“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, from birth to the age of six.” ~Maria Montessori
The initial years in the life of a child are an opportunity for learning like no other, and one that, if missed, cannot be recovered. They have no comparison or replacement in the later years of one’s schooling.
Your child is born with a brain like a sponge, soaking up everything around him, continuously and intuitively. According to Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori philosophy of education, such is the power of the baby’s absorbent brain, that it learns in its first three years what would take sixty years to learn for a full-grown adult (and that too with effort). For a child, this comes effortlessly! Remarkable, isn’t it?
Now imagine not putting these valuable initial years to their best use in your child’s development. By development, we do not mean traditional, information-based learning. Montessori education does not just prepare a child for school, but for “life”. This is where basic life skills are first ingrained into your child, including creativity, motor skills, concentration, responsibility, independence, and a sense of community, to name a few.
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” ~Maria Montessori
And so, giving your child the right environment where he can see and hear things which allow him to learn to the best of his ability, is essential. The foundation building of your child’s character and personality happens in the first five to six years of his life. 85% of the brain’s development is done by the time a child turns five. Like any foundation, it is hard to reshape or strengthen after the major part has been constructed, and so it must be done the right way, and in a holistic way.
What happens if a child does not receive Montessori education?
Is he as prepared for later stages of life and likely to perform as well as a child who has received proper Montessori schooling?
Research clearly suggests no. A study by psychologists in the US reveals remarkable conclusions. They found that across many disciplines and criteria, Montessori children outperformed children who had received traditional schooling. They not only showed more grasp at math and reading, but also did better at creative tasks like writing. Even their social sense and emotional intelligence when interacting with other students was greater!
How is Montessori education different from traditional schooling?
Traditional schooling in public schools is teacher-centered and very restrictive. It is a place where your child is expected to conform more, to passively listen and memorize whatever they are told to and are given mostly academic information to digest. Creativity is curbed in such environments.
Maria Montessori believed in childhood education which encompassed all aspects of life, and so she founded a system of education with tools and techniques that would promote natural and creative self-learning, with a bit of guidance.
She believed giving children freedom and independence was the key to creating powerful individuals out of them.
“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water…” ~Maria Montessori
A Montessori classroom is thus not teacher-centered. It is child-centered. The curriculum is flexible and adapted keeping the needs of every child in mind. Your child gets more individual care than he would receive in a traditional setting. He is allowed to learn at his own pace instead of being expected to keep up with everyone else.
Montessori classroom layouts are also very different from traditional ones. They are designed to be very open, bright, and colorful, in order to stimulate a sense of freedom, to make children feel more energetic and positive, and to get their creative juices flowing. They are a place where children feel “happy” to learn, because we believe in Maria Montessori’s philosophy that the “test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
More benefits of Montessori education for a child
Learning in a Montessori school is not just book learning, rather it is centered on hands-on experiences. Your child gets to get his hands into arts and crafts, everyday activities like cooking, and nature. A Montessori education gives your child the creative tools and toys that help him hone large and fine motor skills. A traditional classroom or even a home would generally never be equipped with as many tools, but in a Montessori classroom everything is designed just for children, including furniture.
Field trips and special events are also a primary focus in Montessori schools, which aim to expose children to what is outside the classroom, give them more stimulation and inculcate confidence in them to present themselves.
Another benefit which cannot be overstated is that of teamwork and cooperation. The concepts ingrained in a Montessori school, especially in the very initial years, are human strengths, not constrained by the boundaries of class, religion, or race. They teach a child to feel the world around him empathetically and indiscriminately. Children learn to engage with other children respectfully, to cooperate in their activities, and to develop a sense of community overall.
The open environment not just unleashes a child’s creativity, but also lets him learn problem solving through trial and error – to learn by doing. This builds his cognitive capabilities, lets him embrace challenges and failures, and teaches him self-analysis and self-correction.
Teachers are present only to “facilitate” children instead of making decisions for them. They only maintain some basic “ground rules” in order to instill a sense of discipline and justice among children, but otherwise allow them the freedom to be creative.
“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the first duty of the educator.” ~Maria Montessori
And every child in the world has the right to this education, to be given the resources where they can unlock their true potential. No child should be deprived of this opportunity, because these children are the hope of this world. According to Maria Montessori, “If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men”!
So, let us together, through education, give our children the wings to fly…and transform the world.