An overview of the Montessori method

This will be the first in a series of posts going over different homeschooling philosophies. We will be going over Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unschooling, and more. Stay Tuned!
Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori method, was a Physician who lived from the late 19th through mid 20th century (1870-1952). Marie Montessori began developing her principles and methods while working with special needs kids. She later took these methods and principles and applied it to other children and found she had good results. This was the birth of the Montessori method.

Montessori believed that children learn better by adults improving their environment as well as modeling right behavior more so than being taught directly. Children learn naturally, with this she believed that children’s interest should drive the learning rather being teacher directed. Letting the child lead in their learning allows the child to have an interest in learning itself rather than being forced to do something they have no interest in. Working with the children this way allows for the natural love of learning flow and allows the child be a happy willing and active participant in their education.

An important feature of the Montessori method is that the environment fits the child and not the adult. Children’s activities and skills should be discovered at their level. Furniture should be their size as well as anything that they are to use to learn such as brooms, kitchen sets, paint brushes, blocks and more. Pictures should be set at their eye level rather than the adults. The room should be decluttered and noise reduced so the child is not distracted.

It is important, in the Montessori method, that the learning is child lead. This does not mean it is not structured but it is structured in a way that the child themselves can find opportunities to learn. This method, while being child led, also allows the child to do specific tasks and skills themselves with child-sized tools and equipment. The skill or task is learned by demonstration rather than instruction. This allows the child the opportunity to master skills themselves.

Montessori classrooms, and a lot of parents who homeschool exclusively as Montessori parents will insist on specific materials and learning aids. This includes sandpaper letters, the pink stacking block, cinder blocks, brown stairs and more. They can be quite expensive if you go the authentic Montessori route. These are great materials to have but they can certainly be a drain on the pocketbook. These items are supposed to be used during specific developmental stages, demonstrated and the child should do them under supervision to make sure they are being done right. Many of the more pure Montessori parents are not happy with those of us who take what works for our children and leave the rest.

Another huge principle is collaborative learning. This can be difficult if there are no other kids or families that practice as a homeschool method or if you have one child. The principle is that kids learn best in a multiage environment learning from each other and teach one another. This principle is sound but is hard to come by on a daily basis if you only have one child and are homeschooling. One way to foster this while homeschooling, and it isn’t necessarily Montessori, is to create play groups and let the children of various age groups play together. You will find that they tend to spontaneously play and teach without instruction or direction from adults. I notice this every day as Isaiah plays outside with children ranging from 3 to 12 years of age.

What is good about Montessori?

The self-directed or passion-driven learning is good.

  • Collaborative play is great.
  • The principles are sound and should be adaptable.
  • It encourages independence and growth of skill sets. It is a very hands-on way of learning.
  • If you follow it, even partially, it presents the child with information in different formats. As an example, the sandpaper letters let the child see the shape, a color, and feel the texture while they trace it with their finger.

What isn’t so good?

  • It can be expensive
  • It can be rigid, especially from the purist and those who swear by Montessori.
  • The materials are to be used in a particular manner. You may not get the full benefit if you don’t follow the way it should be used.
  • It is hard to implement a true Montessori classroom in your home.

What do I think about it?

Well, I like the general principles of Montessori. I think child-led learning is best and should be followed as much as possible. There does, I believe, need to be structure and this provides too much. I can’t afford to implement a true Montessori classroom so my wife and I pick and choose what to implement and how to use it. We have had success with Isaiah and are working with our daughter on learning letters and numbers. You can find what we do here. I am not a proponent of following just one philosophy of homeschooling but to take what works and fits and using it. I find this approach works well with curriculums and just about everything with homeschooling.

A few resources for those looking to try the Montessori method while homeschooling

You can also check out our cheap homeschooling guide here and how to homeschool when you have no time here!

How about you? Do you use the Montessori method? What was your experience? Remember you can subscribe and leave a comment below. You can join our Liberty Parents Facebook group here as well.

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