MONTESSORI METHOD: WHY IT WORKS SO WELL
Awareness that children shouldn’t be made to fit into educational boxes provided by the establishment has been mainstream for many decades. It was the Montessori method that played a huge part in spreading the concept that learning could be fun and beneficial.
The Montessori method of learning is based on three things:
- Self-directed activities and educational choices
- Collaborative play (either teacher/adult/parent + child or children together)
- Hands-on learning experience
By creating an environment geared toward the child making their own creative choices with the provision of age-appropriate activities, it lets you guide the learning process while everyone has fun!
Every parent wants to be able to offer their children a beautifully thought-out play area that also allows the child to derive some benefit from most – if not all – of the activities. As your children grow, their environment and learning needs must be able to change with them. This is why the Montessori method works so well for every family unit who has decided to give it a try: it’s activities and learning that grow as your children develop.
Why Should I Try Montessori?
First up, research shows that Montessori activities help children to learn “self-regulation as well as sustained attention.” In other words, the learning materials provided by Montessori help develop something call executive functions – also called EF.
EF is a learning process that encourages an individual from a very young age to become more self-aware of the consequences of their actions in a supportive and positive environment. Basically, the child learns how to control their actions and gets to choose the knowledge they want to absorb at their own pace.
Executive functions include:
- Attention control
- Working memory
- Cognitive flexibility (common sense, practical knowledge, intellectual ability, and knowing when to use it)
- Control of inhibitions
The best thing about executive functions is that these learning and social skills can be developed or improved at any time. This means that over the course of a person’s life, the sooner you start to learn EF, the easier it is for you to score high on anything that tests your cognitive processing abilities.
This might sound very complicated, but it’s actually very simple: When you focus on key developmental milestones in your child’s life, it broadens their learning experience.
The Montessori method of learning is so effective that it has even been used to supplement non-Montessori classrooms. (3)
Proof that the Montessori Method is Highly Effective
The Montessori method involves engagement on several levels. As any parent knows, interacting with a child is always good for development. This is one of the key benefits of Montessori. As important as the learning materials are, for the method to be truly effective it involves engagement with others.
Only when you do this is it possible to observe certain things. One of these observations will be the ability to see what really interests your child. Did you know that a child is capable of long periods of concentration? But only when the activity they are doing captures their interest spontaneously.
That means the two essential features of the way kids engage with their Montessori learning materials promote concentration.
1. The Internal Work Cycle
This describes the cycle of activity that surrounds the use of each new material. For example: if a child wants to play with a tower block kit, they will need to find a large enough floor space; unroll their mat to delineate their play area; carry and set up the tower block kit from the storage box; finally, they are ready to start building the tower!
After the playtime, they dismantle the tower kit and put it back in storage. The child’s internal work cycle is spurred on by the ability to choose what engages them, the freedom to set it up in their own space, and then put it all away afterwards. These key elements develop many different facets in the learning process.
2. The External Work Cycle
The second essential feature aimed to promote concentration is the fact that these activities take place within a certain period of time. In those few hours, the child can choose to play on their own or with other children if they are around. This allows them to discover their own rhythm.
You might be wondering now, “where do I come into this?” Although your child has a lot of freedom to move around as they will, it’s not entirely without limitation. You are there to make suggestions about which toy is best, select a new material, eliminate outside disturbances, and challenge your child with a new toy (or have a discussion about it, at least).
Montessori at Home
I don’t know about you, but I can watch children play for ages. I love to see them form their own dynamic with their favorite toys and interact with their surroundings. This freedom of choice to explore is what makes the Montessori way of learning and playing so adaptable.
You can choose a learning level perfectly adapted for the age of each of your children. Starting as birth and following the child all the way up to adolescence, there will never be a time when you struggle for something to do or play with. But Montessori isn’t all about activities and learning. There are many other benefits to giving the Montessori method a try.
- Develops with your child
- Encourages cooperative playtime
- Inspires self-discipline
- Child-centric learning (as opposed to teacher-centric learning)
- Boosts self-discipline
- Teaches creativity
- Effectively develops a wide range of skills
- Highly individualized to each child
- Hands-on learning
If this sounds like something you want for your child or children, you will be pleased to know that science backs up your decision. A review of all the evidence (limited to case studies done in certain schools) showed statistics demonstrate the effectiveness of the Montessori method.
Are you ready to get started with Montessori? Let us know in the comments below if you are just getting started or how long you’ve been practicing!
- Lillard (1972) Montessori – A Modern Approach (NY, Schocken)
- Brehony (2000) Montessori & Individual Work and Responsibility in the Classroom