Who is a Montessori Guide?

Today, we continue our exploration of the core philosophies of the Montessori classroom by looking at philosophies embodied in the Montessori guide.

It is the transformation of the adult that is the underlying theme of a Montessori teacher, where as a Montessorian is first and foremost an observer, exemplar and protector of the child’s right to learn. Parents likewise can adopt these philosophies in their approach at home, creating an environment consistent with the classroom.

Core Philosophies of A Montessorian

Be an Observer

To learn from the child, one must observe the child. Observation is an art that must be a highly developed skill in Montessorians. Observing a child is a learned art. The teacher needs to be able to anticipate the needs of a child and act on this need.

Be an Exemplar for the Child

The adult needs to “show” rather then “tell.” It is important for the Montessorian to carefully study their demeanor from which the children will derive behavioral clues. Teachers learn to move quietly, work carefully and give the child a chance to follow an example that is geared to the child’s capability and not to the adult’s expectations.

Be the Protector of the Child’s Right to Learn

A Montessorian recognizes that children learn at their own pace, with varied activities, which are both direct and indirect. If a child is to increase, the adult must decrease. The adult must have experienced a transformation in order for a child’s learning to take place.

For more information on this topic, see “What Makes a Montessorian?” by Nancy McCormick Rambusch, EdD (Montessori Life magazine, Summer 2013 Volume 25 No. 2).

We Speak Montessori

The following post is shared by Jessica Stellato, Lower Elementary Lead in the Galaxy Room at Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs in Cumming, Georgia. In this series, Jessica explores common Montessori classroom terminology.

Shortly after enrolling in a Montessori program, you will hear words like “work.” Someone not familiar with this lexicon may view the word “work” as having a negative connotation, but in the Montessori environment “work” means children learning through purposeful activity. To help parents better understand what’s being described in the classroom, we want to introduce to you a few common terms.

Analysis of Movement

Analysis of Movement is a technique by which Montessori teachers break down tasks into parts and demonstrate each step in isolation. The action becomes so deliberate and engaging that the child understands the sequence of steps. The opportunity for mastery is increased when the child is free to follow each step.


In the Montessori environment, Concentration is defined as deep engagement on a single task. As Maria Montessori stated, “The first six years of life are the most powerful time for developing concentration and attention.”

Control of Error
Montessori materials are designed so a child receives instant feedback as he works, allowing him to recognize, correct, and learn from his mistakes without adult assistance. Putting control of an activity in the child’s hands strengthens his self esteem, self-motivation, and the opportunity for learning learning.

In this video of a student working with the trinomial cube, Analysis of Movement, Concentration, and Control of Error are all demonstrated. Analysis of Movement is seen as the child picks up each piece purposefully, coordinating his movements to exact the object’s position. Concentration abounds as he orders the pieces and visualizes the prisms becoming one. Control of Error is demonstrated as the child places the prisms together – the prisms will only create a cube if assembled correctly.

The most important part of the work process demonstrated in this video is the sense of satisfaction for a job well done. Montessori students enjoy work that tests their abilities.

Benefits of a Montessori Environment

How does the Montessori method provide the most optimal environment for the development of the child?

• Montessori teachers are trained to have a clear understanding of attachment, exploration, self-help skills, empowerment, pro-social skills, problem solving skills, self-esteem, and resiliency.

• The Montessori method individualizes learning through children’s interactions with the materials as they proceed at their own rates of mastery.

• Individualized instruction provides opportunities for development of many skills, such as physical coordination, perception, attention, memory, language, logical thinking, and imagination.

• The multi-aged Montessori classroom (children are with their classmates and teacher for a three year span) provides a continuity of care, fostering attachments and promoting trust.

• Children learn virtue, empathy and kindness through social and emotional guidance during group meetings and through grace and courtesy lessons.

• Montessori materials are designed to foster concentration, coordination, independence, order, and a respect for all living things.

