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Early Childhood Education – What is the Montessori Method?

I decided some time back that I was going to homeschool Aristotle until he was old enough to attend formal classes by way of kindergarten. Nevertheless, in this day and age, a parent is required to start investigating the various options of schools well before a child is ready to attend because the waiting lists to a “good” school are long and the battle to gain a placement is fierce.

Take Chiltern House for an example. I have heard lots of good things about them – professional teaching staff, great environment, interesting programs, etc. However, they’re fully booked out with a long waiting list. In fact, they are so popular that they have gotten to the point of being “over-populated” – which is also not a good learning environment for a young child who requires more individual attention from a teacher.  I’ve also heard they are opening a new branch, so we’ll see…

With a bit of digging around, I discovered this new term called “Montessori”. From what I can gather, it is a good thing, however I couldn’t tell you how or even why it is good. My SIL2 who has had some experience in the early childhood education industry told me that oftentimes there are local schools that call themselves “Montessori” even if the only Montessori certified staff on hand is the Headmistress. Then there is the difference between being Montessori trained and Montessori certified – which appears to be akin to the difference between merely having taken the course and passing your exams.

And yet Montessori is more than just being certified or trained in the teachings but it exists also in the environment and educational materials. To attend a school that has Montessori trained staff is quite ineffectual if the school’s environment does not conform to the Montessori Method.

So I decided it was high time I understood exactly what the Montessori Method is and how it works. This is what I have learned…

What is the Montessori Method?

The Montessori Method is a method of education founded by Dr. Maria Montessori who first formulated the method for children with learning and developmental disabilities. She later adapted her method for children with normal cognition and development. Based on what I understand, the Montessori Method creates a well-planned and structured environment where children can pursue areas of study of their interest. In other words, the child directs his own learning.

By allowing a child to lead, you tap into his potential for learning. Just as we find it easier to learn about things of interest to us, a child finds it easier to learn about subjects of interest to them. That’s not to say they can’t learn about another subject, it is just harder when his mind is not primed for it. Wiki gives a good explanation of this:

“That there are numerous “sensitive periods” of development (periods of a few weeks or even months), during which a child’s mind is particularly open to learning specific skills or knowledge such as crawling, sitting, walking, talking, reading, counting, and various levels of social interaction. These skills are learned effortlessly and joyfully. Learning one of these skills outside of its corresponding sensitive period is certainly possible, but can be difficult and frustrating.”

A typical Montessori environment encompasses the following:

  • freedom of movement and freedom of choice for the children
  • structure and order in the arrangement and sequence of the materials
  • an atmosphere that is attractive, warm and inviting
  • materials that provide active learning experiences
  • vertical grouping (in the age ranges 2½ to 6 years, 6 to 9 years, 9 to 12 years, 12 to 15 years)
  • a closeness to nature and the natural world and activities and materials that reflect the reality of life, not fantasy

Based on the Montessori philosophy, a child up to 6 years old requires physical materials that engage the senses to learn. Well, I think you can guess what Montessori teachers have to say about TV and computers for young children then. And if you can’t, well, here it is:

“Television . . .Is an anti-experience and an anti-knowledge machine because it separates individuals from themselves and from the environment and makes them believe they are living while they are only observing passively what other people decide to make them see.” – Dr. Silvana Montanaro, MD, Psychiatrist, Montessori Teacher-Trainer.

“The primary danger of the television screen lies not so much in the behavior it produces as the behavior it prevents… Turning on the television set can turn off the process that transforms children into adults.” – Urie Bronfenbrenner, Professor of Human Development, Cornell University.

The Montessori Curriculum is broken down into the following categories:

  • Practical Life
  • Sensorial
  • Mathematics
  • Language and Literacy
  • Cultural Subjects (which include Geography, History, Natural Sciences, Experimental Sciences)
  • Creative Subjects (Art and Craft, Music and Movement, Drama)

However, a typical lesson can incorporate one or several of these categories depending on the direction the child chooses to take.

From the theoretical aspect of what I understand it to be, the Montessori Method makes sense to me and I was rather keen to implement it into my current homeschool program with Aristotle. Hubby suggested I take a course to understand it further, however, based on the costs of these Montessori resource materials I found for an online course, I don’t think I will pursue that path.

Instead, I found some Montessori homeschool programs that are much more affordable.  There is also a whole host of Montessori books available which I think is sufficient detail on how to implement Montessori.  My only difficulty now is deciding which book to get (if you have any Montessori experience, please recommend a book to me in the comments below).  I’ve also discovered that there are a whole host of Montessori materials available – toys, books, activities, puzzles, etc.

Looks like it isn’t that hard to start a Montessori program at home after all…

Science Center

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

11 thoughts on “Early Childhood Education – What is the Montessori Method?

  1. Hi again Shen Li, I was just wondering what books you found most useful for teaching you how to incorporate Montessori method into a homeschooling enviroment- from scratch for mums who don’t know anything about it? I’d like to start that from as young as possible as well. There seem to be LOADS of books out there! I know you went through quite a few, so could you recommend a few to start off with so that I dont have to break the bank upfront? Thanks, Roshni


  2. I have two books on Montessori teaching at home – one I bought myself and another from a friend:

    1. Teaching Montessori in the Home – The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock.

    This book is great because they give you lots of practical advice about the materials to use and how to make your own “toys” for the children to learn with. It explains the activities, what you have to do, what it is supposed to achieve and it also gives you an age range that it is targeted at – e.g. 2.5-5years, etc.

    The only thing is that this book is aimed at toddlers. There is nothing it for infants. When I discovered the Montessori Method, my son was already two plus, so I never bought any books for infants.

    2. How to Raise and Amazing Child by Tim Seldin.

    This one starts earlier. They even tell you how to set up your child’s room to become a Montessori environment. The whole idea is to have everything accessible to the child so that he can take whatever piques his interest.

    The focus of Montessori is to let the child lead the learning process. You let the child choose what he wants to play with and then you focus on that. The idea being that if you focus on the child’s interest, he will learn faster.

    Personally, I think this book is more broad picture giving the overall concept of teaching, how to help your child’s development, and they also offer simple day to day activities that you can incorporate into your child’s daily activities.

    I think the Montessori Method offers a good complement to the flashcards teaching. It’s more like the practical side of learning and flashcards is about information.


  3. oh wow, thanks so much- its fantastic to have someone point you in the right direction. how old is gavin now, by the way? i was looking at some of your homeschooling lessons and trying to work out how old he was when you were going them. it seems to have a very positive effect, he does seem to be interested in very ‘advanced’ things… and i can see why- his lessons look like so much fun! you’re very inspiring, thank you for keeping a blog!


  4. You’re very welcome Roshni. For me, we’ve just been bumbling along. I really wish I had started all my research while I was still pregnant with Gavin. Feel like I wasted so much of his earlier months.

    Gavin is now 2 years and 8 months 2 weeks and 5 days 🙂 When I started those preschool programs he was about 2, I think. It was earlier this year. Yeah, my focus was aimed at fun. I try not to stress about whether he’s learning and let him decide what he wants to pick up and what he isn’t interested in. That’s basically what all these early childhood education programs recommend – don’t stress, just go with the flow. You’ll be amazed if you really knew how much your baby is learning. Half the time they don’t let you know anything.


  5. I am a big fan of maria montessori, I am currently pursuing a course in montessori study. I recommend everyone who wish to be a better parent should take up some course to improve on parenting understanding and techniques


  6. I realy appriciate with maria montessory’s theory on early childhood education. May her soul rest in perfect peace


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