A humming, creative, connected environment a microcosm of everything that’s great about humanity.
That’s how Camilla Escombe describes the Montessori method of education, and she should know; Camilla has worked as a Montessori educator, known as a ‘guide’ for the past 20 years.
She told Kinderling Conversation, the Montessori method is a child-centered approach to education that focuses on play-based learning.
“Children work in mixed age groups, with individual learning programs targeted to their needs. At Montessori we also place equal significance on academic, social and spiritual education,” said Camilla.
A typical day at a Montessori pre-school
Camilla told Kinderling Conversation, unlike the mainstream school system, children in the Montessori program work for three hours of un-interrupted work time.
“We work with each child’s natural development time,” said Camilla. “That means the children spend those three hours moving from inside, to outside. Some may stay on a particular project for the whole three hours.”
“They practice getting into the work flow,” said Camilla. When they have finished they will pack that work away and go and get some social interaction at the snack table, or have a cuddle with one of the educators.”
How does Montessori compare with mainstream kindergarten?
“We view children as whole already; we believe they are coming to us with everything they need in order to succeed and thrive, and our tasks to help with each child connect with their own potential,” said Camilla.
“We want them to practice self-discipline and independence and being in charge of their own learning with guidance from the Montessori professional (the guide) in the room.”
4 significant learning differences
- Freedom of choice to move around
There is no assigned seating in a Montessori class room.
- We make friends with error
We love mistakes because they help us to see how far we are from our goals.
- Children learn at their own pace
Each child has an individual curriculum. If a child needs more help with reading and writing, they are given as much time as they need to focus on that.
- Collaborative and non-competitive environment
The mixed aged classroom really helps with this because even while your child is learning a particular skill, they’re observing a peer who is already using it.
Montessori pre-school to mainstream primary school: How difficult is the transition?
While recognizing that any transition is challenging for a child, Camilla told Kinderling that “overall” feedback from students who’ve transitioned to the mainstream method, after Montessori has been positive.
“The most common things we are told for children in this group are that they have to get used to the sound of bells, that they can’t call their teacher by their first name and the way the day is split into different aspects and tasks,” Camilla said.
“That said, Montessori kids quickly adapt, and even if you only give your child two or three years in the Montessori environment it will set them up for a future of lifelong learning.”
How can we embrace the Montessori method at home?
“The great thing about practicing Montessori at home is that you don’t need lots of money to do it,” said Camilla.
“The most important thing to do is enjoy your children,” said Camilla. “Be present with them and help them learn that there is as much dignity in learning how to cook and clean as there is in understanding academic stuff. The two can work and do work simultaneously.”
Camilla also suggests parents:
- Go to local school and observing first to see what is possible.
- Put your name down on the email list or go to a parent’s night and listen to professionals talk about how to practice at home.
- Google Montessori methods at home.