Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name.
Following her medical training, Maria Montessori began developing her educational philosophy and methods in 1897, attending courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome and learning educational theory.
Select a subject below to learn more.
Myth #1: Montessori is just for gifted kids.
Montessori is for all children! Montessori school offers children of differing abilities ways to express their unique personalities, through activities using hands-on materials, language, numbers, art, music, movement, and more. Montessori schooling helps each child develop individually in a ways that accentuate his or her innate intelligence.
Myth #2: Montessori is for learning disabled children.
It is true that Dr. Montessori began her work with children who were institutionalized, due to physical or mental impairments, but quickly discovered that “normal” children learn more quickly using her teaching methods. Most Montessori schools include special need children when the requirements can be met.
Myth #3: A Montessori classroom is too unstructured for my child.
The Montessori classroom is very structured, but that structure is quite different from a traditional preschool. The Montessori classroom, with its prepared activities and trained adults, is structured to promote this natural process of human development.
Myth #4: Montessori classrooms are too structured.
Parents sometimes see the Montessori concept of work as play as overly structured. The activities in the classroom are referred to as work, and the children are directed to choose their work. However, the children’s work is very satisfying to them and they make no distinction between work and play. Children almost always find Montessori activities both interesting and fun.
Myth #5: Montessori schools don’t allow for play.
What adults often forget is that children have a deep desire to contribute meaningfully, which we deny when we regard everything they do as ‘just’ play. Montessori schools create environments, where children enjoy working on activities with grace and dignity. Montessori children often describe feelings of satisfaction and exhilaration upon completing tasks that we might have considered as only ‘play.”
Myth #6: If Montessori is so great, why aren’t former students well known?
Here are a few well known people who remember their Montessori school connections and consider their experiences there vital.
- Julia Childs, the cook and the writer, who taught Americans to love, prepare and pronounce French dishes.
- Peter Drucker, the business guru, who has been said to be one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century.
- Alice Waters, the chef of Chez Panisse fame and creator of the Edible Schoolyard project.
- Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, corresponded with Maria Montessori about teaching methods.
- Larry Page and Sergei Brin, founders of Google, Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon and Steve Case of America Online all credit Montessori schooling to their creative success.
|Emphasis on cognitive and social development
|Emphasis on rote learning and social behavior
|Teacher as a guiding role
|Teacher as a controlling role
|Environment and method encourage self-discipline
|Teacher acts a primary enforcer of discipline
|Mainly individual instruction
|Mainly group instruction
|Mixed age groups; reduction of competition
|Same age groups; higher atmosphere of competition
|Grouping encourages children to teach and collaborate
|Teaching is done solely by teacher; collaboration is discouraged
|Child chooses own work
|Curriculum is structured for child
|Child discovers own concepts from self-teaching materials
|Child is taught concepts by teacher
|Child is allocated time to work on and complete lesson
|Child is generally allotted specific time for work
|Child sets own learning pace
|Instruction pace set by group/curriculum
|Child recognizes own errors from feedback of material
|Errors in child’s work highlighted by teacher
|Child reinforces own learning by repetition of work and internal feelings of success
|Learning is reinforced externally by repetition, rewards, and punishments
|Child can work where he chooses, moves about and talks at will (yet, not disturbing work of others), group work voluntary
|Child usually assigned a seat; required to participate during group lessons
|Multi-sensory materials for physical exploration organizes program for learning care of self and environment
|No organized program for self-care instruction – left primarily up to the parents
1. Montessori is a time-honored method
If you’re reading this article, you might have experienced the fact that often schools will jump from one trend of teaching to another. As something new comes out, so a curriculum changes, moving onto the next big thing. Schools spend thousands of dollars on new programs and then 2 years later, there’s something better out there.
The beauty of Montessori is that the principles of teaching, the philosophy and the tools have been around for centuries and haven’t changed. There has got to be a good reason for that, as clearly its working. The philosophy that Maria Montessori developed many years ago still works for our kids today.
