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What is Montessori?


Written by McKenna Von Gunten

Have you ever wondered why children are fascinated with water? Or noticed that when the timer goes off on the oven for dinner, they’ll eagerly help you set the table? Why do brothers and sisters find great joy in building a house out of Legos together? Why do they run to the closet and get the broom as crumbs fall to the ground from their pb&j sandwich? How are washing the dishes or doing the laundry fun for them?
Why are children fascinated by things that seem trivial and part of normal life for us?
The answer is that we were all created to find delight in learning out of curiosity and passion. We were made to learn, dream, brainstorm new ideas, seek out the truth, and be creative with the abilities and minds that the Lord has given us. As adults, we’ve suppressed those desires because we’ve been taught that it’s inconvenient and impractical to the real world we live in. This is the beginning that paves the way for understanding what Montessori is all about. This blog will cover the history and method of Montessori as well as how it is affecting our culture today and how you can get involved.

Who Invented the Montessori Method?

The Montessori method is named after Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to get her masters in medicine in the late 1800’s. Shortly after finishing her studies, she became interested in education for young children who were mentally disabled. Through her observations, she discovered that children were able to better grasp new concepts when they could wrestle with difficult questions in a non-constrictive environment. In 1907, Maria opened her first Montessori school, Casa dei Bambini, also known as the Children’s House. Her education model allowed children to learn through interacting with the world around them in a fun and unique space while discovering the answers to their own questions. Because of Maria’s method, there are now more than 22,000 Montessori schools in at least 110 countries worldwide.

Is Montessori Different Compared to Traditional Schooling?

Traditional Schooling is often focused on what the teacher, state, or country holds as valuable knowledge for children to be educated on. This education method focuses on behaviors, structure, excellent grades, and high levels of achievement. Based on the industrial revolutionary model, the classroom environment is centered around lectures or lessons where children are expected to learn quietly from their individual seats and only ask a question when called upon. 95% of the world relies on the traditional way of getting an education, whereas Montessori seeks to encourage community, creativity, and curiosity. Montessori considers that each child has different needs and interests. As a constructivist system, it seeks to create an atmosphere where that child can learn out of curiosity and delight while developing social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity through discovering the answers to their questions. Today, Montessori makes up only 1% of the education systems in the world. Constructivism isn’t a new concept, but it’s also not taught in our society to do what you love. Kids in Montessori enjoy the learning process and demonstrate a further understanding of what they are learning than those in traditional schooling.

How Does This Model Work?

“Montessori is a hands-on, innovative, individual approach that creates a love of learning and learners for life.”

– Hand in Hand Christian Montessori

Imagine two young boys playing with toy hotrod cars. As they race them around on the floor, they will be interested in how the tires spin, why the cars make the noise they do, and what makes them work. If you recognize their interest in cars, you might give them books with explanations and pictures that they can study all day, or, you can take your boys out to your car and show them how the tires are connected to the axle. You can also show them how the engine works by opening up the hood and explaining how the different gears rotate to make it all work. Montessori is a hands-on learning experience similar to when you put tools and resources in the two young boys hands to replace a tire or change the oil. With guided help, they’ll learn in a fun environment while also having the freedom to make mistakes. Not only are these boys gaining knowledge and important life-skills, but they are gathering essential life-experience that can equip them for the future when the car breaks down on the side of the road in a foreign country.

Are Teachers Needed in Montessori?

There is always at least one teacher and an assistant teacher in each Montessori class. Instead of dictating the learning process, the teachers help maintain the classroom environment while ensuring that the children are participating in the learning activities.
“Montessori assumes that every learner has their own set of questions that they are curiously, passionately trying to find the answers to. The role of the teacher is to create the right environment for that learner to construct their answers and explore with enthusiasm.”

– Hand in Hand Christian Montessori

While in Montessori, children can only read or play with the material that they have been introduced to by the teacher as a measure of keeping order and control in the classroom. Once students become familiar with the material and show a 90% competency of understanding in that area, they will be introduced to a new subject.
“Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it and do not say a word. If you tell them, they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it themselves…What the hand does the mind remembers.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori

How are Parents Involved in the Learning Process?

Montessori is unique in the way that they value parents as the first and foremost teachers of their own children. Montessori teachers acknowledge that God has given parents a huge responsibility to love and care for the wellbeing of their children. Because of this, Montessori staff seeks to build partnerships with parents and develop a positive and safe environment where parents are free to engage in the learning process with their kids. This has proved to be a successful and efficient model in the world of education. Children are now able to look first to their parents if they have a question, and parents can interact and become familiar with the curriculum material alongside their kids. Montessori also recognizes that parents who actively invest in their children’s lives daily will see the fruit of their labor by the character qualities that are produced in their children in later years.

“The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

– Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Why Montessori?

“A child’s world is full of sights and sounds that appear chaotic, and in this chaos they must create order, thus learning to master themselves in the world in which they live.”

– Hand in Hand Christian Montessori

God has given every child the ability to think from a creative mind and come up with ideas of how to solve problems, react to situations, and retain knowledge. The Montessori method not only supports children with short-attention spans but also creates an atmosphere where children can learn out of delight and gain confidence in what knowledge they hold. By encouraging to engage with the elements around them, they will grow in their love and passion for learning how things work which will stretch their mental capacity to new lengths. This helps develop the brain in a much faster and efficient way, while also building character and discipline.

How Can I Get Involved in Montessori?

In our new Education in Missions Major at BGU, students will have the amazing opportunity to use the Montessori method while partnering with the largest Christian Montessori school in the nation, Hand in Hand Christian Montessori. HIHCM is located in multiple locations in Minnesota and encourages children to dream and explore while helping them grow in their faith in God. Upon graduation, BGU students will be eligible to take additional courses and undertake two semesters of student teaching from the Christian Montessori Training Center (CMTC) to earn a full Montessori teaching credential, which they can take with them on the mission field. The world is in need of well-defined Christian teachers who understand that education is not just in teaching but in the learning. Not only will you be able to teach children anywhere you go, but you will be impacting the next generation of great creative minds all over the world through Montessori.
“The human hand, so delicate and so complicated, not only allows the mind to reveal itself but it enables the whole human being to enter into special relationships with its environment.”

—Dr. Maria Montessori

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