range of opportunities to master their life skills with in their comfort zone. Child chooses a task of his/her choice, takes it to a work station of a choice, might it be a table or floor. They use individual tables with chairs or rugs on the floor to allocate their work space. People cautiously walk around this space in respect of their peers’ activity. Children are free to use any particular activity or exercise without a time limit. Because of this freedom of time, children don’t feel pressured and worried about rushing through an exercise or losing the work. They take interest in work rather than guarding their work. Consequently their concentration increases and mastering a skill comes in earlier than later. Each child works individually which gives every child an opportunity to master his/her own skills at their own pace in his/her own space. Children progress effectively and rapidly in all areas of their growth with confidence and complete satisfaction.
As a result, just like adults children show interest in taking bigger challenges to master more complex skills. From grabbing a spoon to pencil and from pencil to chopsticks become fun and fulfilling. And it all happens without becoming an adult directed chore.
Montessori Equipment is developed age appropriately based on the theory of ‘Absorbent mind’ (by Dr. Maria Montessori) and thousands of hours of observation of child’s psyche and nature by Dr. Montessori. Absorbent Mind consists of many different time periods in a child’s life for specific physical, mental, social and intellectual growth. If observed and rightfully provided with correct environment and opportunities, these periods of a child’s life becomes fulfilling experiences and series of nurturing events. Just like a six month old might be going through a sensitive period of learning to sit up straight without falling over but a five year old will not be interested in that. A five year old might be more interested in kicking a ball without tripping over. These two children have different sensitive period of skill set. Please note that this doesn’t mean children with different challenges are out of the game. Montessori Environment respects the needs of children regardless of their age, hence no two children are compared or expected to master any two skill at the same time. Mental and physical abilities and interests are always in perspective when setting up a Montessori Classroom.
Dr. Maria Montessori developed the material and environment based on these sensitive periods. A Montessori Curriculum respects child’s needs with anticipation of all of the growing desires and skills. Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and different branches of Science are organized and displayed on open shelves for children to follow their own instincts.
Younger children (usually between the ages of 2 and above) are naturally drawn toward the Practical Life exercises since that is the first set of challenge for a growing human being. Have you ever seen a child upset because an adult assisted in put a jacket on? That’s what Montessori eliminates; by providing child timeless opportunity to master that skill on their own.
As children get more self-sufficient they get more interested in what’s around them. Sensorial exercises give them the opportunity to learn the basic foundation of Scientific understanding of what their bodies are capable of. Rough and smooth boards, hot and cold containers, different shades of color tablets assist in mastering their tactile, thermal and visual senses and more. Montessori Environment provides children with concrete apparatus to experiment, understand and master these skills rather than two dimensional photo copies to color.
Older the child gets the more experience he/ she gains making them more interested in outside of their own body. Language, Mathematics and Sciences are carefully developed exercises that help children with literacy and intellectual growth. Art is introduced as an open ended idea. Instead of painting an apple, child is shown the possible brush strokes to create different visual effects. What child creates with that painting skill is completely up to his/her imagination.
In conclusion, Montessori Children have strong sense of community on a global level. They carry on daily life with compassion and become strong support to their community. They continuously grow confident and are well-grounded. They develop the habit of working hard and Love of knowledge.