To liberate the child we must reform the environment, and reform the world. This is a necessity if we are to have life at its highest development. A fine work of research and observation is required in order to give that which is necessary to the development of life.
—Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was an Italian educator and physician who developed a now famous and widely-used method for teaching in the classroom: the Montessori Method. In 1907, when she was observing children who were given freedom to do whatever they wanted in an uncontrolled environment, she discovered what she referred to as the “child’s true normal nature.” That is, the child engaged in self-directed learning through doing ordinary tasks for the sake of the experience rather than to accomplish a certain end. Dr. Montessori’s method thus aims to encourage learning and development through enhancing this natural ability to self-direct; her theory was that children learn best through experimentation and experience, rather than through merely being instructed.
Thus, a Montessori environment is optimally structured to give a young student freedom to choose what they learn within the bounds of material organized by subject and difficulty. For example, one day a student might have several subjects to choose from, and may pick mathematics. He will eventually get to all the lessons, but is enjoying the natural self-direction that will best allow him to absorb the lesson. The Montessori Method is ultimately not only focused on learning, but on the growth of the child into a caring, independent, and self-disciplined individual.
Montessori methods can generally be grouped into four different categories: Practical Life, Language, Sensorial, and Mathematics. My classroom is unique because I have added other categories to the process, such as Geography, Science, and Art. While these are recognized Montessori categories, not every teacher uses them, and implementing them makes me a bit different from other Montessori teachers. I have found that these additional activities are areas that my students not only greatly enjoy, but areas that further their development in unique and effective ways.