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Montessori - A Brief Overview for Parents
Maria Montessori was one of the first female Italian physicians and graduated in 1896. Her early medical practice focused on psychiatry. Her studies led to her to work with children with special needs. Her early work was very successful and in 1907 she was invited to open a full day care centre for the underprivileged children of San Lorenzo in Rome. This became the first Casa Dei Bambini.
The children in her care thrived and the Montessori method was born. By 1910 here were schools opening across western Europe. The main Principles of the Montessori Method were developed early on and as she continued to study and observe the children in her care, she devised Literacy programs. A whole Numeracy syllabus as well as Humanities and Science all the way to Secondary School.
Montessori however is mainly remembered for her work with the Early Years Child. Explaining and exploring Sensitive Periods, The Absorbent Mind, Discipline(, Normalisation as well as setting the Main Principles of the Montessori method as a template for teachers all around the world. As she continued (after living through two world wars) she came to see her method as a way forward for the world. To teach the young about peace and understanding. Giving them a global view of the world, she hoped the next generation would not make the mistakes every other generation had. Montessori has become much more than a method of teaching. It offers a way of life, a way of thinking about the world and a genuine solution to the troubles of the world.
Her studies and methodology were a huge shift from conventional thinking of the time. However most Scientific Studies today are still agreeing with Montessori on so many points and the Montessori approach to teaching and child development is still as relevant today as it has ever been.
Montessori is a child centered approach which gives the child freedom within boundaries. Using this basic philosophy and having a deep understanding of a child’s sensitive periods and the innate ability of the Absorbent mind. Children are given the best chance to meet their sensitive periods and fulfill their potential at each step of development. It encourages and promotes natural development above ‘teaching’ and especially for the early years it is designed to provide positive learning experiences at every step of their development. To truly benefit from the freedom a child is given in the classroom, the basic principles of Montessori should be brought into the child’s home life. The adults’ job is mainly one of observer and facilitator. To provide meaningful activities and experiences for the child to process and work through by themselves. Having a suitable home environment, one free from obstacles to the child is very important.
Discipline and Normalisation are two major goals of Montessori in the early years. Children want to do things for themselves and given the chance to practice and repeat activities in a positive environment, they will learn both. Normalisation is important for the child’s social and emotional development. Being part of a larger group, knowing their place and feeling secure will only aid their development and interest in the world. Discipline gives the child the chance to join this group as an equal, to be a useful member and build their focus, understanding and the many opportunities for development.
The Montessori life meets and provides for the humans’ basic needs for a successful life. It aids their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical needs. Encouraging self-motivated growth and exploration in all areas. The principles of the Montessori classroom are all easily transferred to a home environment. It is much more to do with developmental understanding than the Montessori materials that are often over emphasized. Environment is important but being able to understand your child and help them develop naturally, learning control, focus and attention should be the goal of us all. These skills are important for all future learning and healthy development, and this is what we should be focusing on as parents in the early years. Academics will come as a natural consequence of these abilities your child will hopefully develop and nurture.
Parenting can hold many surprises, and many will always be a surprise. But with understanding of Child development and the Principles of Montessori, there is a lot of behaviours and troubles, we can expect and plan for. The more we can learn as parents and carers , the more we can facilitate our children’s development .