The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth. Maria Montessori
Montessori schools have become increasingly popular around the world over the last decade, including in global expat cities like London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur. Many schools call their approach Montessori inspired even if they are not Montessori accredited. Parents should therefore know what exactly the Montessori method means.
Maria Montessori was one of the most important early years educators of the 20th century, the innovator of classroom practices and ideas which have had a profound influence on the education of young children the world over. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome medical school and became interested in education through her work as a doctor, treating what today are known as children with special needs. When she went on to establish schools for the disadvantaged children of working parents in Rome she approached their education as a scientist, using the classroom as her laboratory for observing children and finding ways to help them to achieve their full potential.
It soon became apparent that Dr. Montessori had developed a highly effective method of teaching which could be used with great success with each and every child. She began to travel the world, establishing schools, lecturing about her discoveries and writing many articles right up to her death in Holland in 1952 at the age of 82. She was a true pioneer of child-centred education. Her innovative classroom practices and ideas have had a profound influence on the education of young children all over the world.
Montessori saw that children learn best by doing and that happy self-motivated learners form positive images of themselves as confident, successful people. She created specially designed resources to foster independence and a love for learning from an early age.
The Montessori approach is holistic and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child’s early years from birth to six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn. Montessori schools provide a stimulating environment for children to acquire new skills according to their own interests and pace, while teaching them responsibility and independence.
That said, Montessori schools come in many shapes and sizes around the world. There are “pure Montessori” schools, which are generally accredited schools with a Montessori certificate. Then there are schools that use a blend of Montessori methods with traditional methods, where very often the head teacher would have a Montessori diploma. It is quite common in the London, for example, for preschools to have Montessori materials and elements but combine those with a certain amount of structured learning time to prepare children for entrance assessments at private schools. In Asia, you have “Montessori schools” that push early learning such as reading and writing or Mandarin skills in children as young as 3. So if you are looking for a “pure” Montessori school, find out what the main Montessori organisation is in your country and what their accreditation is called. I am personally a fan of “blended” Montessori schools like the one my daughter attends, where she has plenty of free play and “Montessori time” (as they call it), but also a certain amount of teacher-led structured learning time about dedicated topics.