The aims of the programme and the aims of the Montessori programme are largely common goals:
Encouraging self-sufficiency, individual responsibility – the principle of independence is seen, according to Maria Montessori, in the child's natural yearning to be as self-sufficient as possible during his/her development; he/she need self-sufficiency in order to follow his/her inner drives for activity which will be useful for him/her. The feeling of self-sufficiency is directly connected to success in the family, kindergarten, school and life.
The motto of Montessori pedagogy – "Help me to do it on my own" – arose from studying the relationship between children and adults and the role of the adult in the process of learning. Maria Montessori commented on this: "We serve children. We consider a children to be like inanimate dolls; we wash them, feed them just like with dolls. We never give a moment's thought that the child that is not doing something, cannot do that thing, that he/she must do that and that natural has offered all the means to allow the child to learn to do it. Our duty towards the child is definitely to help him/her to improve in their activities. If we do not, then we insult the child's dignity as a human, because humans are by nature directed to look after themselves. Teaching a child to eat, wash and dress him/herself takes much longer, is much harder and more patient work than feeding, washing or dressing him/her. The first job is to education, the second is to serve."
The habits, skills and knowledge which the child picks up through the Montessori method helps him/her to notice things more carefully, to concentrate better, to be more effective and to more easily cope with new situations. Montessori children are unusually adaptive because from their very earliest days are encouraged to make decisions, they easily solve problems and know how to make choices and to organise their time well. These children are encouraged to understand their ideas, to discuss about their work with others and thus to develop good communication abilities.
Development of intellectual capacities in line with developmental needs, opportunities and interests – the Montessori system emphasises the significance of the inborn potential of the child, as well as his natural development. Understanding of the natural development of the child is based on the idea that he/she possesses inborn motivation for building him/herself up, which is explained by the possession of an inborn pattern of an integral relationship with the environment and the child's need for freedom.
Sensitive periods, which are expressed through a strong interest in log-term repetition of certain methods for no reasons visible to adults, are significant in the development of the child. As long as adults are aware of these periods and recognise them, they can greatly help the child particular at this optimal time and develop the child's skills to their maximum extent. The Montessori method pays a lot of attention precisely to these periods and its flexibility enables every child to optimally develop at a rate which is individual, as well as during the period of sensitivity.
The Montessori method completely respects children's individuality and starts from this very point. Every child sets his/her own work tempo in discovering new things, or confirms what he/she has already learned by repeating exercises from an inner sense of success.
The child's individualised learning starts with work with Montessori materials, while learning Montessori activities, in a Montessori ambient; the child chooses the materials and activities him/herself because he/she has understood the idea of the need for objects; he/she develops the capability of making decisions, which is methodically worked out through special steps; by controlling mistakes in Montessori materials, the child corrects him/herself during the very process of learning, and learns to control him/herself on his/her own.
Development of social and moral values in line with the humane and tolerant values of a democratically ordered society – the Montessori method is conceived to use the advantages of self-motivation and children's unique ability for self-development and improvement of personal abilities. In this way, it contributes to the development of a greater self-confidence and self-respect in children. Children learn self-discipline, develop a constructive relationship towards others and respect for other individuals and their rights, which secures respect of these same rights towards the children themselves.
Work in Montessori kindergartens/nursery schools is organised with children that have various calendar ages. The child should gain experience in this sort of environment in a way that mirrors real life around him/her, where he/she meets people younger and older than him/her, and with people of different abilities, interests, temperaments, etc. In a group of this sort, young children learn from older children, feel secure and protected; older children learn by repeating to others, when they are showing younger children something. A sense of responsibility, self-respect and self-confidence is built up. Older children help in presenting materials, in accepting the rules of living together.
Cultivating children's emotions and nurturing relationships of non-violent communication and tolerance – Maria Montessori, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, devoted a large part of her pedagogical work to her great dream for humanity – the dream of creating a unique peace, a peaceful world. A lecture by Maria Montessori, in 1932 in Geneva, under the title "Peace and education" turned attention to the then-new area of education – education for peace. She said, "Education is a means for reaching peace, and peace is a basis for good education, which is based on love, understanding, freedom, justice and order, and not in the struggle between the weak and the strong. Those who are strong and independent help those who are weak and improve themselves. In this same path, the weak are strengthened."
