Montessori in action

Spotlight: What is the Montessori Method?

I love a psychology-based parenting book. Not fluffy celebs prattling on and giving their two pennies worth but real scientific findings in early years’ cognitive development.

I am also fascinated with teaching strategies. I have tried and tested my own ideas and gauged responses from hundreds of children in my classes over the years. My heart lies in nurture-based, child-led methods like Montessori and it’s ethos is very much integrated into my language programme.

One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.

Maria Montessori
Montessori activities are hands-on
Montessori activities are hands-on

Ask the expert!

For nearly 4 years, my children and I have been attending a playgroup called Montessori Mornings. This is run by Rosita and her business partner Sorour. Both are trained Montessori-educators and are close to achieving their dream of opening a Montessori nursery in Edinburgh in 2019!

Rosita from Montessori Mornings

I asked Rosita if she would give some details on Montessori as I know many parents who come to my classes would find her knowledge really interesting!

At the end she gives details on her newest project.

Here is what she shared…

Hi Rosita! Firstly, can you tell us briefly about your background?

Well, I was a working mum until I had my second child. I found them both so fascinating that I eventually realised the only thing that interested me was watching them grow and learn. Also, I really wanted them to grow up bilingual and the only way they were going to learn Farsi was if they heard it from me! Eventually I dived in and did Montessori training, which was a huge help to me as a mum.

Dr Montessori never set out to create a method of schooling. She was doing systematic research on what makes children thrive – empirical research done primarily by observing children. And pretty early on, she discovered principles that she felt very strongly should be universally applied to education. 

So the core principle is that it is education based on the child; their particular psychology, their stages of development, etc.  This sets it apart from other approaches that start out with a philosophy and try to mould children to fit a particular set of expectations.

The Montessori ethos is that children can and do teach themselves, given the right environment. And so our role is to prepare that environment to suit how each individual learns.

I love the fact that the Montessori Method is child-led. I think educators or class-leaders can often be so set on achieving their own goals that they don’t let children be in control of their own learning. For what ages is the Montessori Method applicable?

Dr Montessori’s emphasis was on the first six years, because these are when the brain is most absorbent, but she later developed programmes for 6 to 12s and, before she died, an outline of a 12 to 18 programme based on the special capacities of adolescents. Today, Montessori is even being used in therapies for people with dementia!

Are there subjects that the Montessori Method particularly lends itself to?

Montessori often referred to the way small children absorb language effortlessly to illustrate how they absorb all learning. When my kids were little, I found it amazing how they learned to talk in two languages simultaneously. You know, all those cute mistakes they make are actually really telling of a very systematic brain.

Children crave language because they are busy constructing their own language, and their understanding. In this early, super-eager stage, we give them correct grammar and the correct names for things, to help and not confuse them. When they hear the same words later in childhood they immediately tune in and are interested in everything because they have been ‘primed’ by their earlier experiences.

So I would say language is the one objective that weaves through the entire Montessori curriculum. Another is movement. Children learn through their senses, so they need to see, touch, smell, experiment with tactile things, and move their body.

Is there a set way for introducing foreign languages in Montessori?

There isn’t a set way for introducing foreign languages in Montessori, but if there were it would probably look a lot like Mini Languages, where it is the familiar expressions and objects that are used, with props, songs and actions, and a lot of repetition.

Finally, I hear you have big plans in Edinburgh – how are they coming along?

Prior to my Montessori training, I would never have imagined I’d be starting a nursery because what I did before was so unrelated!  But Sorour and I are really excited that we are going to be able to put everything we know into practice.  Language and literacy will be a big part of what we are going to be doing, as is working with people in our local community – that’s why we’re doublly excited about Mini Languages!

So there you have it…

Plenty of insider detail on Montessori. You can implement the ethos of independence by letting children undertake daily tasks themselves from a young age. You can arrange your household so that children can access toys, crafts, clothes and even snacks themselves. Also letting children explore learning materials without excessive adult intervention to cultivate a life-long love of learning!

If you are in the Edinburgh areas and love this ethos as much as I do you should check out Casa Montessori – opening soon…we also hope to collaborate with the nursery and run language sessions there. So the perfect educational environment for happy, thriving and future-proofed kids!

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