Respect for the individual child and a recognition that each child learns differently is at the heart of Montessori education. This philosophy is readily apparent in Montessori classrooms—refreshing environments in which intellectually engaged students are encouraged to make choices in the planning and follow-through of the workday. The application of this philosophy allows each child adequate time for individual mastery of tasks and concepts. Children pass through sensitive periods of development early in life. Dr. Montessori described the child's mind between the time of birth and six years of age as the "absorbent mind". It is during this stage that a child has a tremendous ability to learn and assimilate from the world around him, without conscious effort. During this time, children are particularly receptive to certain external stimuli. A Montessori teacher recognizes and takes advantage of these highly perceptive stages through the introduction of materials and activities which are specially designed to stimulate the intellect.
Certified Montessori teachers function in the classroom as mentors, guiding the children to understanding through discovery. Maria Montessori once said that the greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist."
In a Montessori classroom, children cultivate their own desire to learn in an environment that is supportive and challenging. The children are grouped in three-year age spans. Children work and play in a mixed age group of 3- to 6-year-olds. Younger children benefit from participating in a classroom with multiple levels of materials and lessons, while older children have the opportunity to serve as role models and helpers for younger children. This interaction develops a healthy sense of community and cooperation.
Montessori education supports individually paced academic progress that meets or surpasses state curriculum standards. Montessori children work within a written study plan. Students come alive through a host of hands-on projects and activities. For an education to profoundly touch a child’s heart and mind, he must be learning because he is curious and interested, not simply to earn the highest grades in the class. A quality Montessori classroom has a busy, productive atmosphere where joy and respect abound. Within such an enriched environment, freedom, responsibility, and social and intellectual development spontaneously flourish!