What is Montessori Education?

When I was 7 months pregnant, as I researched “mindful parenting”,  I discovered Montessori Education. It’s probably the best discovery from that time. Montessori Education Philosophy has influenced our family life, set the ground stone for learning for my son and shaped our homeschool preschool curriculum more than any other parenting philosophy. I hesitate to identify our household as a true Montessori household here. We use this philosophy as well as others to incorporate into our home life: taking in elements that work; revising elements that don’t in hopes that our home life is made better by them.
I started incorporating Montessori tray work into JJ’s play at about 13 months old. I was so inspired by the philosophy that I started training to become a Montessori teacher at NAMC. I’m postponing finishing my certificate until I can take time away from writing this blog.

You can find out more about NAMC’s program and read about Montessori Education in detail on their website here.

Maria Montessori was the first female Italian physician. She practiced medicine for a few years after she graduated medical school. After working with mentally disabled children for some time, she became interested in education. With a background in both general medicine and psychiatry, she was uniquely qualified to develop an educational philosophy that was unlike any others. Eventually, she developed Montessori schools and teacher training programs all around the world to spread her philosophy. There are many Montessori schools worldwide that are educating some of the brightest of our generation today. You can read more about her here.
After reading Montessori’s books and successful implementing elements into our household, I can now attempt to break down the 10 Elements of Montessori Educational Philosophy that we have incorporate into our household. I hope you will find this list useful for reviewing education philosophies that you want to use to incorporate into your family, homeschool or classroom.


1) Follow the child

One of the central ideas of a Montessori Education is that the education is customized for a given child. In a Montessori classroom, every activity introduced to the child is at the child’s level. As the child progresses in skills, new and more complicated tasks are introduced to the child. The child also has freedom of movement to select activities of the child’s interest.
In our life, you will often catch me following my child around. I follow him around playrooms, playgrounds, parks and malls as he explores his surroundings. This act of “following” not only allows my son to feel safe to explore new places, it also give me a chance to observe him at play so that I can come up with new ideas for his given level of development and interest.

Find out more about Montessori Parenting on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.
For an illustration of “following the child”, check our post on “Because My Son Likes Princesses and Doll Houses”.

2) Foster independence by facilitating rather than teaching

The Montessori teacher does not ‘Teach”. The Montessori teacher facilitates the best interaction between the child, activities and the child’s environment so that the child can learn to navigate the environment and learn from that environment.
In our homeschool, I do not teach my son a skill by lecturing him on a board. Instead, I prepare activities for him that works on that skill. Then, I introduce the activity in a way that fosters his interest. After he becomes interested and wants to try it for himself, he works on the activity to gain that skill. As a Montessori teacher, I observe him to watch him fail and try again. When he asks me for help, I demonstrate the activity again and explain the concept. Then, he can try the activity until he wants to stop.
Eventually, when he demonstrates competency in completing the activity, I introduce “extensions” to the activity. Extensions are variations in the activity that works on skill or increase the level of difficulty of the skill.

Find out more about Montessori Parenting on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.

3) Simple child friendly classroom environment

Simplicity is at the heart of a Montessori Classroom.

  • Low shelves with activity trays, and toys are placed at the child’s level.
  • Tables and chairs are low enough for the child to climb in and out by himself/herself.
  • Mats are used to set a dedicated place to work on activities.
  • Art works are displayed proudly on walls, and books are placed on self serving book shelves.

In our house, my living room is my son’s playroom. We have 2 shelves set up on two sides of the room.

  • One shelf contains tray work from our homeschool.
  • The other shelve contains open ended toys for imaginative play and construction play.
  • There’s a play table in the center where my son uses to play with construction toys.
  • There’s an open area where my son uses to work on gross motor skills.
  • There’s also a table with his own chair that he uses to eat and work on activities.

In his room, there’s only a bed and some toy bins containing random figurines. I often take trays into his simplestic room to do homeschooling. This eliminates any distraction for him.
In the kitchen, I have a learning tower where my son can climb onto. I have a sensory materials in the cabinet for easy access. We often do sensory work or water transfer work on the kitchen counter.

Check out more Montessori Classroom Ideas on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board. 

4) Self selecting manipulative activities that are called “Work”

In Montessori education, the child’s work is to play.
The activity trays often contain manipulatives to help the child develop a dedicated skill. Montessori believed that the child learns best when using the child’s senses to explore the activity: listening to a song, manipulating a toy or smelling a fragrance.
This is why a lot of montessori tray “work” involve stimulating the senses.
Montessori also believed that the activities be self selecting based on interest so that the child can come back to certain trays of interest again and again.
In our homeschool, we work on Montessori activity trays and then place them on shelves. My son selects his activity after it has been worked on once. Today, he may choose to work on trays from two days ago again simply because he wants to.

