Montessori has been developed over more than a century and at all times has been based on
rigorous research and observation of children. We have provided an overview of some of the
key concepts here, but please do feel free to stop past the Office and borrow additional
resources from our Parent Library should you like more information.
Follow the Child
Why we ‘Follow the Child’
‘Follow the child’ is at the very heart of Montessori education and really explains why it’s such a successful method of education. A common misconception is that a Montessori child is ‘just allowed to do whatever they want’, which is not at all what ‘follow the child’ means. Rather, it recognizes that each child has a different rhythm and approach to learning. By observing this in each child, our teachers can take into account what the child’s interests and needs are at a particular point in time and use that to guide their exploration of the curriculum, rather than insisting rules about the best time to learn each component. Thus, if a child is thoroughly absorbed in mathematical activity, they are allowed to explore it for as long as their interest is held. Likewise, if a child becomes bored with an activity, little will be gained by forcing them to continue; much better to allow them to choose work that will totally engage them!
Record keeping of the children’s activities is therefore very important, as the teacher must ensure that each child does cover the full curriculum. In Cycle 2 and Cycle 3, the Director will also involve the children in this recordkeeping and together they plan and track everything the child needs to accomplish.
The role of the Montessori Teachers
The role of the Montessori Teacher in the classroom
In a Montessori classroom, the place of the traditional teacher is held by a fully trained Montessori teacher. Our teachers have normal teacher qualifications as well as further Montessori qualifications. The teacher is a guide or facilitator whose task it is to support the young child in his or her process of self-development while simultaneously ensuring they explore at depth each element of the curriculum. The teacher is an observer, unobtrusively yet carefully monitoring each child’s development, recognizing and interpreting each child’s needs. They provide a link between the child and the prepared environment, introducing the child to each piece of equipment when he or she is ready in a precise, clear and enticing way. It may be helpful to imagine the Director as an air traffic controller and the children as busy planes; the teacher must, at all times, be aware of what every ‘plane’ is doing and know how and when to assist individual children ‘land’ and ‘take-off’ at their chosen work!
In each classroom (except the infant/Toddler Program) there is a three-year age range. This provides a depth of experience for children in a number of important ways.
Older children can validate their learning by becoming the ‘experts’ in the room, sharing their knowledge and skills and taking on the role of the caretakers of the classroom
Children become confident in communicating and interacting with other children of all ages and abilities.
Children build on prior learning and skills, refining and applying them to different situations as they progress through the three-year cycle.
Cooperation, not competition, takes place naturally due to the culture of respect for each individual.
The Montessori Work Cycle
Through decades of observation around the world, Dr. Montessori came to understand that children, when left in freedom, displayed a distinct work cycle which was so predictable it could even be graphed. This cycle, with two peaks and one valley, lasted approximately three hours. In our classrooms, we aim for children to have three hours of open, uninterrupted time to choose independent work, become deeply engaged, and repeat to their own satisfaction. You can see in the video above, which was created by a professional photographer taking 4000 photos of her son over 3 hours at his school in the US, just what can be achieved in a single work cycle.
Montessori classrooms provide a ‘prepared environment’ where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work. The children’s innate passion for learning is encouraged by:
Giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities
Providing materials specifically designed to develop the children across all areas
Creating environments both inside and outside of the classroom tailored for the age of the children who inhabit them.
Through their work, the children develop concentration and joyful self-discipline. Within a framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities in each area.