Although Montessori education began over one hundred years ago, it is more relevant today than ever. Part of the reason Montessori education is the fastest growing form of education in the country is that it prepares students for the 21st century world in a way that adapts to each child’s unique learning style and character.
Montessori education, carried out faithfully at Thacher, helps students be self-motivated and confident, independent and creative, and culturally literate learners who value collaboration and social action. Recent educational and neurological research about learning and brain development reinforce the tenets of a quality Montessori education such as found at Thacher Montessori School.
At Thacher, the staff follows these key Montessori principles:
- Education of the whole child: Montessori education addresses the intellectual, social, moral, emotional and physical as well as the academic development of the child. We view education as an aid to life.
- Human Tendencies: Humans are born with natural tendencies that incline them toward certain behaviors such as exploration, orientation, order, imagination, repetition, and communication. These tendencies enable children to learn from and integrate into whatever culture they are born.
- Four Planes of Development: Dr. Montessori described the development of human beings as stages of growth. At each stage, there is a specific set of psychological characteristics that manifest. The materials, classroom environment, and the manner in which lessons are given respect each developmental phase and the sensitive periods.
- Sensitive Periods: During the process of development, there are specific periods of time during which the human being is particularly sensitive to learning a skill (i.e. language). The period of sensitivity arises then disappears whether the trait is acquired poorly or well.
- Follow the child: Montessori materials and lessons follow each child’s natural progression from concrete to abstract thinking and through these planes of development and sensitive periods.
- Self construction: Children construct themselves (intellectually, socially, emotionally) through activity and interaction with their environment (physical and people).
- Normalization: Children have a natural disposition to work. When children concentrate on work, demonstrate independence, and are motivated to learn, children are harmonious within and in their interactions with others.
- Differentiated, child-centered instruction: Guidance and lessons are given to children based on children’s individual skills and interests. Children are encouraged to innovate and create, problem-solve, and develop critical thinking skills. We respect and engage multiple intelligences, and nurture each child’s potential.
- Integration of subjects: Children’s studies are interdisciplinary.
- Classroom without walls: Experiential learning is an integral part of the children’s experience. In Toddler and Children’s House practical life skills are developed. In Elementary, children integrate classroom learning with research and self-initiated “going out” trips. At the Adolescent level, real work is emphasized through businesses, farm experiences, and community service.
- Uninterrupted work periods: Children need freedom to concentrate on their work. Two-to-three-hour work times are protected in each work cycle from interruptions by adult-imposed scheduling.
- Balance of freedom and responsibility: Children have freedom to choose work, work as long as they want, and work with one another. This freedom is balanced with the expectations that they engage in productive work and work with others respectfully.
- Independence: High teacher-to-student ratios and large class sizes are essential to students’ development of independence and collaboration skills; however, adolescents need to be exposed to more adult role models and experts within their fields.
- Mixed age groups: (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-14) in each class correspond to the Four Planes of Development. Mixed age groups are important for both social and academic learning.
- Process of learning is emphasized over product: Children learn how to learn so they can apply these skills to any topic or situation.
- Grace and courtesy: is learned through children’s freedom to interact with one another in the classroom. Children learn through direct experiences to be aware of their bodies, consciously moving in ways that are peaceful and productive, and to be conscientious about the words they say. They learn how to share, compromise, and express thoughts and feelings in ways that are respectful.
- Prepared environment:
- Furniture: is child-sized and arranged to allow the children independence
- Learning Materials: Montessori didactic, hand-made, and supplementary materials are chosen carefully to ensure all lessons in the Montessori albums (“curriculum”) can be presented and children can complete follow-up work. Materials are placed in the classroom so that children can independently use material they need for their work.
- Guides: Guides (teachers) are observers and facilitators who are fully trained in Montessori at the level they teach and implement Montessori pedagogical theory and methods. Based on their observations of the children, the teachers present lessons from their Montessori albums using the appropriate material and guide children to productive independent and collaborative work.