For our new column, Ask an Educator, we turn to educators, whether teachers, tutors, or principals, to answer frequently asked questions from parents. To send in your question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, our question is:
“What is Montessori and how is it different from other education philosophies? How can parents reinforce the Montessori way at home?”
Answering for us is Su Yeeng Ngion, Montessori Lead Teacher of one of the International Primary Classes at Etonkids Bilingual Kindergarten, Central Park campus with an eight year career in teaching Montessori kindergarten.
What is Montessori?
Montessori education is a child-centered teaching approach developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, which looks at the holistic development and individuality of a child. There are five curriculum areas in a Montessori classroom – Practical life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture. Each area is equipped with a set of specially designed manipulative materials.
The practical life materials help children develop concentration, independence, and fine motor coordination through everyday life experiences, such as buttoning, spooning, and pouring. The Sensorial materials help children refine all of their five senses, such as the identification of shapes, colors, textures, and sounds; order (tallest to the shortest); and classification (heavy and light).
The mathematics materials aim at giving children a solid foundation in their understanding in mathematics through manipulative materials, which is to teach from concrete concepts, then slowly move towards abstract concepts. For language, children are first introduced to the sounds of the letters, then gradually taught to blend and form words, after which they move on to reading and writing. The cultural aspect is when children are exposed to Botany, Zoology, Geography, History, and Science.
How is it different from other philosophies of education?
Unlike traditional schools, where everyone learns at the same level, the Montessori approach allows each child to learn at their own pace and ability according to the teacher’s observations. The teacher also changes and adds new materials to the classroom to entice children’s interests.
In addition, the multi-aged grouping is one of the hallmarks of a Montessori classroom. The idea is that younger children look up to older children, and older children in turn learn to care, work cooperatively and impart what they know to younger children. The learning experience in the classroom is not only from teacher to student, but also from child to child learning.
How can parents assist in their students Montessori education at home?
Parents can implement certain Montessori principles at home by providing opportunities for their child to practice independence in allowing the child to do things by themselves as they are capable of. For example, you can involve your children in household chores, such as washing dishes, setting up the table for meals, folding their own clothes, and helping prepare food.
Photo: courtesy of Etonkids