I often get asked “what is Montessori?” now that I’m blogging more about it … & it’s a pretty loaded question. However, it is simply a different method of education and parenting. These are the basics:
- It is a scientifically designed method created by Maria Montessori (a progressive physician/anthropologist) over a century ago in Italy.
- It is based on countless hours of objective observation of children, in prepared environments. One of the big things that Montessori believed was to follow the child in order to know how they learn, what they need & how you can help them as a whole being.
- It is based around specific ‘sensitive periods’ of development. Montessori Mom summarised them like this:
Birth to 3 years:
The absorbent mind – the mind soaks up information like a sponge
Sensory learning and experiences: The child uses all five senses-touch, taste, feel, sight, and hearing-to understand and absorb information about his or her environment.
1 ½ to 3 years:
Language explosion-a child builds his or her future foundation for language at this period.
1 ½ to 4 years:
Development and coordination of fine and large muscle skills, advanced developing grasp and release skill spawns an interest in any small object (usually dangerous ones on the floor).
2 to 4 years:
Very mobile with greater coordination and refinement of movement, increased interest in language and communication (they love to tell stories- true or not!), aware of spatial relationships, matching, sequence and order of objects
2 ½ to 6 years:
Works well incorporating all five senses for learning and adapting to environment.
3 to 6 years:
Interest and admiration of the adult world, they want to copy and mimic adults-such as parents and teachers. One of the few times most children are very open to their parents and other adults.
4 to 5 years:
Using one’s hands and fingers in cutting, writing and art. Their tactile senses are very developed and acute.
4 ½ to 6 years:
Reading and math readiness, and eventually, reading and math skills.
- It respects the child’s individuality by emphasising respect for children’s abilities.
- It promotes self-esteem and healthy natural socialisation of not only children of their own age but of younger children, older children and adults.
- It allows for close, adaptable and personalised teacher/student relationships.
- It offers the child scientifically-designed materials to manipulate and learn from that are created with specific developmental milestones in mind.
- It provides the young child with mental order, self-discipline, and the ability to adapt and thrive in new environments.
- It encourages grace, courtesy, care of self & your environment, community awareness, cultural awareness and much more.
A great (free!) starting point is this catalogue which is quite detailed for the infant/toddler stages (lots to read but well written).
I find books by Maria Montessori herself to be complicated, particularly as an introduction to her theories.
However, there are several great books that I have read at the library (How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin for a start)
What I really love about Montessori is the thought that is put into the environment for the child, the way you interact with them & the respect for children in general.
I love that there is an emphasis on toys and materials that are natural, beautiful and stimulating. They are often purposeful and have a beginning and end which gives his play meaning. Too often are toys commercialised, plastic and electronic where there is little room for open-ended imaginative play.
I adore how everything is child-sized and accessible by children. Each playgroup is a weekly reminder to observe Cameron and to talk purposefully with him & trust in his thirst for knowledge.
Sure, it is a learning curve. There are spills of water when he decides not to focus as he takes his full watering can outside to the flowers; or a tanty when I ask him to put away the puzzle before sculpting dough. But each time he tries, he gets more confident and able.
Some examples of things that he has mastered recently are: putting on a beanie or hat himself, pouring himself a cup of water from the dispenser, his home puzzles, carrying a tray to and from the shelf to a table, spooning beans from one dish to the other, pouring activities, and more.
I have watched Cameron get so much more confident since he started his Montessori playgroup and even more again since we do more at home. I’m sure some of this new-found confidence also comes with age and ability but I do not underestimate how these little experiences have added up to positive changes in him.
In this instance, independence isn’t about getting my toddler to take care of himself and/or grow up, not at all. It is about helping him to do it himself and guiding him through everyday tasks and different toys that help him learn about his world and feel important.
There are tonnes of Montessori blogs out there but these are the ones that I enjoy:
One of my favourite blogs. Her post on dough sculpting inspired my dough kit with Cam & I love her post on setting up a water station at home. Meg used to be a Montessori teacher and now designs patterns & is a mother of two gorgeous boys. I love seeing Montessori in action. Her older posts on Finn’s Montessori-inspired nursery were one of the first things that made me look more into Montessori at home.
One of the best resources for Montessori-esque activities for little ones that are practical. There are tonnes of ideas and photos.
How We Montessori
A lovely Australian mama who has two boys and is really great at sharing her experiences with Montessori at home.
A very helpful and knowledgeable mother who has a wealth of information about Montessori at home and in daycare/kindy/etc and who is very realistic and understanding of the challenges of parenting.
I also love to search the internet for Montessori home environments and activities for inspiration. Hence my Montessori/Waldorf Board on Pinterest.
Speaking of the Waldorf (AKA Steiner) method; I will do a post on this with my thoughts, information and resources soon.
Hope that helped give you a bit more of an idea of what Montessori is about even if it isn’t your cup-of-tea