Three Tenets of Montessori Education

The Montessori Method is considered one of the main alternatives to teacher-directed traditional preschool education. Ask any parent of a child immersed in Montessori whether they too wished to have grown up with Montessori, you will likely hear many parents answer with an emphatic, “Yes!” One such parent said,

“If I had a time machine, I would love to rewind the years and relive my childhood, just so I can learn the Montessori way. I do not refute that the education I received has opened so many doors for me, but I wish I enjoyed what I learned, understood what I learned, and had the option to choose what I wanted to learn.”

The very purpose of education is to help us live our lives to the fullest, and this is the core belief in Montessori. Dr. Maria Montessori, a doctor and educator, studied and observed children in their learning environments. She concluded that children learn best when the knowledge they acquired is not only meaningful, but also fulfills their interests. To fully understand the magic of Montessori and how effective it truly is, it is important to consider the three tenets of Montessori education that form its foundation. 

A Prepared Environment

A child’s first environment is his family, with his neighborhood or community being the second. The child requires support from his family and community to thrive in the third environment. The need for the third environment begins when the child is 2 ½ years of age as they become conscious of their environment and their activities. This third environment is where children receive education.

One of the fundamental principles of the Montessori Method is the importance of a prepared environment. Classrooms are carefully prepared by a trained Montessori educator for child-centered learning. When you walk into the classroom, you will see child-sized furniture; a variety of workspaces; and scientifically designed, attractive, and well-maintained materials displayed in such a manner that is easily accessible for freedom of choice by the children.  Everything has a purpose and a place which satisfies a child’s natural preference for order and harmony.

Spend any time in a Montessori classroom and you will observe the magic of Montessori clearly when you see children interacting with the prepared environment. What you won’t see is a teacher standing at the front of the class giving a lesson for all the children, nor will you see children sitting at individual desks during these lessons.

Instead, you will see children moving freely around the classroom, choosing their own activities, and working on them individually or in small groups. You might see them working at a table or on the floor on a small mat that clearly defines their workspace. By keeping the environment child-sized and accessible, Montessori promotes independence and maximizes self-regulation in the child, minimizing the need for adult assistance. In turn, a child’s self-esteem is developed and nourished as they learn they can do on their own and that they are essential contributors to their world.

Montessori classrooms promote freedom with boundaries: the freedom to move, the freedom to choose and the freedom to repeat. The prepared environment is designed to offer lessons, activities, and materials that match the developmental needs and interests of each individual child. Maria Montessori understood through her observations that not all children learn at the same pace nor are they interested in the same things at the same time. This is why children are allowed to choose their own lessons – naturally gravitating towards the ones that pique their interests.

Means of Development

Montessori materials are hands-on learning tools that are designed to provide children with opportunities to discover key learning outcomes through repetition and practice. Each material teaches one skill at a time and is intentionally designed to support independent learning and problem solving. This hands-on approach to learning provides children with the opportunity to self-correct. Children are given the time and space to master the lesson at their own pace. 

“The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling.”  Dr. Maria Montessori

To actualize his potential, the child needs to make several developmental conquests and for this he must work on a variety of developmental activities. He must become conscious of his own powers or capacities.

Any material available in a Montessori classroom is specially prepared and designed to help children move from one stage to another. The materials promote repetition, willpower, and provide stimulation.

Children are first introduced to the Montessori materials by a certified Montessori educator who will present the lessons and then invite the child to work with the material independently. When they have completed the activity, the children return each material to its allocated place in the prepared environment. 

The materials are presented in a sequence from easiest to hardest and in alignment with the child’s developmental needs and interests. This very clear structure provides a logical order and progression for learning which promotes a strong foundation of knowledge. 

Specially Trained Teachers

Dr. Montessori called the specially trained teacher the ‘directress’ for she believed that the role of a teacher is to direct the child’s energy. The directress should assist the child only when he/she requests or needs it. Unlike traditional schools, the Montessori teacher does not intervene or stop the child when he makes a mistake. Dr. Montessori believed that providing the child with overt support would only lower his self-esteem. In the classrooms at Villa Montessori, you won’t see a teacher hovering over children correcting their work. Instead, you will see our teachers standing back, carefully observing their students, and only stepping in to assist when needed.

The specially prepared environment, the means of development, and the specially trained teachers are three important tenets of Montessori education. The absence of any one of them means there is no Montessori. At Villa Montessori, children can deeply engage in their own learning, progress at their own pace, and discover knowledge through repetition and practice. Furthermore, learning in our Montessori classrooms is completely tailored to the child’s needs and interests. 

Want to visit our specially prepared environment to see for yourself the magic of Montessori? Contact Villa Montessori at Leesburg, and we’d be happy to schedule a visit.

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