• Children in a Montessori environment are active learners and are productively engaged throughout their work time.

• Montessori lessons are designed to make the most of the critical early years for learning linguistically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically.

Nurturing a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learning is jargon that has been floating around the educational world in recent years. But what exactly does a lifelong learner look like? The Montessori method provides the framework of the ideal habits of learning – habits that will sustain students the rest of their lives. Surprisingly, the phrase “lifelong learning” has roots not in the educational world, but as jargon from the 1970’s that was popularized in European intergovernmental agencies in the 1990’s. Europe was seeking to change educational policies to create a stronger global economy. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, governments around the world adopted this platform to make education a priority.

So what does a “lifelong learner” look like in a Montessori environment? We believe that constant self-improvement and pursuit of passions is a natural human tendency that begins at birth. If fostered, this urge never goes away. We witness the child who engages in play outside with his friends, peace conversations between two students with opposing views, and the sense of confidence as the students share their research. We believe parents are the best role models for their children. To encourage the development of this quality in your child, it is important to demonstrate what lifelong learning looks like.

Lifelong learners:

Challenge Their Minds
Regularly reading, writing, and completing puzzles keeps the mind engaged
Exercise Their Bodies

Habits of fitness lead to positive self-image, and building core strength increases ability to focus and concentrate.
Stay Socially Connected

Interacting with family, friends, or volunteer improves communication skills and ability to work together with others
Stay In School
Take classes in areas you love (sewing class, programming class, yoga)
Are Confident

Those who can control their feelings, control their choices
Manage Stress
Stay as calm and positive as possible in all situations

Teaching Kids to Recognize and Label Their Emotions

Has your child ever been upset but didn’t have the vocabulary to describe his feelings? Want to help your children communicate with each other more clearly? This tutorial shows how you and your children can create a great “Emotions Book” together that will help your children recognize and label their emotions for better communication.

Keep the Learning Alive this Summer!

With the final stretch of our 2013-2014 school year coming into view, it is time to consider summer vacation and the ensuing time available during those delicious days of leisure. Summer is a time for children to relax, regroup and decompress; a time for not having to be somewhere at a specific time and to allow the arc of the sun to dictate the activities of the day. It is truly a time for children to release from the structure of the school day and yet, soon into the summer break, children will yearn for stimulation of thought and the opportunity for nurturing their developing academic skills.
Montessori students in particular are groomed to be curious and to follow questions with a scientist’s rigor and to explore their world from a holistic point of view. We strive during the school year to teach the tools necessary to analyze and categorize information and facts, and to instill in our students the drive to go deeper into a subject to explore further. It is on this note that we encourage you to help your child maintain their math and reading skills during the summer months.

Research confirms that most students experience “summer learning loss” (Graham, 2001) in their math and reading skills. “Summertime loss was more pronounced for math overall than for reading overall. Cognitive psychology suggests that, without practice, children are most susceptible to forgetting facts and procedural math skills.” (Cooper and Sheller, 1987) However, reading on a daily basis is also recommended, whether you are reading to a primary student, or your child is reading aloud to you or a teacher. Reading is a skill that is easy to nurture. In addition, engage your child in conversations about subject matters that interest them. It is then easy to ask “math questions” and/or logical thinking questions simply by exploring a subject that calls to them.

Enrolling your child in a summer school program can help mitigate the “summer slide”, especially if the program offers creative, thought provoking themes. FMS offers a full array of summer school options and we encourage you to consider these options for your child. Most importantly, enjoy the extra time with your child and know that a lot of growth is taking place inside of them, even in the quietest moments.

What Is Cosmic Education?

You may hear the term “Cosmic Education” when discussing the Montessori Elementary curriculum. But what is Cosmic Education, and how is it valuable to the child’s experience?

Cosmic Education is an educational approach founded by the Italian physician-educator Maria Montessori in the first half of the 20th century and developed in detail by her son, Mario Montessori, after her death in 1952. It is rooted in the principle that a knowledge of the universal whole allows us to understand the value and purpose of its parts, and how their individual stories form a larger narrative.

