An article by Robert Staunton published in “The Absolute Guide to Parenting”
PDF version of ‘Montessori Explained’
As the Head teacher of a Montessori Nursery School, people often ask me, ‘So, what exactly is Montessori?’ Well here’s a brief explanation of this highly effective system of education. Professor Maria Montessori, the first woman to become a physician in Italy, founded the Montessori approach in 1907. She designed a ‘prepared environment’ in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Research has now proven that this global, non-denominational approach, is highly successful in preparing children for later life. Interestingly, the founder of the extraordinary Internet company ‘Google’ puts his success entirely down this Montessori education! As a teacher I derive great pleasure from seeing the amount of progress children make through Montessori, in their crucial Early Years, which are the foundation for a successful and happy life.
Letting Children Flourish: Although the educational approach is largely child-centred, specially trained Montessori teachers guide the children within a set curriculum. I asked one seasoned Montessori teacher trainer what she believed was the essence of the approach and she said that it was independence. We all know how much children love to be able to do things for themselves. In a Montessori school children can choose a range of practical life tasks, such as pairing socks, pouring water or polishing shoes. My feeling is that by giving children tasks that have real purpose, they develop a great sense of self-esteem and meaning. The order and harmony that parents often comment on as they enter the Montessori environment, creates a basis for children to flourish. For young children the world is a mass of sensory stimuli without much structure, so in Montessori we use special activities and equipment to help children make sense out of chaos. The results that I have seen are happy children with a love of life!
An Enchantment with Life: The Montessori approach aims to help children learn in an enjoyable way and reach their fullest potential, at their own pace. Due to this, we find that children often develop an enthusiasm for learning, along with self-discipline, independence and a respectful attitude. When our Honorary Patron, Dr Miriam Stoppard opened our new premises at Staunton Montessori this year, she made a moving and passionate speech in support of Montessori. She argued that because Montessori promotes child initiated learning and the valuing of children’s ideas, it creates ‘an enchantment with life’. The Early Years are such a precious and special time for both parents and children, therefore it’s so important that we reach higher for our little ones. We should not only build beautiful schools for our communities, but we should also train our teachers well that they keep hold of their ‘enchantment with life’.
The Montessori Schools Association (MSA) and the 21st Century: I sincerely believe that we need the Montessori approach more than ever in the 21st Century. Its strength to deliver for children is unique. Although I trained as a so-called mainstream teacher, it wasn’t till I’d experienced the joy of Montessori that I really felt I was making a difference for children. In a world of so much change and instability, what Montessori provides is clear and tested vision that allows children to really blossom. And now the Montessori Schools Association, with government funding, is piloting this vision of education in a ‘failing’ inner-city primary school. The results of this pilot scheme, I believe, could lead to a transformation in our whole view of education and the place of Montessori with in it.
By Robert Staunton,
Feedback about Staunton Montessori from local parents:
- “Dear Robert, The sense of adventure, desire to explore and the ability to enjoy simple pleasures that you and your team have instilled in Jack and Georgia mean that they leave Staunton two happy, well adjusted little characters. They head to primary school having spent two years at such a special place to start their education. Jo and I wanted to place on record our sincere gratitude to you and everyone at Staunton for giving the twins an amazing start. Thank you once again.” (Jo and Richard Aram)