So often in education, educators jump from one trend to the next. Districts and schools spend thousands of dollars on a new math or reading program only to find two years later, there’s something better out there. Providing the “right” educational curriculum has become a constant challenge of “keeping up with the Jones’s”. Montessori schools use a philosophy and tools that have been around for over a century. Montessori schools don’t flip-flop between programs because they don’t need to. Montessori education proves to be effective regardless of whether it is in a private or public school, what country it is taught in or the socio economic status of the students. The philosophy that Maria Montessori developed many years ago still works for our kids today and I know as a parent, it works for my child as well.
Everything about a Montessori classroom fosters independence. You first start with the classroom that is prepared to allow the child to do for themselves what an adult would often do for a child. Enter a preprimary room and you will watch a three year old sweeping the floor with a child-sized broom, washing the dishes at a sink just their height or folding washcloths that are the right size for their hands. The pride you see in these children who are able to “do it themselves” without asking for help from an adult is incredible. A Montessori classroom provides a prepared environment where children are able to develop independence.
Materials were created to be self-correcting. Students can identify a mistake in their thinking without having an adult point it out to them. Students in a Montessori classroom then have the power to ask for help when they need it, as opposed to an adult telling the child when they need help.
Students begin to realize that they have the intelligence and ability to do things for themselves. This is not only empowering to the child, but gives them such a boost in confidence. I remember waking up many years ago to the sound of a microwave. I remember lying in bed thinking – only my four-year-old son and I are home, who could be using the microwave? I walked into the kitchen to see my son eating a steaming bowl of oatmeal. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that his teacher had taught him how to make instant oatmeal in the microwave. He got up, was hungry and decided to make himself some breakfast. Of course we then discussed how his teacher had also said an adult must supervise this process, but I was so excited that he had already become so independent at four and how confident he must have felt to take on such a task.
I truly believe that students don’t just “lose” information over the summer because the summer is too long, I think they lose information because it’s not meaningful to them. Often in math, we expect students to understand operations but never give them the how or why. We come up with acronyms and mnemonic tools to help kids memorize the step without asking why these strategies are even necessary. Montessori allows children to understand the how and the why with materials. Students can actually see a division problem occur as he or she divides each place value. They also have the ability to practice it over and over with the materials until it makes sense to them.
One of the best benefits of Montessori is that it’s completely individualized. I never have to worry that my child is bored or frustrated to tears. He’s getting what he needs, when he needs it. In order for teachers to teach on an individual level, they must observe, mentor, mold and guide the child to his potential. As a parent, I feel better knowing that my child’s teacher knows him as an individual and not as just a second grader.
When you get to learn about botany by looking at leaf samples or learn about your favorite historical figure by dressing up as her, learning is engaging and fun. Montessori provides experiences for students to learn from. Learning doesn’t just come from lectures or listening, learning comes from doing and experiencing the world around them. Learning is real and relevant and that’s the way I want my child to learn.
Picking a school or method of education is one of the most important duties of a parent. My advice to other parents is to make a choice that will not just prepare your child for the next grade level, but will also prepare them to be a global citizen. Make the choice to put your child in a program where they will learn more than just the core subjects but also responsibility, compassion for others and self-motivation. Maria Montessori developed her philosophy because she wanted better for the world and future generations. With a little research and a tour of a Montessori school, you’ll see why Montessori works.
Ann Pilzner‘s career in education first began at a traditional school in Detroit. In an effort to find a fantastic preschool program for her son, she stumbled upon Montessori. Ann fell in love with the philosophy and soon began teaching at his Montessori school. She later was offered the opportunity to open her own public Montessori school in Battle Creek, where she is currently the Head of School. Ann resides in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and son.