What do Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia), Larry Page and Sergei Brin (founders of Google), Julia Child, Will Wright (creator of Sim City), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Author, Noble prize winner), and Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) have in common? They were all lucky enough to go to a Montessori school as children. Some even attribute their success chiefly to their Montessori education, saying it gave them the freedom to explore, the ability to follow their interests, it cultivated their creativity, taught them how to work with others, and maybe most importantly, it gave them the confidence to make mistakes and try again. Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Fred Rogers were also strong advocates of Montessori education because they saw it as a far better way of promoting genuine education. Even the young Prince George just started attending a Montessori School!
What is it about Montessori that sets it apart from other educational methods? Maria Montessori, Italy's first female doctor, observed children at work and play, figuring out how they develop and learn most easily, and came up with a set of materials and teaching practices to support their efforts. Since the time of her work in the early 1900's there has been significant scientific and educational research done to support her theories. Some fundamental elements of Montessori include a mixed-age classroom (the real world is not segregated by age, after all!), allowing children to choose activities that interest them (we all learn best when we are interested in what we are doing!), fostering independence at all ages, promoting respect towards the greater community, and making learning as hands-on as possible with an eventual transition to written work as the children are ready. These principles are found throughout all levels of Montessori teaching, from infancy to high school. In addition, Montessori teachers are given special training to learn how to recognize needs in the children and how to help the children meet their needs through work.
There is great variation among Montessori schools due to the fact that Dr. Montessori did not trademark her method or name. Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) are two of the most well-known Montessori organizations that oversee the quality of Montessori education in affiliated schools. However, the best way to assess a Montessori school for yourself is to enter a classroom and observe. You should see happy, engaged children who are enthusiastic about learning!
It is the time of year when many parents are deciding where their young child will have their first school experience and we are very fortunate to have several Montessori options in the greater Boston area. Montessori Schools of Massachusetts (MSM) is an organization that brings Montessori teachers and schools together to collaborate about the important work being done in local Montessori schools and helps Montessori teachers continue their education. Recently added to the board of MSM is Laurel Zolfonoon, Head of School and a lead teacher at the Concord Montessori School. Trained through Association Montessori Internationale, Mrs. Zolfonoon works hard to implement authentic Montessori education to a diverse community of local families. If Montessori sounds like it may be a good fit for your family, please contact the Concord Montessori School (978-369-5900,email@example.com) to schedule a time to observe Montessori in action!