As every parent knows, the right educational environment can make all the difference in how a child feels about going to school. For a student who is engaged in what they’re learning and excited about what the next day will bring, school is a place where he or she can grow and thrive. Many families are finding this type of environment in a Montessori school.
The Montessori method was developed by Maria Montessori in Italy in 1897. Her approach is based on the idea that children who have the freedom to make choices in their environment will reach their optimal development. Instructors are specifically trained in the Montessori philosophy and classrooms are carefully designed to follow its method.
Components of a Montessori education
In order for a program to be considered a true Montessori school, several characteristics must be in place:
- Multiage groupings of children in which peer learning is fostered
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- Guided choice of work activity
- A full range of specially designed Montessori learning materials
- A setting that is considered aesthetically pleasing
Source: American Montessori Society, http://amshq.org/Montessori-Education/Introduction-to-Montessori
Benefits to children
Advocates of the Montessori method say that children in this type of educational setting develop greater independence and confidence because they are encouraged to explore and discover on their own instead of being instructed in a traditional manner by a teacher in a classroom.
Students are able delve into areas that particularly interest them and work on new concepts at their own pace. Experiential learning is highly valued with an emphasis on hands-on activities.
Cooperative play is strongly encouraged in Montessori programs to enhance a sense of community. Older children help younger children. The development of social skills is considered as important as academic skills. Parents also often appreciate that the ideas of equity, freedom and justice are promoted in a Montessori education.
Questions to ask of a Montessori program
When evaluating if a particular school is a good match for your family, consider asking the following questions:
- Does the program have Montessori-credentialed instructors?
- Do you provide all the specific Montessori teaching materials?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What is the student to teacher ratio?
- What is the goal of homework?
- How do you build community?
- How do you handle discipline?
- Can parents observe when they choose to?
- What kind of support can my child receive if he is struggling in some way?
- Can I speak with other parents who have children in the program?
- What is your mission statement?
As in any decision about your child’s education, it important to do your research on various schools and visit several in person. Seeing the instructors and children in action will give you the best sense of whether or not a particular program is right for you. Talk with other parents who have children enrolled in a Montessori program for their insight into how it is working for them. With an informed decision, you’ll discover the best educational environment for your child.
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