The following are the most important ideas that form the foundation of Montessori philosophy:
The Sensitive Periods – are windows of opportunities when a very strong desire or ability for learning a specific skill or knowledge is present. The value in understanding these sensitive
periods is in realizing that if a child, due to lack of external stimulation or opportunity, misses
these windows of opportunity, then natural development is lost. This is not to say that these skills or knowledge cannot be made up later in life; however, the learning will be on a conscious level and will require much more effort and possibly will result in frustration and/or discouragement.
There are 7 key sensitive periods:
- Order – (ages 1-3 yrs)
- Language and Sensory Perception – (birth – 6 yrs)
- Walking – (11 mos. – 1 ½ yrs)
- Interest to Detail – (2 – 2 ½ yrs)
- Sensitivity to Social Relations – (2 ½ to 5 yrs)
- Writing – (3 – 4 yrs)
- Reading – (4 ½ – 5 ½ yrs)
The Absorbent Mind – is the most formative time of development and takes place in two phases.
The first phase is between the ages of birth to 3 years. During these years the child experiences a quiet inner development, mostly responding to human stimuli. Starting at birth the child begins to naturally absorb and respond to her environment in a unconscious state of mind and will have remarkable ability to process the information effortlessly.
The absorbent mind is always active and never passive. Language provides the perfect example of how learning during this most formative stage of development passes from the unconscious to the conscious without intention or effort on the child’s part.
The second phase takes place between the ages of 3 – 6 years. The child’s mind continues to be very active; however, now the child becomes a very busy constructionist of her own learning as she begins to absorb her environment at a more conscious and intentional level of learning, yet her new level of absorption remain effortless, no matter how complex it may appear to the adult.
The Prepared Environment – since information passes from the environment directly to the child, not through the teacher, the preparation of this environment is vital. It is the role of the teacher to prepare and continue to adapt the environment, to link the child to it through well thoughtout lessons, and to facilitate the child’s exploration and creativity.
Follow the Child – Dr. Montessori recognized that no two children grow and develop at the same rate. Each child brings with him different experiences that affect learning. Therefore, Dr. Montessori felt that the teacher’s most important job is to follow the child and teach to his specific level of learning. To better follow the child, Dr. Montessori saw a need for students stay with the same teacher for a three year cycle.
The 3-Hour Work Period – Aft every age, a minimum of one 3-hour work period per day, uninterrupted by required attendance at group activities of any kind is required for the Montessori method of education to produce the results for which it is famous.
Assessment – there are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping. The real test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning, concentration, and work.