About San Diego's Montessori Child Development Center

On January 6, 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori began her career as an educator of children working with a group of fifty children 3-5 years old, in Rome. She had at her disposal an untrained assistant, a room, a bit of furniture and developmental materials to aid sense perception which she had previously used when working with mentally handicapped children. Those children who were older had to be encouraged before their interest was aroused. Once enticed to use materials, their attention was volatile. Dr. Montessori was astonished to see that the little ones, however, were intensely attracted by the materials, working spontaneously and repeatedly with them in total concentration.

Being a scientist as well as a physician, Dr. Montessori observed and responded to this phenomenon of spontaneous work generated by the apparatus. Little by little, through the experimental process of trial and error, she created a highly specialized form of apparatus which to the child afforded a source of profound satisfaction. In addition, she provided an environment suited to and respectful of the children’s inherent characteristic, “the prepared environment”.

Maria-Montessori-School-EducationOut of this experimental foundation, the Montessori Method evolved.

Dr. Montessori recognized that self-motivation is the only valid impulse to learning. The young child has a strong desire to understand the order in the world and a unique ability to absorb new concepts. Ability to focus on a chosen activity aids the child in developing independence, concentration and a logical orderly approach to problem solving. The Montessori materials present one concept at a time in a sequential manner, thus increasing the child’s chance for successful completion and encouraging confidence and concentration. The child gains a sense of peaceful satisfaction from his or her accomplishments.

“Never let the child risk failure until he has a reasonable chance of success.”-Dr. Montessori

Some principals of the Montessori Method

  • The young child has a strong desire to understand the order in the world and a unique ability to absorb new concepts.
  • The Montessori environment is a miniature world, carefully and attractively designed, which the child can examine and control.
  • The child learns by working with a rich variety of manipulative materials. The three year curriculum includes practical life, sensorial, language, history, science, art, music, and movement.
  • Ability to focus on a chosen activity aids the child in developing concentration and a logical approach to problem solving.
  • The Montessori materials present one concept at a time in a sequential manner, thus increasing the child’s chance for successful completion and encouraging confidence and concentration.
  • The child gains a sense of peaceful satisfaction from his or her accomplishments.

The Cycle

Your child will grow and blossom in the Montessori environment. He begins at 2.5 or 3 years old establishing the foundations spreading the roots which will nourish the learning to come. In the 2nd or 3rd year he will begin to learn through manipulation of the didactic materials. Pictures will form in his mind of the symbols for letters, numbers, and what and how things relate in the environment.

The 3rd level may be year 3 or 4 depending on the child’s emotional, physical and academic development. During this year she becomes the leader, and mentors to the younger children. The “works” he has touched, and manipulated for the first 2 or 3 years of education now pass to the level of abstraction. The child himself is surprised at how much he or she knows.

The student in her last year is called upon to write and direct plays, create songs with musical notes, read books and teach games to younger children. He acquires the ability to do mental arithmetic with ease and understand basic math concepts. The younger students are drawn along in the flow of learning with the mature assured elders of the class.

Social and Emotional Growth

Nurturing the growth of both the social and emotional aspects of the child is an important part of our program. First, we create a warm, loving, respectful atmosphere. Then we emphasize helping children express feelings in constructive ways and to develop social skills and a sense of responsibility for their own behavior within the school community.

The philosophy of “freedom within limits” provides the basic framework for the children’s interaction with their environment and with one another.

We work with children to develop what is now called, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Intelligence (SQ). These “newly defined” areas of development coupled with academic learning have always been important in our Montessori program.

Academic achievement cannot stand alone; it must be complimented with creativity, security, social graces, empathy, and physical fitness and then comes the Joy of Learning.

Comparing Methods

A Child-Centered Environment: The focus of activity in the Montessori setting is on children’s learning, not on teachers’ teaching. Generally students will work individually or in small, self-selected groups. There are very few whole group lessons.

The Responsive Prepared Environment: The environment is designed to meet the needs, interests, abilities, and development of the children in the class. The teachers design and adapt the environment with the current community of children in mind, rapidly modifying the selection of educational materials available, the physical layout, and the tone of the class to best fit the ever changing needs of the children.

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A Focus on Individual Progress and Development: Within a Montessori program, children progress at the own pace, moving on to the next step in each area of learning as they are ready. While the child lives within a larger community of children, each student is viewed as an individual.

Traditional Montessori
• Emphasis on role knowledge and social development • Emphasis on: cognitive structures and social development
• Teacher has dominant active role in classroom activity; child is a passive participant in learning • Teacher has unobtrusive role in classroom activity; child is an active participant in learning
• Teacher acts as primary enforcer or external discipline • Environment and method encourage internal self discipline
• Instructions both individual and group, conforms to the adult’s teaching styles • Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to each students learning style
• Same age grouping • Mixed age grouping
• Most teaching is done by teacher, collaboration is discouraged • Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and help each other
• Curriculum structured for child with little regard for child’s interests • Child chooses own work from interests and abilities
• Child is guided to concepts by teacher • Child formulates own concepts from self-teaching material
• Child generally given specific time limit for work • Child works as long as s/he wishes on chosen project
• Instruction pace usually set by group norm or teacher • Child sets own learning pace to internalize information
• If work is corrected, errors usually pointed out by teacher • Child spots own errors through feedback from the material
• Learning is reinforced externally by role repetition and rewards/discouragement’s • Learning is reinforced internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success
• Fewer materials for sensory development and concrete manipulation • Multi-sensory materials for physical exploration
• Less emphasis on self-care instruction and classroom maintenance • Organized program for learning care of self and environment (Polishing shoes, cleaning the sink, etc.)
• Child usually assigned own chair, encouraged to sit still and listen during group sessions • Child can work where s/he is comfortable, moves around and talks at will (yet disturbs not the work of others); group work is voluntary and negotiable
• Voluntary parent involvement, often only as fundraisers, not participants in understanding the learning process • Organized programs for parents to understand the Montessori philosophy and participate in the learning process