Purpose of Montessori Education
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person. Each must do it himself or it will never be done. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years spent in the classroom because he is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should be to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn.
The Practical Life Exercises
“A child’s work, ”Dr. Montessori wrote, “is to create the man he will become. An adult works to perfect the environment but a child works to perfect himself.” This distinction can be illustrated by looking closely at two people who are shoveling sand on a beach on a hot day. One is a man who is trying to fill a large barrel with sand; the other, a little boy, who is filling a pail with sand, dumping it out, and then filling it again. If anyone offers to help the man he readily hands over the shovel; but any efforts to help the little boy are resisted. He clings to his shovel because the work he is doing can only be done by himself. By constant repetition of motions he is strengthening his muscles, perfecting his coordination and gain confidence in a particular skill. No one tells him that he has to shovel the sand; his is guided by a direction deep within his own nature. Using the child’s natural inclinations as a point of departure, Dr. Montessori structured several exercises for the classroom to help the child satisfy this need for meaningful activity. For these exercises she used the familiar objects-buttons, brushes, dishes, pitchers, water and many other things which the child recognizes from his home experience.
Although the Practical Life Exercises may seem simple and commonplace, they are actually a very important part of the Montessori program. Each of the tasks helps the child to perfect his coordination, focus and concentration so that he will be able to work later with the more intricate academic materials. No learning takes place without concentration and attention. The child prepares to learn by performing exercises which help him to gradually lengthen the time in which he can focus his attention on a specific activity.
“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.” M. Montessori
At our school we recognize each child as a person with as much intellectual and emotional capacity as an adult but lacking only in height, knowledge and length of years on the planet. We have respect for the child’s curious nature, tireless exploration and innate desire to learn. We present the child with a carefully prepared classroom full of interesting materials and work. They make their choices, enjoy the work, and build their skills. In this way learning is inherently pleasurable and rewarding. It is something they want to do more of, for themselves.
Upon our children rests our future. What they value and what they are able to achieve will tell what our world will be like. Children are our most treasured natural resource. Our goal is to encourage, in a very positive way, the love of learning. The purpose of the Montessori method is to foster independence, a positive self image, curiosity, and a zest for life in each child. With this foundation our children will have the confidence and tools to creatively meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.