What does a Montessori mean?
It is a perplexing question for many young parents who set out to admit their child in a pre-school. For first time parents, especially, who have just stepped into the role of a caretaker, such riddles have become a daily affair.
Many parents who come to visit our school are often pondering upon this question, and hope to be enlightened in one visit. As much as we try explaining the concept to them, it is really something to be observed over a period of many years.
You have probably heard it a multiple times, but let’s say it again. Montessori is a lifestyle. The way you look at a riddle or a problem, observe it, demystify it, break it down and finally solve it – that is what Montessori teaches you.
Although all Montessori schools are different and have a unique style, there is one thing in common. Everything will be wooden, including furniture and toys. The furniture will be in proportion to the size of the child, so that they can sit, stand, eat, do all daily jobs independently, consequently teaching them to become self-sufficient at an early age.
Toys, such as building blocks, color sifting trays, puzzles, will be mostly made out of wood again, thus inviting nature into the class. Touch and feel is an important part of curriculum, and nothing is more natural than wood for a child. It is safe for infants too who keep throwing things in their mouth! These toys are proprietary Montessori materials which are not available in other schools. For example, teaching a single skill or concept at a time, we have various wooden ‘dressing frames’ which help students learn to button, zip, and tie laces.
Each section of the class is also created so to have separate ‘mini classes’. There are well-defined spaces for each field, such as Language Arts, Math, and Culture. Each of these areas have shelves or display tables with a variety of study materials from which students can choose. At Vernon Hills Montessori Academy (VHMA), we have areas for sensory learning, color, geography, and much more. Our aesthetic reading corners, adorned with comfy chairs, a colorful rug and a basket of books is something that attracts many a child’s attention in our school.
The trained Montessori teachers are more of observers in a classroom. They don’t ‘teach’, but let a child learn how to complete a task without assistance.
Children are allowed to choose their task – whether it’s coloring, doing letters, crunching numbers or simply putting together a puzzle. Teachers help and direct children, but they will never complete the task for them. Children are given infinite time to ponder over their work and solve it. They are not pushed to ‘just finish it’, but rather exercise their brain.
Dr Maria Montessori, who created the Montessori method, has said:
“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”
It is this instinct for curiosity, to survive that we try to hone in our classrooms. Mrs Montessori also said:
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
Imagine the pride and confidence of a child who knows she has completed a complex task without any aid! It is these smiles we aim to collect daily…
Many Montessori alumni have credited the method for making them who they are. Our stables have not only produced royals such as Prince William and Harry, but zealous entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, along with profound thinkers and authors such as Anne Frank and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Among them are many individuals, who though not well-known, are making the world go round with their skills and intelligence.
Like we said, it’s a lifestyle. We sow the seeds now, and harvest the sweet fruits many years later…