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Montessori is a method of education, developed by Maria Montessori. It is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children. Based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play.
It is hard to summarise the principles of Montessori education in just a few words. As it’s much more than a method, it’s a philosophy about child rearing and development. Maria didn’t limit herself to a series of principles but it was a way of understanding growth and seeing the world.
However, one of the simplest ways to get an idea of what Montessori education represents is by listening to the language used by its teachers. These teachers are aware of the enormous importance of language to shape the child’s mind. So they choose the words carefully to encourage children to think autonomously and motivate themselves intrinsically.
One of the key principles of Montessori education is to focus on the process rather than on the final product. In a general sense, we should avoid praising children by focusing exclusively on the results achieved, with phrases such as “Good work” or “That work is precious”. Instead, it’s better to direct the praise towards concentration, perseverance and the care that they have put in the task.
Praising the work instead of focusing only on the results will help develop a growth mindset in children. So they will understand that they can improve output through their own efforts.
We must not forget that some praises will destroy a childs self-esteem. Therefore, instead of saying “You are a very good child”. Be more specific: “Yesterday you behaved very well by lending your toys to the child in the park”. This way you are showing them that you notice their good behaviour, without judging. Instead of saying: “You are a great artist” when they show you drawings, you could say: “I can see that you’ve worked hard at focusing on the detail in your picture”.
In Montessori schools, each child is their own teacher. The teachers have the function of providing guidance and orientation. They also help the children but it’s the child who discovers things for themselves while exploring the environment and the materials that have been given.
In this autonomous discovery, self-analysis is a key element. By following the Montessori method, mistakes are not criticised or emphasized, as is often the case in traditional education. However, it will encourage self-criticism.
Therefore, the next time your child asks you: “Do you like my drawing?” it would be better to ask them what they think of their picture, instead of telling them that it is beautiful and you love it. Ask them what they think. If they are pleased with the picture, ask what is their favourite part is and ask about how they decided which colours to use. The idea is to help them start evaluating their own work, instead of them constantly seeking outside approval. You will also be helping them build a bullet-proof self-esteem.
Independence is one of the core values promoted by Montessori education. The goal for the teachers is to help the children to do things by themselves. To reach the maximum possible autonomy according to their age and skill level. Undoubtedly, in many cases, it’s easier to answer their questions or give them a solution. However, it’s more helpful to help them find the answers for themselves.
For example, if your child loses a book and asks you where it is, instead of finding it for them, encourage them to think where it might be. Ask them: “Try to remember where you were the last time you read it? Have you checked your room?”
This may take a little more time, but it will be worth it. Patience is required. As they will gain autonomy and independence, instead of continually depending on their parents. An attitude that in the long term generates a deep insecurity and can make them even more vulnerable.
In a Montessori classroom, children are responsible for many things, including taking care of their work environment. In fact, children often take pride in that responsibility and spend part of their time organising the space where they will work.
However, sometimes a job that’s too big can be overwhelming. In these cases, instead of doing the work for them, the teacher asks the child how they can help. It’s not about rushing and “saving” them at the first ask. As this sends the message that they are not able to finish a task on their own. However, it’s about getting the correct balance and making sure the child isn’t feeling too overwhelmed or frustrated.
For example, at home when it’s late and the child has not yet cleared away their toys, rather than doing it for them you can ask whether they would like some help. Then they will do their part and you can help with the rest, therefore learning that they can not escape from their responsibilities, but they can ask for your help.
This is maybe the most important point that Montessori teachers live by. It means that we must trust the line of internal development that the child is following.
It’s also a reminder of the importance of understanding the reasons behind their behaviour. Reminding us that all children are different and will do things at different stages. They will not all walk at the same time or read with the same fluency or write with the same strokes. Nor will they be interested in the same things.
Following the child means remembering that each child is unique and has their own individual needs, passions and gifts. They all must be taught and guided accordingly. If you can not get your child interested in reading, try to discover what their passions are and empower that. Instead of fighting against them, you have to join them and help them develop what they truly enjoy and what interests them.
On the market there are thousands of baby toys, but not all of them are recommended for children. For example, it has been proven that technological toys delay the acquisition of the language. Video games can affect concentration if played at an early age. If you are looking for simple and beautiful toys that stimulate creativity and intuition, toys that grow with your child, Montessori baby toys are a perfect choice.
The Montessori Method is an educational approach centered on the child where it fosters the learning environment in which the child assumes an active role. The environment contains toys and materials designed for children to be actively involved in their learning, for long periods of time.
Jennifer Delgado Suárez, graduated in Psychology with a Master in Psychopedagogy from the Central University of Las Villas, Cuba. She worked as a professor at the University of Cienfuegos; and published several scientific articles in specialised journals of Psychology, Health and Education. She currently lives in Spain, where she writes for her blog (Rincón de la Psicología), an editorial project to which she has incorporated the English version (Psychology Spot) and Italian (Angolo della Psicologia) with her husband’s help.