Montessori Leads the Way

By Wanda Whitehead

Montessori schools have always emphasized intellectual development, creativity, social-emotional well being and an education that follows the immense curiosity of the child.

As education is being reinvented around us and public schools are implementing the Common Core Standards, Montessori Education remains a beacon for all. Because Montessori education is founded in an enlightened understanding of the development of the child from birth to adulthood, it has employed since its beginnings all the elements of a best practices education in the 21st century.

Common Core Standards and their implementation are a response to a period of time where the public schools had been obsessed with measurement, evaluation, and rewards or punishments. During the “No Child Left Behind” directive, the educational system had left behind aspects of intellectual and social/emotional development of the child while being totally driven to subject memorization. The child had not been educated as a whole being.

This past commitment to black and white assessment meant a focus on memorization and rote learning, both of which utilize only small portions of the brain. This has left the higher order thinking skills and executive functioning skills of the developing brain underutilized. The Common Core Standards are directed at the development of reasoning, critical thinking, articulation of thinking, logic, and decision-making. They are noble goals. It will take much time and effort by enlightened educators to till this type of learning back into the soil of conventional education and to break down the structures rooted in place over the past two decades. We can welcome this Common Core Standards push toward improving conventional education.

So, here stands Montessori Education with over 100 years of experience in providing a developmentally inspired education for kids around the world. Montessori schools have always emphasized intellectual development, creativity, social-emotional well being and an education that follows the immense curiosity of the child. The curriculums from birth to adulthood include nurturing reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving and autonomy within which the executive function skills develop. From the earliest classroom experiences children are encouraged to take a lead in their learning and given the respect of beings with tremendous potential to become contributors in life.

Teachers are guides and models for the child’s own drive to grow and become. The Montessori programs are built on a well-developed pedagogy of child development which perfectly matches the knowledge we now have of the development of the brain. While tools have changed over the centuries, the growth and development of the child and the human brain has changed very little. The core skills for 21st century life remain the cherished Montessori principles of respect, independence, curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, critical thinking/reasoning, self-awareness, strong communication skills, conflict resolution, development of all senses, and care for community.

So what does Montessori Education do that continues to make it a leading pedagogy in the 21st century and able to be an example of what is desired in the implementation of the Common Core Standards?

  • It prepares children to take care of their needs and pursue their own interests. The conscious development of independence begins at age three. Daily activities help students develop critical thinking and give them practice in choice-making throughout their early school years. Learning is student-directed from the first day the child takes a Practical Life activity from the shelf to making her own lesson plans each day and choosing her focus of study for research projects. So we graduate self-reliant students.
  • Students are shown respect and listened to for their thoughts and feelings. A child who is listened to and understood learns to value himself and others. So we graduate self-aware students who can listen to and empathize with others.
  • Montessori materials empower children to teach themselves and figure things out, so we graduate confident learners, proud of their own thinking processes.
  • Multi-age classrooms allow for community and the experience of leadership, so we graduate children who cooperate and lead.
  • Our integrated curriculum encompasses the interrelationship of all things we know and enables children to see their place in the world, so we graduate world citizens who will work toward social justice and a sustainable future through positive choices they make in life.
  • Our lessons capture imagination and inspire learning, so we graduate students who love learning and can inspire others.
  • Expressions of learning can be demonstrated through multi-media presentations, art, drama, written work, and other creative ventures. So we graduate students who can think creatively.

The benefits of an education at Casa di Mir, with its emphasis on authentic Montessori pedagogy, are evident and long lasting.

 

About the author: Wanda Whitehead is Casa di Mir Montessori School founder and Director of Education, and former head of school (1989-2018).