2. Montessori fosters independence
This is a really big part of the Montessori environment. Absolutely everything you come across in a Montessori classroom is all about raising independent kids. Everything is prepared to allow kids to be able to do things for themselves, instead of letting an adult do it for them. If you enter the classroom, don’t be surprised if you see a 3 year old mopping up a mess on the floor, or washing dishes at the sink. Everything is at the height of the child so that they’re able to perform these everyday tasks.
What’s amazing about why Montessori education works is that you can see the pride beaming from little faces everywhere, proud of their achievements, and knowing that they’ve done stuff for themselves.
All the materials are created to be self-correcting so that students can actually see their own mistakes without an adult telling them that. They then have the power to ask for help when they need it. This is an important life lesson for kids, as they learn to ask for help when they need it as opposed to an adult pointing out a problem and helping them with it anyway. What a brilliant way to foster independence in our eyes. Kids start to realize that they have the intelligence and the ability to do things for themselves, which is not only empowering but it gives their confidence a massive boost too.
3. Montessori helps children to understand the “Why” not just the “How”
Often in traditional schools kids are taught to memorize and rote learning is practiced all the time. There is often not the element of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ taught. If kids understand the how and why they are more likely to succeed as they understand what is going on. Montessori allows children to understand the how and the why with materials. Students can actually see a division problem occur as he or she divides each place value. They also have the ability to practice it over and over with the materials until it makes sense to them.
4. Montessori is designed for individualized learning
One of the best reasons why Montessori education works is that it’s completely individualized. As parents you never have to worry that your child is bored or frustrated. You can rest easy knowing that they’re getting exactly what they need, when they need it. In order for the teachers to teach on an individual level they observe, mentor, mold and guide the child to their full potential.
5. Montessori learning is REALLY fun
What really makes learning fun? Staring at worksheets that need to be completed? No, and that’s unlikely to inspire your child to want to learn more. However, Montessori provides ‘experiences’ to learn from…for example going outside and learning about botany by looking at a leaf or even dressing up as a favorite historical figure if far more exciting that looking at that black and white piece of paper. The reason why Montessori education works is that they learn from the world around them by doing and experiencing new things. It makes learning more relevant and engaging.
Montessori prepares your kids to be global citizens, responsibility, compassion for others as well as self-motivation.
6. Montessori encourages cooperative play
The teacher doesn’t actually ‘run’ the classroom per se, but students guide the activities that they will do throughout the day. It encourages kids to share and work cooperatively when they are exploring the various stations in the Montessori classroom. Children in Montessori classrooms, by the very nature of the environment, learn to respect one another and build a sense of community.
7. Montessori learning is child-centered
Montessori preschool students enjoy a classroom and curriculum designed around their specific needs and abilities. It allows them to explore and learn at their own pace and on their own terms. Everything in the classroom is within reach of the child, and furniture is sized for children to sit comfortably. In addition, older children in the class work with the younger ones, so mentoring comes as much from peers as it does from the adult teachers in the classroom.
8. Montessori children learn self-discipline naturally
While the Montessori Method allows children to choose the activities they want to work on each day, and how long they will work at a specific task, there are specific ‘ground rules’ for the class that are consistently enforced by the teacher and other students. By approaching learning in this environment, it naturally teaches children self-discipline, concentration skills, self-control and motivation too.
9. The Montessori classroom environment teaches order
All objects and activities are very specifically arranged in the classroom environment. When kids have finished with an activity they have to put the items back where they found them. This creates a sense of order which facilitates that learning process and teaches self-discipline. Children also thrive in an orderly environment and when they work and play in a place that is neat and predictable their creativity is unleashed and they can fully focus on learning.
10. The Montessori curriculum is focused on hands-on learning
One of the greatest reasons why Montessori education works is due to the focus of hands-on learning. The emphasis is on concrete, rather than abstract learning, as students work on activities that teach language, math, culture and practical life lessons. Teachers encourage students to concentrate on tasks, and they discourage students from interrupting one another, allowing students to focus on activities until they are properly mastered.
You can download an Adobe PDF document of the above here
AMS requires that all member schools and affiliated teacher education programs agree to comply with the AMS Code of Ethics. AMS relies on self-compliance of this Code.
