Sylvia a leading early childhood speaker and educator, director of My Montessori (0-6 yrs) school in Sydney, Australia. She’s on the Board of Directors for MSCA (Montessori Schools and Centres Australia) and is the founder of the well-established Guide & Grow brand. Guide & Grow is one of the largest Montessori online support platforms with over 211,000 members. Sylvia’s wealth of knowledge and drive has helped paved her way to success throughout the years. She holds an International Montessori 0-3yrs training, 3-6 AMI Assistants training, an International Communications degree and a master’s in teaching specializing in early childhood (0-5 yrs).
The Montessori Method has transformed from a pedagogy into a way of life. With that, Montessori has moved from classroom spaces into home-schooling methodologies and a lifestyle for many parents/caregivers and their children. No one approach is better than the other; the most important thing is the ability to meet the needs of your child, your family, and your space. I recognize how confusing it may be to see so many different types of Montessori spaces based on various settings, so I have taken the time to introduce different types of Montessori spaces and places, discussing their similarities and differences so that you are best equipped to choose the model that is the best fit for you and your child.
Foundational Montessori principles found in all four approaches include:
- Respect for the child
- A prepared environment
- Providing opportunities for independence
- Promoting freedom with limits
- Hands-on activities
- Following the child
- Developing intrinsic motivation
Being Montessori inspired means implementing pieces of the Montessori philosophy in your home that appeal to your child and your family and adapting it to what works best for you. Montessori inspired can also describe the practice of creating a material or toy based on the aesthetics of traditional Montessori materials.
Montessori in the classroom
Montessori classrooms are the prepared environments that are carefully curated to implement the practice of the Montessori philosophy and method in its most authentic form, true to the teachings of Maria Montessori. The key differences in this approach to the others include a multi-age group of children, trained guides who observe and follow the child, and a wide range of traditional Montessori materials precisely arranged by content area (practical life, sensorial, math, language, and cosmic) and in sequential order from least to most difficult. The environment consists primarily, or only of, child-sized furniture. A daily schedule is established and followed including a full, three-hour work cycle. Children engage with formal shelf work during work periods.
Even if the environment is not catered to the ‘prepared environment’ a lot of the Montessori philosophy can be adopted by teachers in any classroom or home environment. For example, ever in a situation where your child has something, and another child comes along and wants to take it from them? Automatically our response sirens turn to “Share, it’s okay share….” and your child looks at you with this unimpressed look? Then the word we all dread comes out. “No Sharing” and the issues around it we will tackle in the next blog but for right now let’s get back to our situation.
Perhaps if we place ourselves in the shoes of the child, sitting at a cafe using a pen to write down some thoughts on a notepad and someone comes over to take the pen off us all of a sudden. “Hey, excuse me I was using that” (at the nicest) …the waitress says share, it’s, okay?
Let’s add one crucial thing into this scenario…. what if the person just asked if they could borrow the pen instead, would our reaction be different? I’ll tell you right now 99.9% chance it would be. “Excuse me can I please borrow your pen for a moment” …you look up and say “Sure!”
It’s just a matter of respect and children are exactly the same. If a child just asks to use something of theirs or has a turn…that No will most likely turn into “here, you go” or sure. Try it, it actually works, your child will pleasantly surprise you.
It happened today a number of times…. a child would come along try and take something and the child in defence would say no and then I would intervene and encourage the other child to ask if they can have one and the answer flipped every time.
Children innately will make the right decision, trust in them, respect them…remember all you have to do is ask.
Montessori is a complex, in-depth pedagogy that took Dr. Maria Montessori years of scientific observation and deliberate practice to develop. She adjusted the environment and developed carefully crafted materials to meet the student’s needs. Yet, the heart of the Montessori Method was not in the materials themselves, but in a set of founding principles Dr. Montessori established.
The intricacies of the philosophy and the picture-perfect environments put on display on social media platforms may make Montessori seem overwhelming and unachievable, but these basic principles are the heart of the Montessori Method. Focus on your child as a capable, competent member of your home environment; follow their lead, offer them respect, and promote their independence and your child will flourish!