Updated: Dec 13, 2021
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
Montessori education has a very particular way of seeing children and the way of how human beings learn things. We cannot say that only by hearing words we learn new concepts or just by seeing something we can understand the whole meaning of things. It is necessary to include more elements to achieve the process of learning.
In Montessori, learning is done through the senses. It is by touching and manipulating things that children understand the world around them. Children learn using their hands discovering their own answers.
Children are encouraged to work with different materials displayed orderly in the environment. Each of these materials are built in one another and have a sequential order. Such materials are adapted according to children’s development. Children are free to move around the environment and work with any material on their interests.
The teacher in Montessori education is called guide. The guide shows to the child how to work with the material. His/her role is to guide the child through his development, while the child directs his own learning. The child is free to bring the material to the table or mat and explore it by himself to come with new knowledge making him an active thinker.
But, how does it work? Well, in a Montessori environment the child works with concrete materials. This allows the child’s brain to create neuronal rconnections, organizing the information it is acquiring through the senses, by touching and manipulating with the hands. Later on, and thanks to all the previous connections, the child will learn abstract information, understanding more complex knowledge.
“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”
Making a reflection on the previous sentence that Maria Montessori describes, we understand that the use of the hands and movement are bridges that provide the essential elements to achieve the cognitive process.
Each concept learned scaffolds sequential steps. If we talk about the writing process, the child first needs to train and practice the movement of his/her hand in order to acquire muscular tone, strength, pincer grip, etc., before tracing any line or writing any letter. Practical life activities indirectly prepare the hand for the process of writing, like squeezing a sponge. In the same way we learn about numbers. The child learns first quantities and symbols before getting into more abstract concepts.
In all types of environments, this way of learning works in the same way. We can also incorporate this Montessori approach at home. We have told that the environment is a crucial element that provides a variety of experiences. Therefore, we need to prepare and organize the home in a way the child can explore and get access to activities according to his/her development. Provide children sensorial experiences and let them participate in daily activities such as cleaning, sweeping, preparing food, etc. Children love to actively participate in the home, this gives them a sense of belonging and responsibility towards themselves and others.
Another crucial aspect is what we project to children. What we say, how we move, everything will be absorbed by them and they will try to imitate us. So we should think of adults as role models who guide children's actions by their example. And last and most importantly; We need to let the children act. By doing things, children learn and understand the world in which they live and love.