This is a guest post from Emily Lund, M.Ed., Head of Lower School at Barrie School.
When I first entered a Montessori classroom, I kept asking the teacher, “Are you sure they are only three years old?” I observed these young children independently changing into their indoor shoes, cleaning up after their snack, washing their dishes, and even sewing with a real needle and thread!
I quickly realized that when they said “I can do it myself,” if they were given the opportunity, they really could do it themselves.
The Montessori philosophy fosters that “I can do it myself” attitude through a prepared environment of hands-on materials and individualized lessons carefully guided by a specially trained teacher.
The Montessori Method
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that the formative first six years of life are critical, and that a child’s mind is like a sponge absorbing everything going on around them during which patterns of learning are formed.
She came to realize that children have a natural love of learning and that education must be provided in a secure, consistent and harmonious environment. Dr. Montessori believed that children learn more and stay engaged when they have a choice in what to learn, and that philosophy can be observed in Montessori classrooms around the world.
A Montessori classroom differs from a traditional classroom in many ways. Commonly observed differences found in a Montessori classroom include:
- A prepared environment that is child-centered
- Concrete materials that provide hands-on learning
- Curriculum placed on the shelves in order from simple to complex
- A lead teacher moving from child to child guiding them through lessons instead of standing at the front of the classroom while an assistant teacher assists other students working independently
- Multi-age groupings
- Grace, courtesy and respect – the foundation of the Montessori environment
- Individualized, self-paced curriculum
- A focus on the whole child – social, emotional, intellectual and physical development are all considered
- Absence of a traditional grading system
The Top Benefits of a Montessori Education
As a parent of two Montessori children, I have seen first-hand the benefits of a Montessori education. Over the course of my 23-year career as a Montessori teacher and administrator, I’ve watched toddlers grow into driven, confident, and responsible global citizens as adults.
The benefits of a Montessori education are life-long, providing students with the skills to navigate their own academic course, social interactions, and the tools for success such as time management, self-regulation, conflict resolution, and acute problem solving skills.
Provides freedom within limits
With guidance from the teacher, students may choose any activity which is called “work” that the teacher has demonstrated first. This freedom of choice allows students to have ownership in their learning which keeps them engaged, often learning more, and a feeling of accomplishment at mastery. Making one’s own choices also fosters independence.
The absence of rewards and punishments instills intrinsic motivation and a sense of responsibility. Children learn to do things because it’s what’s expected of them rather than for a reward. Likewise, they suffer natural consequences when they misbehave or make a poor choice rather than a punishment that is unrelated to the behavior.
Values the individual child
Every child is unique and in a Montessori classroom, children learn at their own pace and are taught in a way that complements their learning style. Students are carefully guided by the teacher who “follows the child.”
Supports social-emotional skills
The multi-age classroom, which usually spans three years, allows children to learn from one another. The older students take on a leadership role and the younger students absorb everything going on around them and lean on the older children for support when challenges arise. With grace, courtesy and respect as the foundation of the learning environment, children learn to resolve conflicts peacefully.
At Barrie School, our value of respect for self, each other, and the environment is instilled with even our youngest students.
Supports the child as an active seeker of knowledge
The prepared environment provides the tools and freedom to find answers to their own questions. Outside the classroom, students explore the natural world around them.
At Barrie School, even our youngest toddlers spend time outdoors each day exploring the beautiful 45-acre campus, learning to observe, developing their curiosity, and taking risks. These practical life experiences lead to curiosity and engagement in the classroom and academic success later on.
Cultivates a life-long love of learning
Montessorians remain perpetually curious about the world around them, seeing learning as an enjoyable life-long process rather than a burden that ends when the school day ends. Focusing on the process, mastering a concept before moving on, and the satisfaction of completion instills intrinsic motivation.
This benefit stays with children their entire lives and becomes a propelling force through secondary education, their career, or even just in the experiences they have and the people they encounter.
For more than 100 years, Montessori schools have been transforming education and shaping the lives of children who grow into productive, happy adults.
A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology provides evidence that a Montessori education may be superior to traditional methods of education, especially on measures relating to students’ long-term psychological health and well-being. Researchers surveyed almost 2,000 adults ranging in age from 18 to 81 with a series of well-being surveys.
When comparing the results of those who attended Montessori schools as children with those who attended traditional schools, they found strong evidence of elevated psychological well-being in those who went to Montessori schools as children. (Psychology Today, 2022)
A Montessori education is not only one your child will love, but one that will have lasting benefits. Montessori is known for its whole-child focus, individualized curriculum, and self-paced learning but it also instills independence, encourages empathy, produces a passion for social justice, and fosters a life-long love of learning.
Discover Montessori at Barrie School
Serving a diverse and inclusive student body, our intentional educational throughline—from Montessori (12 months to Grade 5) to Project-Based Learning (Grades 6-12) —cultivates learning that lasts. Our community fosters a deep sense of belonging and honors student voice and responsibility, coming together to create engaged citizens with diverse and inclusive worldviews who are confident to be and advocate for themselves.
Our extraordinary learning environment on 45 acres also houses the world-renowned Barrie Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies, and Barrie Camp, a D.C. area tradition since the 1950s.