The Montessori method of education focuses on the natural development of the child, where hands-on learning and character development are the mainstays of teaching and learning. Teachers guide their students using a more child-centered approach than traditional schools. In Montessori schools, children are actively encouraged to explore, play, and learn alongside their peers through activities that stimulate autonomy, challenge, creativity and mastery.
History of the Montessori Method
The method was developed in the early 1900s by Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed that children learn better when they have the power to choose. Dr. Montessori was an Italian physician, scientist, and educator who opened a childcare center in an impoverished district of Rome. The children she instructed were some of the most disadvantaged living in the area, and many had never before received an education. Dr. Montessori quickly found that her students showed strong interest in the hands-on learning experience she was providing for them. They became calm and orderly, concentrated on their work, and ultimately taught themselves and one another as they learned from their surroundings.The method is based on nurturing and cultivating a child’s natural desire to learn. With a focus on individual development, all aspects of the child are taken into consideration – academically, emotionally, socially and morally – allowing the whole personality to take shape, not just the intellect. This means that Montessori schools strive to create not only good students, but good people too.
What Does a Montessori Education Entail?
A school or classroom using the Montessori method of education looks and operates very differently from those using more traditional education methods. Many who have only experienced how traditional schools work may be quite surprised to learn how Montessori schools operate and how they employ a student-centered approach in every aspect of the child’s educational experience.While the exact approaches to Montessori education are unique in every environment, they rely on several similar practices and characteristics.
Making the Grade by Changing the Grade
One of the most common characteristics of many Montessori schools is using a nontraditional grading system that steps away from the standard letter or number grades given out in other schools. Rather than giving numerical or letter grades to determine when students can advance, teachers are continually observing and keeping track of children's readiness to move forward.The idea is that self-motivation to learn can and should occur without outside reinforcements — like grades — because they rarely have a lasting effect on a child’s future achievements or efforts in school.
Children Learn Best From Other Children
Most traditional schools are divided by age, grade level, and an individual child's general abilities. Many Montessori schools have taken a very different approach, incorporating mixed-age classrooms based on developmental stages. The benefits of the multi-age classrooms are apparent throughout as students treat each other with kindness and understanding. In the classroom, younger children learn academic concepts and social skills from our older students, while the older students learn leadership and mentorship skills by working with their younger classmates. Students learn patience and compassion for each other and enjoy having friendships with children of different ages. Teachers have the advantage of being with their students for three years, developing close bonds and a deep awareness of the social, emotional, and academic development of each child. Rather than students relying solely on the teacher as a source of knowledge, they can work and learn amongst their peers.
Environment Is Everything
Montessori classrooms are designed to provide a peaceful, organized space for children to engage in learning. The lessons are arranged intentionally in the classrooms. In this kind of classroom, you’ll find mostly wooden furniture, open shelves, and high quality wooden Montessori materials. Montessori classrooms are simple in design yet rich in education. The primary purpose of a Montessori classroom is to give the child an opportunity to focus on one task at a time. Many children find flashing objects, screens, and loud noises disruptive. Therefore, you won’t often find these in a Montessori room. Montessori materials are often made of wood. The teacher arranges material on open shelves and in open containers. Additionally, all the materials are set up within easy reach of children. Easy access means the student can work with any material in the classroom, one of the hallmarks of Montessori education. Classrooms used in Montessori education are beautifully refined, enticing spaces, full of light, and tend to be a combination of a workroom and playroom that can stimulate kids and get them excited to learn. While some more traditional educators would consider this a potential for distraction, the layout of the Montessori learning environment sparks creativity and engagement, peace and respect, and a sense of calm and organization.
Richmond Montessori School
Richmond Montessori School is a private school that serves students from 18 months through the 8th grade. As the only dually accredited Montessori school in Richmond, we are dedicated to providing a community based on academic excellence to provide children with a premier education that they will not receive anywhere else. Richmond Montessori School proudly features dual accreditation from the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). The school offers four distinct programs (along with specialty, before, and after school programs) that children move through as they grow both developmentally and academically: toddler, primary, elementary and middle school.
For children aged between 18 months and three years, the Toddler program is dedicated to providing an educational space that celebrates the independent spirit and active curiosity in learning. The Toddler program helps children build self-confidence while also encouraging their social, emotional, and physical growth. The school also offers extended day toddler programs in addition to their standard half-day program.
Children between the ages of 3 and 6 can attend a Primary Half-Day (pre-k), where they will learn symbols, sounds, and numbers, along with experiencing practical life experiences like food preparation and gardening. Children aged 5-6 are eligible to participate in Primary Full-Day (kindergarten) throughout the week. Children work collaboratively in small, close-knit groups where they build upon character and emotional maturity on top of their academic curriculum.
The elementary program is divided into two levels (lower and upper) of multi-age groupings. Lower Elementary is for children aged 6 to 9, and it combines the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. Upper Elementary is for children aged 9 to 12, and it combines the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.The world opens up to children in the lower elementary level with expansive lessons about the story of the universe and the Earth. While studying earth science, history, economic geography, and biomes, they make connections across time, space, and world cultures. Hands-on materials help them commit what they learn to their long-term memory and strengthen their abstract understanding of complex concepts. Our upper elementary students seek a deeper understanding of the world and their place in it. They create meaningful multi-disciplinary work and are passionate about their interests. The capstone achievement of the upper elementary experience is our sixth-year students’ yearlong research project. Immersing themselves in a topic of their choosing, each student writes an extensive research paper, then delivers a public presentation at a special evening event.
The Middle School program at the Richmond Montessori School serves students aged 12 to 14 and combines 7th and 8th grade. This program introduces field studies and service projects to facilitate their growth as students and citizens of the world as they begin to consider their place in society. RMS Middle School students are more than prepared for success as they take their next steps into high school and beyond.Richmond Montessori School is a leading institution in the Montessori community. We inspire academic success and personal growth while nurturing strong social relationships between students that are arguably unachievable in more traditional schools. We value community, character, authenticity, respect, and excellence in our students. The school works to instill these values in the children as they grow and learn from one another.