The series of scientific learning materials in all disciplines amidst a cultured setting offers children rich tools with which to study their world. Structured to build skill upon skill, each piece is used throughout the world to help children to become adept at mathematical thinking, analyses of languages, and synthesizing information into meaningful reports. All this is accomplished in a spirit of good work habits in the Montessori prepared environment.
Teacher as the Observer
No where is the difference between traditional and Montessori teaching seen more clearly than in the role of the teacher, often called the director. Instead of being a dispenser of knowledge and an authoritarian figure, the Montessori director unobtrusively lays the groundwork for knowledge. She prepares the learning environment, gives key presentations demonstrating qualities of various pieces of learning equipment (which can be used to discover a concept), keeps accurate records on each child’s progress, and invites the child to explore his entire world. She is a catalyst, linking the child to the didactic materials. The director has understanding of child psychology as well as physiology and practices gentle restraint in interfering in a student’s work. She offers intelligent help when needed, but allows students to explore on their own.
Willistown Country Day Montessori Schools’ empathetic staff of professionals, having been long-time partners in the Willistown story, are keenly aware of each child’s needs. It is in their continuing education to build their own knowledge and techniques in implementing the curriculum that add strength and stability to the total educational program.
In addition to the prepared environment complete with its varied materials, the Montessori child finds another welcome innovation: children from different age groups are working alongside one another in the classroom. Taking a cue from actual family situations where older children not only share with their closest brothers and sisters, but also with younger members of the family, Dr. Montessori found great success in this simple but revolutionary classroom concept. Older students practice patience through needed repetition while sometimes helping younger ones. They also learn more and thoroughly understand their own ideas as they are aiding others. Younger ones learn patience, improve listening skills, and also emulate their older companions. Mutual respect develops, adding to the general positive atmosphere of the classroom.
Freedom of Movement
In The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Maria Montessori explains the connection between movement and learning: To perfect any given activity, movement will be needed to achieve the highest level of understanding. This is the point of view from which movement has to be judged. It belongs to the total activity of the central nervous system and as such cannot be ignored…To be always thinking of the mind on the one hand and of the body on the other is to break the continuity that should exist between them. This dichotomy keeps action away from thought. To give them their rightful place, man’s movements must be coordinated with the center – the brain. Not only are thought and action two parts of the same occurrence, but it is through movement that the higher life expresses itself…So mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. So the Montessori child is allowed freedom of movement when that movement is connected to mental work.