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About Montessori

What is Montessori?

Dr. Steven J. Hughes, a pediatric neuropsychologist and founding chair of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Global Research Committee, defines the Montessori pedagogy as follows: "Montessori education is a brain-based, developmental method that allows children to make creative choices in discovering people, places, and knowledge of the world. It is hands-on learning, self-expressing, and collaborative play in a beautifully crafted environment of respect, peace, and joy." (Source: "Neuropsychology and Montessori," published in AMI/USA News, January 2009, Vol XVIII.)

Key features of authentic Montessori programs*: 
  • Prepared Adult – knowledgeable of the stages of development of the children, young adults, and adults with whom they are interacting.
  • Prepared Environment – beautiful, ordered, and designed for multi-age groupings, containing activities that respond to the specific needs of the age group. The prepared environment encompasses both internal and external spaces.
In these circumstances children, young adults, and adults find what is necessary for their individual development while gaining real-life experiences of what it means to live a fulfilled life in the company of others; of what it means to exercise freedom of choice while also taking responsibility for the impact of their actions on the well-being of the community they live in and the earth that they live on.

*Source: Association Montessori Internationale

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori lived from 1870 to 1952. She was a medical doctor in Italy and through her initial work with handicapped and socially deprived children, she began to develop her unique educational philosophy. As a result of her further study, observation, and experimentation, she found the principles of her method to be applicable to all children. She has had an impact on the field of education in general and the way we understand and teach children today.

Planes of Development: From Birth to Adulthood

Maria Montessori said that peace does not come about by trying to change adults, but rather by looking closely at the way children develop and providing them with the right environment for each stage in their development. She wrote: "We must take man himself, take him with patience and confidence, across all the planes of education. We must put everything before him, the school, culture, religion, the world itself. We must help him to develop within himself that which will make him capable of understanding. It is not merely words; it is a labor of education. This will be a preparation for peace, for peace cannot exist without justice and without men endowed with a strong conscience and personality.” 

Dr. Montessori observed that humans universally develop in different ways at different times in their life. The changes which guide development are so drastic that, she said, it is almost like “a series of rebirths.” Dr. Montessori created a framework of development consisting of four planes which are each six years long. In this scheme, a child has specific attributes which contribute to the developmental goal of each plane being entirely different. The child's environment must change to meet these developmental goals. If these goals are met, the child will thrive.
Austin Montessori School provides an integrated, inclusive, highly personalized educational environment for children from infancy to 15 years of age. As children move from one plane of development to the next, they transition into classroom environments prepared according to the attributes governing each plane.

Developmental Goals of the Four Planes of Development

Major Points of the Montessori Method

  • It is based on observations of the nature of the child.
  • Its application is universal; the results can be successfully achieved in any country and with any racial, cultural or economic group.
  • It reveals that the small child is drawn towards purposeful activity, both of the intellect and of mastery of the body (especially the hand). This activity is spontaneously chosen and carried out with profound joy.
  • Through his work, the child shows spontaneous discipline. This discipline originates within him and is not imposed from without. This discipline is real, as contrasted with the artificial discipline of rewards and punishments prevalent under other methods.
  • It provides suitable occupations based on the vital urges of the child at each stage of development. Each stage is successfully mastered before the next is attained.
  • It offers the child maximum spontaneity in his or her choice of physical and mental activity. In so doing the child reaches the same or higher levels of scholastic attainment as under traditional systems.
  • Each child works at his own pace. The quick are not held back nor are the slow pressured. There is much opportunity for group work, and the children spontaneously offer help with activities they have mastered to other children.
  • It enables the trained adult to guide each child individually in each subject according to his own individual requirements.
  • It allows the child to grow in biological independence by respecting his needs and removing undue influence of the adult. It allows the child a large measure of liberty based on respect for the rights of others. This liberty is not permissive license, but forms the basis of real discipline.
  • It does away with competition as a major motivation for learning. The child competes with himself. It presents endless opportunities for mutual work and help – these are joyfully given and received.
  • The child works from his own free choice. This choice is preceded by knowledge and is thus a real choice.
  • The Montessori method develops the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellectual faculties but also his powers of deliberation, initiative and independent choice, along with their emotional complements. By living as a free member of a real social community, the child is trained in those fundamental social qualities which form the basis of good citizenship.
         Adapted from E.M. Standing, The Montessori Method: A Revolution in Education, 1962