Whether you’re a parent, teacher, head of a school or a caregiver, and if you are someone who is keen to implement the principles of Montessori education system with your children, then having a good understanding of these eight principles are an absolute must.
Having a good understanding is a must, because it is very easy for anyone to buy all the materials and make the children use them. However, without the necessary understanding of the principles, your children will never gain most if not any of the benefits of the Montessori system of education.
In this article:
- Movement enhances cognition
- Give them the freedom of choice
- Let them work on their interests
- Extrinsic rewards don’t add value
- Learning happens from & with peers
- Learning becomes richer with context
- The way of the teacher becomes the way of the child
- Order in the mind comes from order in the environment
The 8 Principles of Montessori Education System
The following are the 8 principles, which are considered as the basic tenets of Montessori education.
1. Movement Enhances Cognition
Maria Montessori is one of the 7 important contributors of early childhood care and education in India (names of the other 6 contributors is discussed in this article).
According to Maria Montessori, without movement, there can be no learning.
A child, therefore, has to move to be able to learn. Even as adults, when we buy the latest smartphone for instance, we cannot learn about its new and latest features, unless we physically explore and investigate the phone with our own hands and eyes.
As humans, our life started with movement the very moment when we were out of our mother’s womb. That’s kind of nature own way of teaching us that movement is not only essential, it makes life! And without movement, there is no cognition. So there’s no wonder why this is the first principle of Montessori education.
Therefore, whenever or wherever you’re setting up a Montessori environment for learning, you need to take the efforts to ensure that there is enough room for the children to move around, explore, investigate things around them and learn from the experience.
2. Give Them The Freedom of Choice
Studies show that learning and well-being in individuals improve when they have a sense of control over their lives. Similarly, when children are given the choice to choose their own materials for play activities, the fact that they are able to choose what they want gives them a sense of control.
As a teacher, parent or caregiver therefore, you may give play materials to your child and say:
“Here are your materials, Rachel. These are specifically for you. This means you are not expected to use the other materials, and have to use only the ones that are given for you. You will be given other materials after you finish playing with these materials. Have you understood what I said, Rachel?”
If you are going to make all the choices, sooner or later, your child will get the feeling being controlled by you all the time. When they do not have a sense of control, they less likely to take ownership of what they are learning. And over time, the behaviour of not taking ownership is likely to seep into other areas of their life – as they grow.
3. Let Them Work On Their Interests
As individuals, when we have an interest in something, we will apply ourselves into it better and learn better from the experiences. This is part of human nature and therefore holds good as regards children too, which is why this is regarded as one of the most basic principles of Montessori education system.
When you give children the freedom to pursue their interests and consistently provide them with the opportunities to learn from doing what they are interested, the depth and width of their learning is significantly better than when they are asked to do what you want them to do.
4. Extrinsic Rewards Don’t Add Value
If children are going to be encouraged and motivated because they are getting something from you every time they do something, notwithstanding the good intentions you may have, you should rest assured that your desired outcome will not bear fruit.
To start with, children are actually not looking for rewards, if they are doing something which they like to do (which is what we discussed before this point). That’s why saying things like:
“I’ll give you the candy if you first get your homework done.”
“If you want your chocolate ice cream you have to first get your room done” not only does not work for your child, it can in fact be counter-productive in the long run!
And in case you got them habituated to rewards, then the day is not far when you will be forced to stop giving rewards to them, which is only going to discourage them from doing anything.
When they are given the freedom and opportunity to do what they want, not only will they not need anything from you, they in fact won’t expect anything from you. This means they are always self-motivated and do things out of their own will, with enthusiasm and learn.
The best part is that they will carry this outlook across their life, which will keep them in good stead.
5. Learning Happens From & With Peers
Children learn best when they actively participate and are deeply engaged in a collaborative setting. This is one of the reasons why you will find children from different age groups (like 3 to 6 years) are put together to form a batch in every classroom.
When your child is in such an environment, they tend to learn from their peers who are younger and older to them. While they will try to imitate those who are elder to them and follow what they do, at some point in time, they will find by themselves, in due course, that those who are younger to them are following them.
This is when the seeds about concepts like ‘hand-holding others’ and ‘leading and guiding others by example’ are sowed in their mind, which takes shape as they grow.
6. Learning Becomes Richer With Context
If you want learning to happen in your children, be it in school or at home, the most fundamental thing you need to do is to make learning a meaningful activity. For example, if they are into a lesson where they just got introduced about “Animals in The Farm”, it is important that you give your children the experience of actually being in a farm.
No matter how much you try, helping them learn everything about farm animals from a book will not make any sense to them, because they don’t have an idea about what a farm actually looks like.
But when you take them on an exclusive trip to a farm, or to one of your neighbour’s home where they have a small farm in their back yard, they get to observe the farm animals living in their natural environment. They will learn so much more from just a few minutes of their experience in the farm, as opposed to a 90-minute lesson in the classroom across two sessions.
Once they have gone through their experience, they would’ve developed an interest and understanding towards it. This is when you should talk more about the subject it in the classroom, as they already have a context about it and would be more willing to deepen their understanding.
7. The Way of The Teacher Becomes the Way of The Child
Anyone can interact with a child. But not all adults know how to interact with a child the manner in which they are supposed to interact.
The first and the most fundamental fact every parent, teacher and caregiver must know and always remember is this:
Children learn what they see!
They learn more from a few words of observing others than from a thousand words. This is why nowing how to interact is important, because they are observing a lot along with the words that we speak. Simply put, children are always observing how others behave around them.
If a parent, teacher or caregiver learns how to interact with a child, then he/she will be able to bring about specific desired behaviours in the child as a consequence of the interaction.
The following are some of the aspects of an interaction with a child, among others, that determines the outcome:
- What is the language to be used?
- What vocabulary should be avoided?
- What is the tone with which a message should be conveyed?
- How to pace the words?
- When to be subtle?
- When to be firm?
- How not to pamper them?
- How not to tell what is to be told?
- When not to tell what has to be told anyway?
Depending on how the above aspects were carried out with the child will determine whether or not the outcome will be as desired by you or otherwise. That’s why this is one of the most important principles of Montessori method of education.
8. Order in The Mind Comes From Order In The Environment
The first thing you would observe as you walk into a Montessori classroom is that there’s complete order in the environment. And if you observe a little more closely, you will find that every material is kept at a specific place and each place is meant for a particular material.
This is because the principle of “A place for everything and everything in its place.” is diligently followed in a Montessori environment. There are in fact 5 must-have spaces within an indoor learning environment, which is discussed in this article.
There is so much respect given for the learning environment children will be spending their time in, that by the end of the day, each material goes back to the place that it is supposed to be in. When children are taught to respect the environment and encouraged to maintain this order, over time, this sense of appreciation and respect for order becomes a way of life for them.
Since they learn this at a young age, when they grow as an adult, they will be able to not only deal with physical clutter easily and confidently, they will also be able to significantly minimise or even completely eliminate clutter in their mind.