“The child can only develop by means of experience in his environment. We call such experience work.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori method is based on observation, first and foremost. Observe the child, in order to discover his unique personality, needs, tendencies, and talents. It is preparation of educational material in the environment to meet these needs; it is respect for each child’s rhythm and choices, interests, and ways of processing information; and, it is a profound respect for – and protection of – the crucial periods of concentration and contemplation, that nurture the child, and reveal the normal human: peaceful, happy, kind, generous, focused, hard-working, healthy, and creative.
The Montessori prepared environment supports this method. In it, the world is introduced with joy, and through precise work with the hands and the mind; it is an environment where learning and work are seen as the means to happiness, self-construction, and a deep love for others, and the world.
Sparked by their innate curiosity, children learn by using their eyes, ears, hands, nose and mouth to discriminate, compare and classify. The materials and activities in the Montessori classroom are designed to stimulate and refine a child’s powers of observation, so she will acquire judgment and understanding.
In the Montessori class the child is introduced to the basic skills of intellect as a spontaneous result and extension of his sensory experiences. Presented with a sandpaper letter, for example, the child will look at it, trace its outline and repeat the sound. He acquires an aural, visual and tactile awareness, and, while he gains recognition, he learns to write. Because each child advances at her own pace, it is not unusual to see a four- or five-year-old reading, writing and doing simple arithmetic.
While such accomplishments are not the primary objective of the Montessori method, they help substantiate the theory that children are enthusiastic, willing and able learners.