Not every child will be successful or happy in a traditional classroom environment. For these students, alternative education curricula such as Montessori and home schooling may be better options. Although Montessori school techniques can vary widely from school to school, this teaching method generally strives to offer a comparatively more nurturing and holistic learning environment than strictly score based curricula. Texas provides excellent legal guidelines and latitude for parents considering homeschooling. Although homeschooling does provide the most flexible of curriculum, it’s important to understand what future educational institutions will expect when deciding what children will learn.
For information on some Montessori schools in Houston, click here.
Why Choose a Montessori curriculum
Alternative forms of education offer students different opportunities from the standard American curriculum. The pace and structure of the lessons are individualized and students are more personally responsible for their own education. Alternative curricula are afforded more flexibility than their traditional counterparts; however, it is important for these curricula to match the requirements of accredited public and private institutions in order to maximize acceptance by colleges. When deciding on whether to join an authentic Montessori school, a parent should take into consideration:
A History of the Montessori Method
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian physician and educator, began developing the Montessori Method in 1897, while attending pedagogy courses at the University of Rome. She focused on the educational theory of the last two hundred years preceding her research and began to question the traditional methodologies of education. To Dr. Montessori, an individual truly learns through interacting with one’s environment, especially when freely allowed to choose with what one interacts. Ten years later, Dr. Montessori opened her first educational facility called Casa dei Bambini, a childcare center in Rome. Since then, her theories have been implemented in over 22,000 Montessori schools worldwide.
The Montessori Method initially broke ground in the United States in the early 1900s with 100 schools established in 5 years, but the method immediately conflicted with the traditional American system of education. William Kilpatrick, an influential voice in education at the time, and his critical piece The Montessori System Examined further limited the spread of the Montessori Method in the United States. By the 1920s, the movement to spread the theories of Dr. Montessori and the established Montessori schools had virtually vanished.
However, in 1953, Dr. Nancy Rambusch attended the Tenth International Montessori Congress in Paris and met Mario Montessori, Dr. Montessori’s son and confidant. Impressed with the Montessori Method, Dr. Rambusch followed Mario Montessori’s advice and began implementing Dr. Montessori’s theories and practices in teaching her children. Five years later, Dr. Rambusch, along with a number of families, established the Whitby School in Greenwich, Connecticut. 1960 saw the birth of the American Montessori Society and its goals mirrored those of the Association Montessori Internationale. One difference divided the two organizations for a time: the American Montessori Society requires that all teachers hold college degrees so their curriculum might be recognized by state education departments. Today, there are 1,200 schools
affiliated with the AMS and Montessori Method of education.
How the Montessori Methodology Works
According to Dr. Montessori, children allowed to choose and interact freely within a prepared environment achieve the greatest possible results in human development. Dr. Montessori also observed several human tendencies that are integral to each stage of development, such as:
Dr. Montessori developed her curriculum to highlight these tendencies, which includes a heavy emphasis on the student’s environment. Classrooms, or “prepared environments,” must be kept in order and clean, leaving the walls mostly unadorned and free of clutter. The classroom must be built in proportion to the student, thus an environment for very young children would feature low tables and cabinets that can easily be accessed by the student. The classroom will only contain supplies necessary to the development of the student and the activities will be arranged in a manner that promotes movement. Dr. Montessori suggests that classrooms utilize natural light and soft colors, citing that bright colors distract students.
Dr. Montessori also structures the Montessori Method around four “planes” of development she observed in her work. In the first plane, from birth to age six, the student is a concrete learner, utilizing sense to interact with and understand one’s environment while developing intelligence and the psychological self. During this stage, the student has an “absorbent mind” which seamlessly assimilates information from the senses, culture, and language and develops ideas. In the second plane, ages 6 to 12, students have a tendency to socialize and work in groups, or “herd instinct,” while their abilities to reason and imagine flourish. Dr. Montessori encompasses adolescence in the third plane, ages 12 to 18, where students are psychological unstable, concentration is difficult, and they strive for “valorization,” or the drive for an external evaluation of worth and ability. The fourth and final plane, ages 18 to 24, received less attention from Dr. Montessori and she did not develop an educational format for this plane. She believed students of the Montessori Method would be well prepared to face the adult environment.
One of the main aspects of the Montessori Method is the multi-age groupings of students in the classroom. Children are not separated by grade, but are grouped together with students who are younger or older. An authentic Montessori program will group students together whose ages usually span 3 years apart. In this sense, the older students, who have recently mastered a particular lesson, are able to support the younger students in their own lessons. The older student reinforces the ideas of the mastered lesson and the younger student receives a mentor, or a big “brother” or “sister,” to look up to. Dr. Montessori considered the traditional designation of grades to be arbitrary, preferring the creation of these multi-age groups, as opposed to separating students by a single age, with the goal of developing stronger communities within the classroom.
Within a Montessori curriculum, students work at their own pace and interest. Students do not receive grades, but students must demonstrate a very high percentage of accuracy in testing in order to move from one lesson to the next. Teachers do not act as lecturer but as a guide to the student, thus creating a triangle of education between the student and classroom environment. As a guide, the teacher will initially demonstrate the activities to the student, but will mostly observe the child’s development. The teacher might provide the student with small nudges, but the student discovers the information independently and engages in self-correction.
Determine the Authenticity of the Montessori School
“Montessori” is within the public domain, thus any school may apply the name to its institution without adhering to any of Dr. Montessori’s theories or practices. It is important, then, for parents to determine the authenticity of a school’s practices if they wish for their student to be educated with the Montessori Method. Generally, authentic Montessori facilities feature:
The middle school to high school curriculum will vary from school to school, as Dr. Montessori did not fully develop an educational curriculum for this age period. If a student wishes to attend a university or college, it is important to take in consideration how closely the Montessori’s high school curriculum matches state standards. However, Montessori schools tend to integrate state approved educational practices with the Montessori Method, thus making its students more accepted by state institutions.
Article last updated on March 5, 2014.
Join the Discussion