The Montessori Method: Letting children “be themselves” independently

Maria Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was a world-renowned early childhood educator in the twentieth century. She engaged in educational experiments and research for more than half a century, thus creating the Montessori method of early childhood education, characterized by the great importance attached to the early education of children, which took the whole Western world by storm and was hailed as “the greatest scientific and progressive educator of the twentieth century who won recognition in Europe and the world.
Montessori grew up in a peaceful, learned, and enlightened family, with her father, Alexandru Montessori, a gentle and conservative soldier, and her mother, Reneil Stoppani, a devout, kind, and strict Catholic. Although she was an only daughter and much favored by her parents, Montessori was not overly spoiled and received a good family education from a young age, developing an independent and eager-to-help personality.

When she was thirteen, she chose to study mathematics, which was also rare in Europe in the 1880s, and most girls would not have chosen mathematics as a major; at the age of 20, she entered the University of Rome to study biology and medicine. Girls studying medicine was even more unprecedented at the time. Montessori was the only girl in the medical class.

With unremitting efforts and perseverance, Montessori obtained a doctorate in medicine from the University of Rome at the age of 26, the first female medical doctor in Italy, and the first female doctor in Italy.

After graduation, Montessori worked as a clinical assistant psychiatrist at the University of Rome Hospital, diagnosing and treating children with physical and mental deficiencies, which led to an interest in the study of children.

In 1907, Montessori established the “Children’s Home” in the slums of Rome. She recruited children from 3 to 6 years of age for education and applied her own original method of teaching, which had astonishing results. The poor, ordinary children, after a few years, were transformed into intelligent, confident, vibrant children. The Montessori method of education was a sensation throughout Europe.

How exactly did the Montessori method of education do it?

1、Child-oriented

Montessori opposed the traditional teacher-centered education, education should be child-centered. Because Montessori believes that children have great potential, the development of children’s lives is towards independence, should create a “children’s world” centered on them, so that they can independently “be themselves” so that they can independently explore and learn. We advocate creating a good learning environment with bright and rich teaching materials (including natural and humanistic), teaching materials that are appropriate to the child’s stage of intellectual development, and all hardware and equipment at the child’s height because, in the children’s home, everything is done by the children themselves. Children are allowed to take the initiative to touch and study, and teachers give assistance and guidance from the side to form wisdom at the right time. At the same time, the Montessori method respects the child’s pace, with no schedule or drop-off and pick-up times, allowing the child to focus on developing his or her inner needs.

2、Grasp the child’s sensitive period

Montessori proposes that the sensitive period of a child’s early education is very crucial and that following the characteristics of a sensitive learning period can get the maximum learning effect. 0-6 years old children, in different stages of growth, there will be various sensitive periods of preference for different things. “It is this sensitive period that allows children to approach the outside world with characteristic intensity. During this period, they are prone to learn everything and are full of energy and enthusiasm for everything.”

Sensitive period of language: around 2 months the toddler begins to absorb language, the language he acquires is what he hears from his surroundings. When he says his first words, there is no need to prepare anything special for him. In Montessori’s view, the acquisition and use of language skills are one of the external manifestations of a young child’s intellectual development.

The sensitive period of order: it appears from the first year of life and lasts until the age of four. It is an internal sense for young children to distinguish between various objects, rather than the objects themselves.

Tactile sensitivity: Toddlers will reach out their small hands toward external objects. The initial thrust of this action represents the toddler’s self-entry into the external world. It is through the activity of the hand that the toddler is able to develop his or herself and develop his or her mind.

Sensitivity to details: The toddler will show sensitivity to details at the age of 2-3 years, and his attention is often focused on the smallest details. This indicates the presence of the young child’s mental life and the fact that young children and adults have two different intellectual horizons.

Coordination sensitivity: This is one of the most easily observed sensitivity periods in the development of young children. The toddler learns to walk through individual effort and gradually achieves balance and acquires a steady pace. It should occur between the ages of 2 and 3 years.

3、Cultivating the child’s complete personality

The greatest purpose of the Montessori method of education is to assist the child in forming a full personality and developing good social behavior. Using mixed-age teaching, children of different ages staying together will imitate and learn from each other, like the beginnings of a small society in which children learn to respect and accept others, and learn how to share and coexist; rejecting the system of rewards and punishments and adopting a respectful approach, the child develops a budding sense of dignity. The Montessori curriculum, which includes sensory, motor, physical-energetic, linguistic, and moral development, enables the individual to become a person of mind, body, and spirit. “Freedom” and “discipline” are united, and “individuality” and “community” are balanced. We inspire children to be able to solve problems, adapt to new environments, and build themselves and their minds.

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