Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and physician, left behind an educational legacy that many parents and educators embrace today. Through her research and experience, Montessori identified ten “secrets” that define her approach to helping children thrive.
One: Understand the Difference Between the Goals of Child and Adult
Adults are generally driven by external goals and desires, focusing on accomplishing something outside of self. Children are motivated by the pleasure of “doing” and their immediate enjoyment.
Two: Define Education as a “Help to Life”
Montessori asks parents and educators to include communication and movement with the skills of “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Montessori isn’t alone in thinking beyond the three Rs; Ellen Galinsky, chief science officer of the Bezos Family Foundation, also identifies essential skills.
Three: Nurture the “Absorbent Mind”
During the first six years, a child’s mind learns at an exceptionally quick and efficient pace. Provide children with rich life experiences during this time.
Four: Recognize Sensitive Periods
The montessori sensitive periods are defined by a desire to work on specific goals. Some examples are walking and talking. Montessori classes are focused on providing enrichment activities to nurture the sensitive periods. Parents and teachers can also support children when a specific focus consumes their focus.
Five: Break Free From Milestone Limitations
Every child is different, develops at a unique pace, feels differently, and learns in their own way. Don’t expect all 3 or 4 or 15-year-olds to be ready for the same skills and objectives.
Six: The Environment Is Fitted to the Child
All furnishings and activities are in proportion to the child and recognized areas of development, including room for physical activity and freedom for sensitive periods.
Seven: Allow Children To Choose Their Work
When children have room to choose their lessons, they are more likely to focus and excel. This secret is tied closely to the next.
Eight: The Relationship Between Liberty and Discipline
Montessori found that you can’t have one without the other. A lack of freedom leads to a lack of discipline, and as children concentrate on their chosen task, they develop self-discipline.
Nine: Understand Normalization
Rather than looking for a generic “normal,” look for these traits of the “normalized” child: love of work, concentration, self-discipline, and joyful work.
Ten: The End Goal Is Spontaneous Joy
When these secrets are applied effectively, the natural outcome is a joyful child. Ultimately, a child working and learning at her or his full potential is the aim of the Montessori method.