The Benefits of Montessori Education
The first time I encountered Montessori education was about ten years ago, when, during my maternity leave for my first child, I read several parenting books including The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori. I found that Montessori education is quite good.
At the time when my first child was three years old, there were very few Montessori kindergartens in Shenzhen. We joined the Peninsula Montessori Kindergarten, which is by the sea, and is also at present the site of the AMI Shenzhen training center. So, eight years ago, my first child went to the Peninsula Montessori Kindergarten where she met her beloved teacher, Coco, and her good friends and classmates have now developed nearly ten years of friendship since continuing into the Montessori elementary program.
What has my first child obtained from Montessori education? Since I’m not a professor of education, I can only talk about the benefits for my child from the perspective of a mother.
Self-confidence and inner strength is the first precious gift from a Montessori mixed-age educational environment:
The most notable external characteristic of the Montessori environment which differs from traditional education is that it is a mixed age environment, which means that children of different ages are mixed in one class. This is totally different from the traditional education model of dividing classes based on age.
In fact, the concept of mixed ages can be found everywhere. All the groups in our society are mixed age. In an organization, there are usually newly graduated interns, freshmen with three to five years of experience, and of course, senior staff members with more than five years of experience, who certainly have their own titles and positions. Actually, our social organizations, no matter the size, are mixed age settings.
In mixed age companies, the interns are busy learning to work independently, the new employees are constantly accumulating skills to qualify as veteran employees, and the senior veteran employees tend to be the team leaders. Everyone in the team needs to use the skills of communication, teamwork and cooperation in their daily work, and the veteran employees will need to show more leadership.
Children in Montessori education have understood this process of work collaboration by the age of six, because it exists naturally in a Montessori Casa environment. In real life, it is true that not everyone will become a leader, but in the Casa class, every child will become one of the leaders as long as he or she completes three years of study. These little leaders can be very confident since they know that they are the oldest ones in the group.
The growth process from little children to becoming leaders is very important, and it is a gradual process. Fortunately, children have enough time to grow up slowly. So, children coming from a Montessori education are better at handling the frustration experienced by new employees in various jobs, because they learn when they are 3-6-years old that they can handle it as long as they give themselves enough time. As a matter of fact, this is true for everyone. Success will come sooner or later as long as you have enough endurance and nothing is impossible as long as there is enough time.
This is the source of self-confidence and inner strength, which can neither be given nor be taken from outside forces, and it comes from the heart. Children in Montessori education have understood this before six. Have you got it?
The ability to work as a team is the second skill children obtain from a Montessori mixed-age educational environment:
For adults, learning to work as a team sounds easy, but in fact it is difficult to learn. In the final analysis, teamwork is a personality trait, which needs to be unconsciously cultivated during childhood, because it is very difficult to change after growing up. Undoubtedly, the mixed age environment of Montessori education offers a wonderful space for children to learn and practice the skills of teamwork.
All children practice the skills of obedience and cooperation during the first stages in the Casa classroom, while the training for leadership skills occurs during the final stage of Casa. There is no other model of teaching as in Montessori education which helps children learn teamwork unconsciously in a mixed age environment, and their role changes from followers and collaborators to leaders with the improvement of their ability and growth in age.
Self-motivated and interest-driven self-exploration and research ability
Children are free to choose the activities they are interested in in the Casa environment, while they can freely choose their favorite subject for further research in the Montessori elementary program. In the first three years of elementary school, teachers are more likely to present children the knowledge structure of the universe with five overarching stories, while in the last three years, children will do further and more detailed research around the knowledge structure system according to their interests.
My first child has done so much research in the Montessori elementary school, which includes a variety of topics, such as cats, ferns, and WWII. Among them, the research about cats included the evolution of cats, how did cats enter human society, and how did cats come to China? This study lasted for a few months. And the topic of ferns was a scientific exploration of plants which was shared with the whole family and lasted an entire school year. It is an example of spontaneous and self-driven learning and exploration.
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