Check out more Montessori Activities and Montessori Manipulatives on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.

5) Self correcting activities

In Montessori education, the activities are often self correcting. An inset puzzle is a good example of self-correcting activity. You have to place the pieces in a way that goes into the puzzle perfectly. Otherwise, the pieces will not fit.
By working with self-correcting activities, the child experiences both responsibility and discipline. The child is responsible for correcting himself/herself in the activity by placing the pieces correctly to complete the activity. The sense of completion is the reward for following through on the activity. The child experiences a sense of accomplishment that is the child’s own.
Discipline is instilled in the child when the child self-corrects on the activities. When failure occurs, it’s always a choice presented to the child to correct the mistake and move on or to simply give up.
When the child chooses to persist, the child is choosing the path to discipline and the path to mastery. 

Check out more Montessori Activities on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.

6) Activities that practice dedicated skills with Practical Materials

Montessori activities are often divided into categories, below are just some examples:
Practical Life – activities that involve learning to cut with knife, scissors and cookie cutters; activities that involve pouring water and wiping spills; activities that involve putting items into containers and taking them out.
Sensory – activities that involve smelling different scents; activities that involve touching different fabrics; activities that involve tasting different textures.
Fine Motor – activities that involve threading beads; activities that involve grasping different beads, blocks; activities that involve stacking.
By presenting activities that work on dedicated skills, the child is encouraged to concentrate on that skill. It works well to lengthen the child’s patience and focus on that particular skill.

Check out more Montessori Activities divided into categories on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.

7) Positive social environment that highlight conflict resolution

In a Montessori Classroom environment, children are encouraged to resolve their conflicts. There is a set of guidelines for children to work out their conflicts.
The guidelines are based on children:

  • talking out each perspective views in the situation;
  • agreeing on a compromise or a solution;

They force the child to take a time out in the situation and re-evaluate the child’s own views.
Starting at the age of 3 to 6 years old, if the child learns to resolve conflict in a peaceful manner, then the child will have more emotional awareness later on in life.

Here’s an article that discusses the steps in this conflict resolution process.
Find out more about Montessori Parenting on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.

8) Use all 6 senses in activities

Montessori activities often are designed to stimulate the 6 senses that we all have.
These 6 senses are vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch and proprioception. A child is particularly sensitive to these senses during his/her early development periods.
By presenting activities that stimulate a particular sense at a time to the child, these activities takes advantage of the child’s sensitivity to learn about the world. Often, the child will learn the skills much more deeply when working on these activities.

Check out more Montessori Activities divided into categories on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.

9) Encourage self-discipline

Self discipline is highly encouraged in Montessori Education. Experiencing the responsibility that comes with self correcting activities is just the first step in this process.
Teachers often ask the student “How would you do this?”, “What would you say?”, “What do you think?”. These questions allow the student to think through their actions and words. They also puts the responsibility of behavior on the child instead of the adult.
There are no policing behavior in the Montessori classroom. Rather, if a child did not behave well, the teacher gently corrects the child, then gives the child chances of correcting the behavior by the himself/herself. If there are repeated offenses, then the teacher simply ask the child to stick with the teacher to be monitored and repeatedly corrected so that the child can correct the behavior by himself/herself.

Find out more about Montessori Parenting on our Montessori Parenting Pinterest Board.
Find out more about Balancing Independent Play and Normalization of the Child.
For alternative parenting methods such as Waldorf Parenting click here.
Check out iPad Apps Sequence For Puzzle Learning.

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References for this article:

The Absorbent Mind
Montessori From the Start
NAMC Teacher Training Blog

10) Encourage community peace

In a Montessori classroom, there’s usually the sound of “busyness” as children work on their activities. There are usually no shouting and no loud reactions. This is because peace is encouraged everywhere in the classroom:

  • Children are encouraged to use peaceful conflict resolution methods.
  • Activities are often centered around sharing and caring for community properties.
  • Children are encouraged to watch other children complete work.
  • Children are encouraged to take turns and share materials.
  • Children are encouraged to use their classroom voice.
  • Children are encouraged to learn from each other.

When children are busy doing what they love to do, the classroom will have a “busy” feel to it. However, there won’t be excessive noise because children are absorbed in their own tasks.

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After a year of researching, learning and trying it out, I\'m highlighting the 10 most important themes of Montessori Education for you complete with resources. So, that any parent can get an overview. Click to read more. #montessori #montessoriactivities #montesoritoddler #montessoribaby #montessoriroom #homeschool #homeschooler #homeschooling #homeschoolingideasfortoddlers #parenting #parentinghacks #parentinggoals #parentingtips #mindful parenting tips

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