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  • Montessori School: Is It The Right Fit For My Child's First School?

    This learning technique puts emphasis on independence above all else.
    by Kaydee Dela Buena .
Montessori School: Is It The Right Fit For My Child's First School?
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  • Education begins at home, but preschool is your child's first glimpse into a formal learning environment. If your child is finally headed to preschool, choosing where you should send them can be an overwhelming task, filled with anxiety, fear, and sadness.

    But as your child's biggest advocate, you're the best judge to know the environment that is most suitable for their growth. Nowadays, the traditional teacher-centric approach just doesn't make the cut as the needs of children are unique and different, so the paths to their continued learning must also be tailored fit to their needs.

    If you believe in this same line of thinking, you may want to look into schools that have adopted more progressive methods towards educating children like the Montessori Method.

    Defining the Montessori Approach

    In a nutshell, the Montessori Method is known for fostering independence. It values individuality in learning with children seen as curiosity-driven students. Here, education emphasizes active learning and cooperation, in harmony with the child's unique developmental pace.

    This approach takes its name from an Italian physician and educator, Dr. Maria Montessori. Her work in a psychiatric clinic caring for mentally challenged children contributed to the early developments of this method. She believes that children learn better when they're in control of what they learn.

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    What makes Montessori different?

    While the Montessori curriculum was developed in the late 19th century, many still consider this a modern approach to education, because of its progressive techniques and application.

    To fully understand the uniqueness of this method, here are critical defining features of the Montessori approach:

    A specially prepared environment

    "Creating a beautiful and accessible environment is of paramount importance, as children direct their own learning with the help of meticulously designed learning aids," says Karen Ricks, who founded an International Montessori school in Japan.

    The general Montessori classroom environment is bright, warm, and inviting, and encourages young ones to explore and pursue their curiosity through sensory-based materials. You won't find rows of desks, but instead, learning materials such as historical artifacts, toys, musical instruments, books, scientific apparatuses, and even plants and animals, are scattered around.

    "These materials lead young learners to the understanding of complex vocabulary and the discovery of abstract ideas through the hands-on use of concrete objects fashioned for just such a purpose," Ricks explains.

    A curriculum that values independence

    The Montessori approach believes that no two students learn at the same pace and learn best from the same teaching method. Each student is given an individualized plan, tailored fit for their education, depending on their interests and progress. They are not pressured into learning something they're not quite ready to learn, or so that they don't have to wait for their peers to catch up to their level.

    In Montessori, students get to choose the activities that most appeal to them and work from there. There's no time limit required, and they're free to explore that matter for as long as it interests them. As a result, the children's enthusiasm is nurtured, allowing them to love the process of learning. The method also allows kids to make and learn from mistakes, further empowering them to become independent and capable beings.

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    A multi-age class setup

    A typical Montessori class is comprised of 25 to 30 students distributed among three-year-cycle age groups: 2-and-a-half to 6 years old; 6 to 9 years old; and 9 to 12 years old. The purpose of this arrangement is to facilitate class discussions and collaborative learning.

    Younger children are encouraged to learn from older kids, while the latter get to be role models for their younger counterparts. Montessori educator Anitra Jackson says, "These mixed-aged groups allow for children to learn from one another, teach one another, and develop life skills such as inclusion and acceptance."

    The role of a Montessori teacher

    In Montessori, the teachers play the role of "enabler" since the classes focus on learning rather than teaching. Aside from preparing the classroom and ensuring all materials are within the children's reach, teachers mainly guide and support the students in pursuing the learning exercise or activity he or she finds most interesting.

    You will rarely see a teacher at the front of the class, presenting a lesson. The objective of the Montessori method is to spark joy and children's curiosity so they may explore opportunities themselves.

    As Maria Montessori shared, "Play is the work of the child," so let your child explore, discover, find delight, and learn from every new experience.

    Various Montessori principles can also be applied at home! Click here to learn more.

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