The Montessori method of education was formulated by Dr Maria Montessori about a century ago. The main aim of the Montessori method is to promote the joy of learning. The system respects the unique needs, individuality and talents of each child. Children are allowed to learn without restriction and criticism. All these contribute to making the child happy, confident and self-directed. It also teaches the child to be self-reliant and independent.
Children who follow the Montessori method of learning, learn their life skills using a practical, hands-on approach. They are exposed to various activities that stimulate the child's physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs. When children were provided materials to explore and learn, they concentrated deeply on the materials. These children exhibited a transition from a state of fantasy, lack of attention and unorderliness to a state of concentration, peacefulness and orderliness in their surroundings. Dr Montessori referred to this transition as normalisation and such children as normalised.
The main goal of Montessori method is to help children learn by self-teaching and self-correcting. Montessori believed that children learnt best in a prepared environment. This prepared environment can be either inside or outside the home. Here, the child can safely handle anything that she chooses. She can explore, touch and learn without fear. Also, she can move around the room freely and there are no set deadlines for learning a task.
The materials and activities provided in the prepared environment cover three basic areas
The practical life activities that are carried out using this method in a prepared environment are classified into the following categories:
Some interesting facts that Maria Montessori observed about children in such an environment are:
Montessori believed that each child had sensitive periods when she exhibited certain behaviours more often and mastered skills quicker than other times. Children find learning a particular skill easy during a sensitive period. According to her (1906), “A sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait. Once this trait or characteristic has been acquired, the special sensibility disappears....”
All children are blessed with the same set of sensitive periods. But the sequence and time that each sensitive period occurs varies from child to child. During the early years, children must be respected for what they are. Unlike adults, they have the ability to learn and understand from their surroundings in terms of quality and capacity. At this stage, children work towards carrying out an activity and not the completion of a task. This helps them in enhancing the development of their mental, physical and psychological powers.