Montessori education – a preparation for life
Maria Montessori endeavored to develop a method of education that would assist in the overall development of humanity in its broadest sense.
Our task, as parents and educators, is to foster the potential within children to build themselves creatively by drawing on their own inner resources in such a way that they embody quality in the things they do and act with care and love for the people and things around them. Realisation of the potential of each child implies the education of the whole child in all their functions and faculties. Such education must provide for the child’s physical mental and spiritual development as well as for the faculties of thinking, sense perception, and feeling, so that the child will be better prepared for life and to adjust to the changing conditions of his environment.
Maria Montessori’s concept of true peace involved justice, love, community harmony, the pursuit of knowledge, and the co-operation of individuals and groups for the betterment of humanity. She saw this happening only with ‘the substantial reforming of humanity’, and in order to achieve this awesome task, she believed that society had to go back to the child. Education is the key to the attainment of peace.
Character and values
Children are value sponges. They soak up values from their whole environment, including adults, their peers, teachers, television, and from every aspect of the culture they live in. As parents and educators we must recognise the importance of the ‘hidden curriculum’ (or that which is taught unconsciously) in helping to shape our children’s values. This can be assisted by upholding and exemplifying the best character values to our children and to look for these in the educational environment. Courtesy and politeness to others and a respect of the natural environment are fundamental aspects of our Montessori environment and play a strong part in forming character values for our children. We as adults need to express ourselves in ways that are worthy of the child’s emulation.
Dignity and respect
The attitude of respect – for others, for self, and for the environment – is an attitude we all hope our children will absorb early in their lives. Upholding and reflecting the dignity of others is a responsibility we all share, and is evident in the way we speak to children, and to other adults. By treating others, particularly children, with respect, we directly increase their sense of self esteem, sense of self, and respect for other human beings.
School, home, community
There is a direct link between the family home and the school. Rockingham Montessori School views the home environment as part of the larger ‘prepared environment’ and for this reason, the links between the family home and the school are particularly strong. The teachers and the parent body commit both time and energy toward developing good working relationships, and each family spends up to three years with one director. Ongoing communication, based on observation of the child both at school and by the parent at home, is invaluable for the most comprehensive insight into each child’s needs.
In society today, parenting is often undervalued and indeed there has been a tendency to regard being a parent as a ‘job’ worthy of very little status, praise or encouragement and as an activity which needs to be fitted in between other more meaningful pursuits. Maria Montessori believed in the vital role that parents play in their children’s education for life. Rockingham Montessori School shares the view of other Montessori communities world-wide that parents are a vital influence in their child’s development. The role of parents is valued and nurtured through a collaborative process in which channels of communication between school and home are fostered. Within the culture of the Montessori school many opportunities exist for parents to discuss not only their children, but also aspects of their own parenting with opportunities to grow in their understanding of Montessori philosophy and education.
A community school
While each family is associated with one particular classroom, each classroom is part of the same school which is community based. The concept of community is important because it embodies and reflects a number of principles that are implicit within the modus operandi of the school. A few examples of this include: each member assuming a sense of responsibility for the operation and functioning of all classrooms; looking at the needs of all the children equally within the school; and members working together to achieve the community’s goals.
The sense of community is strengthened by many activities undertaken within the school as each member works towards common goals. Adults within the school community model the development of strong communities by being involved in all aspects of school life.
An individualised curriculum
Teachers have benchmarks for particular stages of development for the children within their class, however these are not rigid and reflect each child’s period of development and capabilities. Children self direct some of the work they undertake, and work in groups at other times. The children’s time in the classroom is tailor-made for their needs.
Individuality of the directors
One of the strengths of Montessori education is the diversity it offers within a prepared environment. Each director in the school has strengths that resonate within their particular classroom in both tangible and intangible ways. The class director will know the requirements of a particular group of children at a particular time, and we must understand and acknowledge that each classroom will be different and will be an environment prepared specifically by a unique individual.
Every person within RMS has the right to open, sincere communication with all members of the association. To operate a community based school effectively, clear channels of communication must be established and maintained. Children must also be given the opportunity to state their views. An environment must be nurtured, where every member feels comfortable to express an opinion, and is mindful to be considerate with the expression of one’s views.
The Rockingham Montessori School has a set of values which it holds as fundamental to the operations of its school. We aim for the above values to guide us in our thoughts and actions relating to raising our children.