When I was a child, my parents sent me to a private school. They had their reasons, one of which was that they liked the idea of having all my siblings and me in the same school from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Back then there weren’t as many options as there are now.
When it was time for my child to start Kindergarten, there were several, private, parochial, public, magnet, Montessori and home school to just name a few. With so many choices, it was challenging.
My husband is a teacher and was teaching at one of the South Bend magnet schools. He enjoyed his job very much, and our oldest son attended the same school. As our son grew, we noticed that he had lost the enthusiasm he once had for learning.
There are several reasons this can happen, but we began to look elsewhere to find the best fit for him. We researched and returned to a method of teaching that we were familiar with.
Our son had attended Montessori for preschool. That is where his love of learning began, and he had blossomed into an inquisitive young boy. My husband had started his teaching career in a Montessori school and decided to return to it. Now, our four sons all attend Good Shepherd Montessori School in South Bend.
So, what is it about a Montessori education that is so different?
At first glance, the first thing you notice is that the classroom materials look different. There are no desks and the traditional materials Montessori is a systematic approach to the child’s academic and developmental needs. Because “school” for most adults was most likely experienced through worksheets and textbooks, sitting in desks with a teacher in front of the classroom, the Montessori environment can appear to be disordered. Children move about the environment, choose where they will sit and with whom and work on the materials they select at that time.
However, the Montessori method is highly structured. Focused on the development of the whole child, every lesson contains a direct and indirect aim, teaching a current concept and preparing the child for future learning.
The adults in the environment use observation as a major tool of their work, as a scientist would, and they use words sparingly, deliberately and only in service to the child’s greater learning needs. Every action and movement are well thought out though children sitting silently in desks listening to a teacher might appear more ordered and structured.
“We chose Montessori because the respect for the child permeates everything. The materials (and the fact that all learning is done in context) allow for fewer struggles, and fostering a love for learning is of primary importance, but it is the dignity with which the child is held that is most convincing. When children are treated with such respect day in and day out, naturally they will grow in their respect for others.”
– Dan Driscoll, head of Good Shepherd Montessori School
One concern that is common to a Montessori education is that it does not prepare students to take traditional tests when they move on to high school.
“For me, I love Montessori because it allowed me to learn beyond a book and explore the real world. It was a hands-on personal approach to learning, and my world would never be the same without it. From learning how to care for the environment to using physical materials to represent math, I was truly able to excel and learn in the most beneficial way possible.”
– Julia McKenna, a former Montessori student, who is now a freshman at Adams High School
Her mother, Maria McKenna a professor at Notre Dame said:
“I appreciate Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education and what it means for our society today. It was inclusive in every way. Montessori understood the goal of education as developing the full potential of each child. Her ultimate goal? World peace. Kindness, love, respect for one another are a part of our children’s every day experiences. Some might think it’s pie in the sky, but I wish that this was the goal of every school for every child.”
“We were impressed with the Montessori teachers who understood children to such depth they could teach them without homework and rewards. Research on the Milwaukee public Montessori schools is astounding for the academic and social maturation of students from a cross section of socioeconomic backgrounds. The science behind Montessori helped us know we were doing the right thing,”
– John Petersen, PsyD whose three children were Montessori educated
What is wonderful about living in the Michiana area is that are so many options for children when it comes to their education. There are several Montessori schools in the area as well as other types of schools that you can explore that will benefit your child and help them reach their maximum potential.