In pledging to accept the Code of Ethics, heads of schools and program directors agree that the educators in their institutions will strive to conduct themselves professionally and personally in ways that reflect their respect for one other and for the children they serve; and that they will do whatever is within their talents and capacity to protect the right of each child to have the freedom and opportunity to develop his or her full potential.
Principle I – Commitment to the Student
In fulfillment of the obligation to the children, the educator—
- shall encourage independent action in the pursuit of learning;
- shall protect the opportunity to provide for participation in educational programs without regard to race, sex, color, creed, or national origin;
- shall protect the health and safety of students;
- shall honor professional commitments and maintain obligations and contracts while never soliciting nor involving students or their parents in schemes for commercial gain;
- shall keep in confidence information that has been secured in the course of professional service, unless disclosure serves professional purposes or is required by law.
Principle II – Commitment to the Public
The Montessori educator shares in the responsibility for developing policy relating to the extension of educational opportunity for all and for interpreting educational programs and policies to the public. In fulfilling these goals, the educator—
- shall support the American Montessori Society and not misrepresent its policies in public discussion. Whenever speaking or writing about policies, the educator should take the precaution of distinguishing private views from the official position of the Society.
- shall not interfere with nor exploit the rights and responsibilities of colleagues within the teaching profession.
Principle III – Commitment to the Profession
The Montessori educator makes efforts to raise professional standards and conditions to attract persons worthy of trust to careers in Montessori education.
In fulfilling these goals, the educator—
- shall extend just and equitable treatment to all members of the Montessori education profession;
- shall represent his or her own professional qualification with clarity and true intent;
- shall apply for, accept, offer, recommend, and assign professional positions and responsibilities on the basis of professional preparation and legal qualifications;
- shall use honest and effective methods of administering duties, use of time, and conducting business.
Adopted 1969, AMS Board of Directors. Expanded 1975. Updated 2008 and 2010.
We can tell you that Montessori education works, but the proof comes from research which you can go through below and there is a very clear benefit to Montessori education in many different areas.
Lillard, A.S., “Preschool Children’s Development in Classic Montessori, Supplemented Montessori, and Conventional Programs,” Journal of School Psychology 50:379-401 (June 2012)
Angeline Lillard examines the impact of Montessori implementation fidelity. Her study found that children in classroom with high fidelity implementation showed significantly greater school- year gains on outcome measures of executive function, reading, math, vocabulary, and social problem-solving, than children in low fidelity or conventional classrooms.
Rathunde, K., “Understanding Optimal School Experience: Contributions From Montessori Education,” National Society for the Study of Education, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp. 253-274.
This chapter discusses nine characteristics of Montessori education in relation to various theoretical perspectives on education and development. The first three characteristics discussed—freedom of choice, eliminating grades, and learning by doing—are examined in relation to contemporary theories of motivation and education. Three lesser known characteristics—deep concentration, prepared environments, and habits of self-regulation—are discussed in the context of the flow theory of optimal experience. Finally, three facets of Montessori education that are perhaps the least understood and recognized—movement, aesthetic order, and the importance of nature— are considered in light of emerging perspectives on embodied knowledge. Examples of how each characteristic can be applied in the classroom are drawn from the author’s observations and research in Montessori middle schools.
Lillard, A.S. & Else-Quest, N., “Evaluating Montessori Education,” Science 131: 1893-94 (Sept. 29, 2006).
Researchers compared Montessori students with students in other school programs, and found that 5-year-old children who completed the three-year cycle in the Montessori preschool program scored higher on both academic and behavioral tests than the control group. The study also found that 12-year-old Montessori students wrote more sophisticated and creative stories and showed a more highly developed sense of community and social skills than students in other programs.
Lillard, A.S., Montessori: “The Science Behind the Genius,” New York: Oxford UP, 2005.
A comprehensive review of the scientific literature that demonstrates how current research validates Dr. Montessori’s observations about how children learn, particularly with regard to movement and cognition, the detrimental effect on motivation of extrinsic rewards, the beneficial effect of order in the environment, and the academic and emotional benefits of freedom of choice.
Showing why Montessori education works is quite an easy task, based on all the evidence found, so if you’ve ever been doubtful about the effectiveness of it, then we suggest you visit a Montessori school and take a look for yourself.
You can download an Adobe PDF document of the above here