In the last 50 years, many scientific discoveries regarding the universe have been uncovered. Maria Montessori was a visionary with great insight. Even in her time, she could foresee the potential unfolding of scientific knowledge and its impact to future generations. In her 1942 work, To Educate the Human Potential, Montessori stated:

“Let us give the child a vision of the whole universe… If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder… The knowledge he then acquires is then organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him… No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe.”

The result of this educational approach, at both the elementary and the university levels, is a curriculum that unifies all the subjects of human knowledge into one, coherent, continuous, and comprehensive study.

Historian David Christian continues this approach in his course work today, explaining:

“Big history surveys the past at all possible scales, from conventional history, to the much larger scales of biology and geology, to the universal scales of cosmology. It weaves a single story, stretching from the origins of the Universe to the present day and beyond, using accounts of the past developed within scholarly disciplines that are usually studied quite separately.”

The importance of the Cosmic Education approach is beautifully demonstrated in Christian’s The History of Our World in 18 Minutes, the introduction to his Big History university course, seen here as presented at the TED conference in March 2011.

101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children

Parents often wonder what they can do to reinforce Montessori principles in their home and daily routines. This list, 101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children, was written by Early Childhood Montessori Guide Barbara Hacker, and is full of practical tips for all facets of life.

Individual Ownership of Learning

When parents are choosing Montessori education for their child, they are trusting their child to take his learning into his own hands. The environment is designed to allow students to discover and learn on their own. The materials are self-correcting and are used until the child says, “I did it.” This type of learning is very different from traditional learning. In a traditional learning environments, information is housed with the teacher. The teacher instructs the child what is important to learn and through rote effort, the child memorizes the information. To confirm that the student learned the information necessary, the student takes a written test. Weeks later, though, students have often forgotten or have a diminished memory of what they were taught. In the Montessori environment, children discover the answers themselves, so information and learning is housed within them. They may then draw connections between the newly learned information and other topics and events in their lives.

This article on mariamontessori.com highlights one family’s experience with individual ownership of learning. In seeing their son Wyatt’s newly developed writing skills, his parents questioned, “Who taught Wyatt how to write?” Wyatt’s response: “I did.”


Day of Service

Foothills Montessori School is proud to initiate its first “Day of Service”,scheduled for April 8th. The entire student body will participate in several acts of service, reaching out to seniors, service men and women and children suffering with serious health issues. We will come together as a whole to turn our collective eyes on a variety of people in our community who are suffering due to childhood illness, being a lonely elderly person, or a soldier dealing with the stress of duty. We recognize that even a small gesture of kindness and acknowledgement can have a positive affect and for a moment in time, help lighten the burden of another.

Foothills Montessori School is philosophically built on four pillars of values including; academic excellence, universal values, global understanding and service. Service is a mindset that is cultivated when time and effort is given to purposely make a difference in the lives of others. It is a form of altruism that arises out of a state of satisfaction and becomes a driving force for the benefit of all. It allows our student body the tangible opportunity to look beyond the borders of our school and to touch the hearts and minds of others in our community.

We are approaching this inaugural service day from a couple of directions. First, we are collecting used (in good condition) books to be distributed to Whitney Elementary School, used eyeglasses, which with the help of Lens Crafters will be given away to people who need but can’t afford them. We will also be collecting Children’s (and young adult )DVD’s and CD’s to be given to the Children’s Heart Foundation and The Ronald McDonald House. Secondly, we will involve the entire school in making thank you cards to be distributed to our service men and women and birthday cards acknowledging our local seniors. We will also be decorating brown paper bags to hold lunches that are given to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House located in Las Vegas. Another donation opportunity we are looking for is for all size clothing to be donated to local shelters.

We thank you for your continued support as we reach out to help and serve the local community!