What really makes Montessori education different?

Developed over a century ago by the physician Dr. Maria Montessori, her scientific method of pedagogy is a child-focused approach that fulfills the needs of the child intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.

The Four Pillars of an Authentic Montessori Program

  • Uninterrupted Work Period: Without interruptions from regimented class intervals or pull-out “specials,” children are given the space to sink into challenging work and choose how they structure their day. Perhaps your child likes to ease into challenging problems by starting with something familiar, or perhaps they are one that wakes up with boundless energy, ready to take on big work. Throughout the work cycle they have the opportunity to experience the discomfort of a long challenging problem, but they also reap the reward of deep satisfaction from completing something difficult.
  • Mixed-Age Classrooms: Imagine a first grader who is reading at a third grade level, but the class is still working on sounding out one-syllable words, or a fourth grader who needs more time to master their fraction arithmetic, but the class is moving on to more advanced subjects. Both of these scenarios are a result of grouping children by their age instead of their abilities. In a mixed-age Montessori classroom, the teacher can meet the student where they are in every subject without needing to speed up or slow down the entire class.
  • Prepared Environment: The classroom itself is the second teacher within the classroom. The prepared environment is filled with scientifically crafted apparatus to help the child learn at their developmental level, and it is also designed in a way to be comfortable, beautiful and enticing. It enables the growing child to be independent of the adult and choose the work they would like to do, when they are ready.
  • Observation: Classroom teachers observe the classroom as a whole, and students individually, looking for patterns, ways to improve the environment, student productivity and positive socialization. For students who are not yet capable of fully directing themselves, the teacher provides gentle reminders and individualized strategies. Observation is the scientific cornerstone of Montessori pedagogy, and an indispensable tool for the teacher to gain true insight into the subtle and sometimes complex operations of the classroom.

Classroom Culture

The intangibles of any work environment usually have the most profound impact. Many of us will have worked in “toxic environments” that stifled creativity, initiative and happiness. This is why Rhyme and Reason Academy takes a proactive approach in purposefully shaping the culture of the classroom, to ensure that the norms and customs of our environment are positive and enriching for all.

Culture of Work

  • Work, properly conceived, is a love of effort, a drive for purpose, and action manifested in reality. Work focuses the boundless energy of the child toward a chosen goal and, paired with knowledge and skill, that goal is achieved.
  • Children may choose to work with each other on projects and then learn not only intangible skills of cooperation and collaboration, but also how to forge mature friendships over a shared goal.
  • The reward for this continuous effort is an earned self-esteem. A self esteem built on the unshakable certainty that one is able to think for oneself and achieve one’s own values, not on the fickle approval of others. Work creates a virtuous cycle, that further motivates greater work, and then fosters greater confidence.
  • There are many concrete things a teacher will do to help a child achieve these outcomes- work journals, one-on-one conferences, project planning, time management, goal setting, valorizing effort, and so on- but those are merely tools to develop an overall culture of work in the classroom and in the children themselves.

Culture of Knowledge

  • In a culture of knowledge there is a relentless inquisitiveness, an unslakable desire to know the right answer and a concern for evidence and sound arguments. The source of this passion is curiosity and a desire to understand. We make every effort to maintain the enthusiasm that every child feels to discover and learn, and to not lose the joy of learning.
  • Across all areas of the curriculum, we give big picture integrating frameworks and exact information and details. The subjects are continuously applied to each other so that no piece of information is a “random fact,” and the knowledge gained becomes an integrated system of ideas that is continuously applied for life, not just until the next test.
  • The teacher in the classroom plays a massive role in shaping the culture of knowledge. The adults must demonstrate a genuine love and excitement for their subjects, the process of learning and the joy of figuring things out. They must also valorize the efforts of the children who emulate this process and encourage deeper connections across the curriculum.

Montessori Children Love School

Freedom with Responsibility

Rhyme and Reason Academy embraces a high-structure, high-autonomy approach. The teacher does not lecture to the whole class, assign a one-size-fits all problem set, and then micromanage the children until the work is done. In a classroom where the culture focuses on individual choices, students work diligently for themselves, their own enjoyment and they joy of solving a difficult problem- not for the approval of the adult.

Children work independently or in small groups during the 3-hour work cycle, and the teacher circulates through the class giving individualized lessons and one-on-one help with problems. Students have significant input and choice over the scope and type of work that they complete as practice for a lesson they’ve received, and the teacher is able to support those free choices.

The majority of students, who are not in the these lessons at any given time, are responsible for directing their own work. They organize their work plan around lessons and follow-up work they have previously received. This of course is not an automatic skill that every child has, and is an achievement fostered by the teacher, so that over time, she will create and sustain an ethic of work at the level of both individual students and the entire classroom.