Dr. Montessori believed that "hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." In a Montessori environment, children learn experientially through all five senses and not just through listening, watching, or reading.
In keeping with Montessori's emphasis on the development of independence, once shown a lesson, children are free to choose their own "work" from any given area of the prepared environment. This allows children to follow their inner drive and meet their own intrinsic goals.
Children are treated with profound respect and are able to learn at their own pace and in their own unique ways. Lessons are given either one-on-one with a teacher or in small group sessions for cooperation and collaboration. Each child can learn and develop uniquely within a classroom that accommodates many levels of ability and complexity.
Montessori classes are comprised of three year age groupings (1-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and 12-15), forming communities in which older children spontaneously share their knowledge with younger children, and younger children observe and imitate older children as they work. The third year in the cycle is truly empowering to the children, both socially and academically.
The Montessori teacher is specially trained to observe each child and to design lessons based on that child’s natural curiosity and love of learning. The teacher is responsible for preparing the educational environment within each classroom and for presenting lessons in that environment. During the course of a day, the teacher will demonstrate a wide array of concrete sensorial materials and sequential activities through individual instruction. The child soon learns to associate abstract concepts with hands-on experience.
The most important discovery that Dr. Montessori has contributed to the field of child development and education is the fostering of the best in each child. She discovered that in a learning environment where children are allowed to choose their work and to concentrate for as long as needed on that task, they come out of this period of concentration (or meditation or contemplation) refreshed and full of goodwill toward others. The teacher must know how to offer work, to link the child to the learning environment (the real teacher), and to protect this process. We know this natural goodness and compassion are inborn in all of us. These traits do not need to be taught, but they do need to be protected.
"Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and when the grass of the meadows is wet with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning." - Dr. Maria Montessori
This 4-minute video by our friends at Our Kids TV gives a wonderful preview of the Montessori philosophy and method as applies in authentic Montessori schools around the world.
Grammy award-winning violinist
A world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell is thoughtful about the role his music plays in society. In a cultural experiment turned Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post story, it is Bell’s humility, not his virtuosity, that most inspires. In suspending his fame to explore the true meaning of his work, Bell exhibits Montessori thinking at its best.
Amazon’s founder, who proudly cites his Montessori roots, Jeff Bezos is a study in contradictions: analytical and intuitive, careful and audacious, playful and determined. Critics note his extraordinary ability to learn from others, one hallmark of Montessori education.
T BERRY BRAZELTON
Pediatrician, child psychiatrist, author, &
Harvard medical school professor emeritus
Dr. Brazelton’s positive, child-oriented philosophy of parenting has influenced countless families to raise children who are “confident, caring, and hungry to learn”. Brazelton attended a Montessori school as a child and now supports Montessori philosophy through his lectures and publications.
Celebrity chef & author
A student of Mrs. Davie’s Montesorri School in Pasadena, California, Ms. Child exuded a sense of fun and inspired others to try new things in the kitchen. She credits a Montessori background with her manual dexterity—a key feature of her mastery as a chef—and with the love and joy she found in her work.
SEAN "P DIDDY" COMBS
Multi-Grammy award-winning musician,
rap artist, and CEO of Bad Boy Records
Sean “P Diddy” Combs credits his Montessori education with his drive for success: “I feel like I was nurtured into wanting to be somebody special.”
JOHN AND JOAN CUSACK
actor and screenwriter, and
Academy Award-nominated actress,
This sister-brother team, each of whom also has a hefty solo reputation, are not conventional heroes. Their work has been described as “idiosyncratic”, “offbeat”, and “fiercely original”.
Anthony Doerr is the internationally-accalaimed author of five books, including Pulitzer Prize winning All the Light We Cannot See. Regarding his Montessori education, Doerr said,"Of all the skills nine years of Montessori education gave me—critical thinking skills, social skills, kickball skills—the most lasting has been a sense of my place in deep geologic time. You’re six or seven years old and you’re being asked to measure the brief, warm, intensely complicated fingersnap of your life against the absolutely incomprehensible vastness of time. The sense of luck that made me feel—to be here at all!—has never left me. It permeates my writing, my attitudes toward natural resources, and my relationship with my sons."
Author, management consultant,
social ecologist, and awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Peter Drucker is one of the most influential management gurus in history. His work focused on human relationships as opposed to numbers-crunching; his books are filled with lessons on how organizations can bring out the best in people, and how workers can find dignity and community in their work.
Often considered 'the inventor of modern management', Drucker was a great admirer of the Montessori method:
“For thousands of years people have been talking about improving teaching — to no avail. It was not until the early years of this century, however, that an educator asked, “What is the end product?” Then the answer was obvious: It is not teaching. It is, of course, learning. And then the same educator, the great Italian doctor and teacher Maria Montessori (1870-1952), began to apply systematic analysis of the work and systematic integration of the parts into a process.
— Peter Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973)
Screen Actors Guild Award nominee
Dakota Fanning attended a Montessori school in Georgia. She rose to prominence at the age of seven for her performance as Lucy Dawson in the drama film I Am Sam, for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination at age eight, making her the youngest nominee in SAG history.
Memoirist & author
Anne Frank’s famous diary is a natural extension of her school experience. She—like all Montessori students—learned to cultivate observation skills and record her thoughts in a journal early on. Diary of a Young Girl has been translated into 67 languages and is one of the best loved books in the world today.
Pulitzer prize-winning author,
Former owner & editor of
The Washington Post
Crisis forced Katherine Graham to assume control of the Washington Post. Remembering that what matters is how people learn, not what they know, Graham said, “The Montessori method, learning by doing, once again became my stock in trade.” Her reign at the highly-regarded paper lasted more than two decades.
Viennese artist & architect
This world-renowned Austrian painter and architect attended a Montessori school in Vienna, which influenced both his affinity for vibrant colors and his love of nature. He collected pebbles and pressed flowers as a child, demonstrating an early interest in small, precious things—which later manifested itself in his work.