Principal Trisha Leathers answers that it is an educational philosophy, “allowing for creativity, fostering independence, [while promoting the students’] ability to make choices and learn at their own pace.”
However, it is a complex answer, requiring a complex understanding of the Montessori model; because a Montessori education is more than a progressive approach, the entire method differ vastly from those of the traditional model. Instead of sitting in rows of desks, repeating the actions of the teacher, students use their senses to explore their world.
While traditional schools might rely primarily on taking notes, practicing a learned skilled and then being assessed via multiple choice, or correct-answer test, Montessori stresses that children learn by doing.
It even challenges a traditional preschool setting. Rather than circulating from station to station, students choose the activities based on their interests and passions. This might appear repetitive, but Montessori School owner, Sameer Patel explains how a good teacher can diversify the experience.
His own son was interested in birds. Based on his son’s own description of his school activities, Patel worried that all he did in Montessori classroom was play with bird figures, but soon he found the teacher had expanded his interest into a varied curriculum.
“They had him match the picture of the bird with the name of the bird. They have them write the names of the birds,” said Patel, “She was using his natural curiosity for birds to help him learn concepts for math, grouping, sequencing and language.”
Patel believes this is the best way to learn, because children at a young age want to explore, and education should not stifle that.
“A Montessori teacher first and foremost is an observer, and you’re not going to stop a child from digging deeply into something he’s interested in,” Patel said.
Montessori schools also differ in that they use many more props for hands on activities. These props can be expensive, but Montessori educates assert they are necessary for young students to make real-world connections.
“The worst thing we thing in those early years for those kids is to think they don’t get math. It is because they were taught it in an abstract way rather in a tangible way,” said Patel.
Patel then demonstrated the Montessori method using blocks. Stackable square blocks with 100 dots represent a 100. Stack ten of them, and they match the one thousand cube. It is a way method that helps students to grasp the meaning of one thousand, beyond the additional zero, according to Patel.
In a Montessori school students work on an activity until they have mastery enough to teach another student. They often teach younger students, since classrooms include children of different ages.
Patel and Leathers see this as an advantage, because students progress at their own rate. Younger students learn from their peers, and older students learn by teaching, but always progress to new material. They are not held back, because not everyone is doing the same activity.
As Leathers implied Montessori children may have a different philosophy on life. They will be bright, seek challenges and enjoy their environments, but they are also inquisitive. They may not buy into a one-size-fits-all model.
Educators featured on the Bristow Montessori website, admit that a Montessori education is not the best preparation for elementary, middle school and high school in a traditional setting, that is a traditional education. But they do believe it offers something most traditional educational models do not.
“Your child is going to leave a Montessori school with confidence, independence and a life long love of learning, because they’re curious. We cultivate that curiosity,” said Patel.
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