Understanding Montessori Education
Many parents come to Princeton because they’ve heard about our Montessori program. They’ve heard that it inspires students to become passionate, lifelong learners and that it’s completely different from a traditional education where a teacher stands at the front of the classroom. A little over 100 years ago, however, an Italian doctor named Maria Montessori changed education forever when she proposed a revolutionary child-centered education model. Today we’d like to share the story of the founding of the Montessori education.
Unlike the traditional teacher-centered education, the Montessori education is focused on inspiring children to drive their own learning. Teachers guide the students and provide help, while encouraging students to choose their tasks and decide how to best approach each challenge. Children who attend Montessori schools learn to value cooperation, stay within the framework of rules and think about how their actions affect others. Students retain their creativity and push themselves to excel due to their love of learning and their own natural curiosity. Above and beyond standard school subjects, Montessori students are taught how to fit a larger worldview into their thinking and encouraged to be curious and creative students. Montessori’s philosophy and psychological principles led her to devise carefully graded series of self-teaching devices that are now commonly accepted and supported by current research. Montessori education thrives through its concern for the child, the teacher and the environment.
The very young child is in the process of forming impressions of his or her own nature and ability; of other people; and of life in general – impressions that can last a lifetime. To reach the highest potential possible, the child must develop a healthy self-concept; wholesome attitudes and values; desirable skills and habits; independence and self-reliance; the ability to adjust and to think reflectively; as well as a sensitivity in human relationships and a curiosity and appreciation of nature and the world that surrounds him.
Scientific research confirms that Montessori children have an advantage not only academically, but also in social and emotional development.
The role of the Montessori teacher differs considerably from that of a traditional teacher. She observes and assists the child according to the child’s individual needs and interests. She is trained to recognize periods of readiness and to demonstrate the correct use of the material to the children. She reinforces in a positive manner. At times she may encourage a hesitant child. At other times, she may divert a child who chooses material beyond his ability. She protects the child’s integrity and allows the child to have the freedom of choice to make decisions. The child’s decisions are expected to reflect a sense of responsibility. He is helped by the teacher's manner, which is firm and consistent, yet patient and gentle.
A prepared Montessori environment fosters satisfaction in learning by discovery and a joy in achievement. The climate and selected activities are prepared to interest and motivate the child and to protect him from unnecessary failure. Montessori materials develop basic problem solving and observational techniques. The child begins in the concrete and manipulative materials and gradually works toward the abstract. Dr. Maria Montessori’s recognition of the importance of a stimulating environment is now supported by a multitude of studies in early learning. The classroom is equipped with specially designed and sequenced materials which Dr. Montessori devised ensuring the child is stimulated and challenged.
Timeline of Montessori Education
1907: The first Montessori School
At the beginning of the 20th century, Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy's first female doctor, opened the Casa dei Bambini (Children's House) in 1907 to provide education to low-income children in Rome. Instead of using traditional teaching methods, Maria Montessori began testing her own child-centered educational theories in the classroom.
The Casa dei Bambini was unique because it focused on educating each child based on his or her development stage. Dr. Montessori encouraged children to take ownership of what they wanted to learn and worked with each child to create a personalized education that played to that child’s strengths. Children were encouraged to cooperate and work together to accomplish their goals.
1909: Montessori Education recognized all over the world
In 1909, Dr. Montessori described her educational process in detail in Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientifica applicato all’educazione infantile nelle Case dei Bambini. Titled The Montessori Education in English, her book captured the attention of educators all over the world and in the next two decades, Montessori schools sprang up on all six continents. Today, Maria Montessori is known as one of the foremost pioneers of education in the 20th century.
1912: Montessori Schools open in the United States
In the United States, The Montessori Education made a big impression. By 1912, Dr. Montessori was a sought-after speaker on this side of the Atlantic and there were over 100 Montessori schools in the U.S by the end of 1913.
Montessori Education Today
Montessori education has a long record of success across the world, preparing children to take on the challenges of the future. Many parents choose this type of education because of its long and proven history and the way it works closely with each child's level of development. Successful Montessori graduates include:
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former First Lady
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize-winning novelist
Anne Frank, famous child diarist from World War II
Prince William and Prince Harry, sons of Charles, Prince of Wales
Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actresses
Sean Combs, famous rapper
Julia Child, first TV chef
Helen Hunt, Academy Award winning actress
George Clooney, Academy Award winning actor
David Blaine, magician (also sent his children to a Montessori school)
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill & Hillary Clinton
Dakota Fanning, Academy Award nominated actress
Today, the Montessori classroom is still centered around children and their educational interests and uses the latest findings about child development to ensure that each child's education is appropriate for their level of development. At Princeton Preparatory Schools, we continue to teach according to the principles of Maria Montessori. Our school educates children from 18 months through kindergarten and we continue the Montessori education for children in Grades 1 to 3 in our elementary program.
If you’re considering a Montessori education for your child and would like to learn more about our School, we invite you to schedule a tour of our campus.