In education for peace, which is located in the framework of area of activities to find out about nature and cope in the living environment, Montessori defined five areas for education of peace: human rights and needs; self-awareness; community awareness; cultural awareness; and environmental awareness. Peace is defined as: peace as the opposite of war; peace as a balance of strength; peace as non-violence in society; peace as non-violence towards the individual; and peace as non-violence towards nature.
Through these activities children find out about and develop the skills of understanding and respecting – themselves, others, culture and the environment, they recognise good intentions, we encourage them towards understanding the consequences their own choices and decisions, and we make them aware of rights and the power of choice. They gain a peace-loving and unique way of solving conflict.
The integral part of the activities of finding out about nature and coping in the living environment are also activities connected to emotions. The following activities are carried out according to the Montessori programme: finding out about certain feelings; recognising and differentiating feelings; becoming aware of how our feelings affect the mind and body; development of empathy; exercises for non-verbal expression of feelings; and picking up expressions and words to express sympathy.
Development of awareness about the significance of protection and care for the natural and social environment – the Montessori ambient always contains a corner for plants, a corner for animals that the children, together with the teacher, take care of, as well as looking after the garden around the kindergarten.
Within the activities of finding out about nature and coping in the living environment, one of the areas is ecology, which includes: developing awareness about the environment; finding out about the environment through the senses; perceiving the importance of taking care of the environment and the entire planet. "When we look at the sun and moon, the sky and stars, the mountains and rivers, the sea and forests, fields and valleys, birds and animals, and all the wonders in nature, we need to remember how we all belong to the same universe, and should be grateful for our environment on earth and live in harmony with everything that surrounds us." – Maria Montessori, 1932, Geneva.
Apart from common goals, all segments of the Mandatory Plan and Programme for children aged between 3 and 6, and those that are prescribed by the Bureau for Schooling, are oriented to the humanist understanding of the child's nature and his/her physical and mental development, as well as the pedagogical concepts of Maria Montessori. An essential reflection of the humanist approach of Maria Montessori is that is begins with the natural development of the child, the child's natural "instinct" for self-development, free choice of materials for development, through which he/she develops his/her abilities. The essential determinants that the child is a value in his/her own right and that he/she carries in his/herself developmental potential, similarly overlap.
What both programmes have in common is that they start with a child who is active in the process of education. The process of education conceived in this way is based on: positive motivation, a programme which respects the age-related and developmental possibilities of the child and on the evaluation of achievements which in the Montessori concept is self-value.
Help, support and guidance by adults are related to the requirements in the Mandatory Plan and Programme for children aged 3-6, and which are prescribed by the Bureau for Schooling, and in Montessori pedagogy, above all on the adaptation of the contents to the children's capabilities, encouragement and guidance of the child in his/her self-activities and removing the obstacles and limits which stand in the way of discovery and self-observation.
The general bases of the preschool programme define the essence of preschool education and upbringing as: preserving, encouraging and refining the spontaneous creative abilities and characteristics of the preschool child, requiring conditions for normal physical, intellectual, social, emotional and moral development. In the conception of Maria Montessori, the advance preparation of an environment that enables the child to develop all the potentials of his/her personality – his/her entire personality – are significant.
Instead of corners (model B) or centres of interest (model A), in Montessori spaces shelves with Montessori materials are open, accessible to children, representing areas of learning. These are shelves for practical activities; shelves with materials for the development of sensory skills; shelves with materials from the area of language and speech activities; shelves with materials from the area of mathematical/logical activities; shelves with materials from areas connected to activities of finding out about nature and coping with the living environment. Of course, besides Montessori materials, in these kindergartens/nursery schools we can also find ordinary toys, didactic materials, exercise books, arts materials and audio-visual means, Orpheo musical instruments and all the other materials we find in standard kindergartens.