Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori developed many of her ideas while working with mentally challenged children. Her approach is characterized by an emphasis on independence and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.

The Montessori education philosophy is focused on developing the whole child (emotionally, cognitively, physically, and socially). This is done by interacting with the children rather than by direct instruction. While a range of approaches may exist under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) says the following characteristics are essential for a true Montessori education:

  • Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 3 to 6 years old being the most common.
  • A discovery model of learning, where kids learn concept by working with materials rather than being taught directly by an instructor.
  • Students are allowed to choose activities from a range of options.
  • Kids have freedom of movement within their classroom.
  • The class uses specialized materials developed by Montessori and her team.
  • The class is lead by a trained Montessori teacher.

What Does The Montessori Approach Look Like?

A Montessori classroom will contain kids of varying ages, encouraging younger kids to learn from older ones. Specially designed child-size materials are provided, which are designed to help kids learn specific concepts or skills. Teachers (or guides) introduce materials to groups of kids and the children themselves decide what to work on. The teachers will observe and offer guidance, but only when needed. The Montessori approach encourages independence.

Kids are also expected to put away their material when they complete a task. Before and after work time there is usually a group meeting where teachers share expectations. The group may also sing songs, read a book, or have a discussion before moving into individualized work time.

How Can I find A Montessori School?

To learn more about Montessori education, or to find a Montessori school in your local area, check out the American Montessori Society’s website.