Montessori is the ultimate buzzword in the education scene – especially these few years in Hong Kong with numerous new Montessori schools and playgroups. But what exactly does it mean and what does it have to offer? Is it the right type of learning for your kids?
In this Little Steps Live Interview with the co-founder of The International Montessori School, Anne Sawyer, we chat about all things Montessori to answer all your questions about this curriculum and its future for little learners.
Montessori teachers take a guidance approach where children are given the opportunity to take measured risks. In a prepared environment, children participate in their learning choices supported by developmentally appropriate materials. The multi-age classroom enables to create a real community where children learn to socialize with older and younger children.
Compared to kids who receive a traditional education, Montessori kids have a better understanding of themselves and truly know who they are as an individual. They are confident in themselves, knowing both their strengths and weaknesses.
The Montessori teaching approach matches brain chemistry and development from birth to maturity with an education system, providing a carefully designed environment to assist children in their own learning. Everything present in the Montessori classroom is there for a reason supported by statistics from scientific models where anything that’s not inherently interesting or compelling is taken away.
Montessori education is for every child but not necessarily every parent. A key requirement is that parents need to have faith on the curriculum itself and trust in the process. For instance, teachers will not be writing notes or reports as they’re interacting with the kids all the time and offering children a truly individualized learning experience. Progress can only be observed through children’s behaviour, e.g. additional independence and better ability to read. There’ll be aspects which parents have to balance, e.g. showing acceptance and not giving a lot of directions all the time.
According to Montessori parents, Montessori schools provide a natural language environment for Chinese learning, enabling them to truly and joyfully learn to read, write and speak Chinese, which might not be something that happens in a traditional classroom where language learning is done through subjects.
Children love challenging themselves and if they’re not doing so, it can well be a sign that they have special education needs, e.g. they might be dyslexic. Under the Montessori environment, these signs show up easily and at an earlier stage. This is an absolute advantage to make early intervention possible.
The Montessori approach makes sure that the use of technology is deliberately controlled in the environment, and is appropriate to the child’s age. For instance in International Montessori School, lower primary students are required to write a story or a report, and then put it into a presentation using technology as a tool. They believe it’s most important for parents to be modelling, reducing screen time and actually reading and writing themselves if they want their kids to do so.
Montessori is a way of life so it’s important to be consistent for the family to share the Montessori values and encourage independence. The more children are allowed to do things, the more they can accomplish by themselves. It’s important to not be always reaching out to help them, or they might get the message that they are not competent enough, which in turn creates anxiety and feeling of a lack of confidence.
Parents should know that the term ‘Montessori’ is not trademarked and so any school can call themselves a Montessori school. The best thing you can do to tell if a school is authentically Montessori, is to tour the campus and ask good questions: are the classrooms set up in the proper Montessori way? is there a trained Montessori teacher in every classroom? is there a 3-hour work cycle? Etc.
IMS was established in 2002 by a group of parents searching for a programme of education that would provide for the highest quality academics, combined with child-centred teaching. These parents chose the Montessori Method, an internationally recognised education method with a strong scientific basis and a 100-year history of providing a unique and enriching education.
The International Montessori School, www.ims.edu.hk, +852 2772 2468.