Montessori is a worldwide recognised pedagogical concept in education. It is based on the philosophy of the development of the child, according to which a child gains operative knowledge in the areas of life in which he/she will take part as an adult. Montessori is a complete and original education system which emphasises the significance of a child's own activity and individual tempo of development and has a unique approach to the technique of learning. The emphasis is not on teaching a child, but on providing a supportive environment which raises the child's natural curiosity and enables a child through play to learn spontaneously by exploring.
The Montessori system emphasises the significance of children’s inborn potentials, as well as their natural development. Understanding of children's natural development is based on the premise that they possess inborn motivation for building themselves up, which is explained by their possession of the inborn pattern of an integral relationship with the environment and the need of a child for freedom.
There are sensitive periods in the development of a child which are expressed through a strong interest in long-term repetition of certain methods for no visible reason to adults. As long as adults are aware of these periods and as long as they recognise them, to a large extent they can help the child, right at that most optimal time, to develop their given skills to the maximum.
Montessori methods pay great attention particularly to those periods and through its flexibility allow each child at that time to develop at a speed that is individual and in a period of sensitivity. Sensitive periods are important because at no other period in their life will a child be able to pick up certain knowledge as successfully as then. Dr Maria Montessori spoke about six sensitive periods in young children. These periods refer to: development of language use, improvement of motor skills, social relationships, order, sensory awareness and attention to details.
Once the sensitive period passes, it becomes much more difficult for the child to pick up the same characteristics. The task for adults is to follow the needs of the child and to organise the environment and their behaviour so that the child can make full use of this interval, this particularly sensitive period. Montessori pedagogy responds to these needs by making special materials and activities as a response to these sensitive periods, and for this reason there are: practical life activities, motor skills activities, language improvement activities, mathematical activities and cosmic education activities.
Thanks to the system of activities, the child lays a foundation for future activity: concentration, coordinated movement, capability of free choice, responsibility, order, will and persistence.
A significant factor in development is also "the absorbent mind". This is the time when the nrain of the child unconsciously absorbs impressions from the surroundings, according to which he/she is formed. The child's mind unconsciously absorbs information from the environment and this is how the child learns. For this reason, the child's every experience is very important right from earliest childhood, because it has an effect of later development. From 0-3 years learning is unconscious, but from 3-6 years learning moves to the conscious. The conscious mind is marked by the phenomena of awareness, will, language improvement and the appearance of skills. The child shows a conscious hunger for knowledge and improvement of complex skills.
At the heart of Montessori pedagogy is the child. Children are not subjected in advance to a particular plan or programme, but the plan and programme are determined according the abilities, interests, possibilities and conditions of the individual child.
"The child does not develop by learning words, but by gaining experience." – Maria Montessori
|Traditional kindergarten||Montessori programme|
|Dominant role of a central plan and programme||The child is at the centre|
|Homogeneous groups of children||Heterogeneous groups of children|
|Rigidity of the syllabus and daily regimen||Respect for a child's own tempo|
|Dominant role of textbooks||Practical work and direct experience|
|Mechanical fragmentation of scientific disciplines into subjects||Cosmic learning – where the world is presented to the child as a whole|
|Motivation by teachers||Motivation by personal development|
|The teacher controls||The teacher observes|
|Work with the entire group||Individual work|
|The teacher at the centre and dominant||The teacher is an observer and directs the child|
|A "cycle of activities" occurs according a timetable||The child forms his/her own "cycle of activities"|
|Particular place for work at a table||Freedom of movement and work|
|The teacher disciplines||Self-discipline|
|The teacher helps||Mutual help among children|
|Constant interruption of work||Several interruptions of work|
|The teacher determines the work||Children choose the activities|
|The teacher determines the tempo||Individual tempo of work|
|The teacher teaches||Freedom of independent discovery|
|Focus on the abstract||Focus on the concrete|
|"Role playing"||Real life|
|The teacher is the source of knowledge||Interaction between children, the environment and materials is the source of knowledge|
"I have observed and studied children, I have taken from them what they have given me, and that is what I have expressed. This is what is called the Montessori method."
The aim of the Montessori method is the cultivation of children's independence, to indirectly encourage interests in various fields, and to turn learning into a game.
"We have to make the child aware that every civilisation's achievements are thanks to many people who are no longer around. If we reveal to him/her how certain knowledge was gained from its beginnings, he/she will enjoy learning more. We write and read and the child can discover how writing emerged, how and with what people wrote in the beginning, and how this led to such a large number of books. Every geographical map hides behind it the efforts of countless explorers and pioneers, who discovered new places, rivers and lakes by conquering unknown regions and made the world for us larger and richer. We encourage children to direct their attention to the thousands of people who, through their work, contributed to great things, but who themselves were neither famous nor rich."
(Maria Montessori, 1948)