Maria Montessori observed children around the world and found that the laws of development were universal and inherent in children of all races and cultures.
As a ‘scientist in the classroom’, she put together the findings and discoveries from her observations of human development that led to an education approach that supports children’s natural development, providing the skills and support to reach their full potential in life. It is respected and practiced internationally today, such as the Montessori pedagogy or the Montessori method.
Montessori education sees the child as a unique human being in the process of self-formation, one who often has quite accurate instincts about what it is that he or she needs to do next in order to grow and to learn.
Montessori is a holistic scientific educational system fulfilling this need. It is founded on the belief that within the human being there is an enormous untapped potential that needs a fertile environment and a different educational approach from the teacher in order to be fully expressed. It helps humans to develop to their fullest potential.
Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as “an aid to life”. Montessori pedagogy takes into account the discoveries in neuroscience and is designed to support the natural development of children from birth to adulthood, so it is not just early childhood education but takes the child right through secondary school too. Great focus is given to the formation of the child’s fundamental capacities during the first years of life – not just intellectual capacity, but also the development of a strong personality.
Montessori approach encourages children to become life-long learners, following their natural path of development. With a strong emotional, behavioural, and moral foundation, children become motivated, active, and independent learners who are prepared for the real world. The Montessori approach provides children with enduring intellectual capabilities, achieved through the framework of social and emotional learning. Montessori develops the whole child. Academics and knowledge-building are key qualities of Montessori, as is the ability to think creatively and understand the needs of others. Children grow up as independent and responsible, self-motivated and curious for learning individuals who can think critically and creatively and who not only realise the needs of others but actively promote harmony in their community of peers.
Key aspects of the Montessori approach include the Prepared Environment, the role of the Montessori Educator and scientifically developed Montessori materials. Montessori classrooms provide a specially crafted learning environment where children are able to respond to their natural tendency to work. Children have an innate passion for learning, and the Montessori classroom encourages this by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult – Montessori guide.
The role of the adult is to guide according to the scientific knowledge for child’s development, so the child becomes the active driver in his self-construction. Through their work, the children develop concentration, self-mastery and joyful self-discipline.
In the Montessori approach the role of the teacher is to guide, so the child becomes the active learner. Within a framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities. Children are given the freedom to develop according to their own unique path and as a result they are able to reach each developmental milestone as and when they are ready. Actively engaged in their own development in this way they grow into confident, socially aware, empathetic adults who are contributing members of society.
Dr. Montessori developed a specific set of materials that work together, not only within the classroom, but also across classroom levels. The materials are carefully and scientifically designed to provide concrete insights into abstract concepts and in the context of other materials. The set within each classroom was intended to be about the right size set for a child to master in about three years in the classroom [or six years in Elementary for the full program]. And the materials the child would see in the next classroom not only referred to the materials in the earlier classroom [or was even the self-same material, used in a more complex way], but also required the understanding conferred by that earlier material.
In the Montessori prepared environment, children themselves choose what they will do, with whom they will work, and for how long they will work. This freedom of choice, however, comes with the responsibility of showing respect for oneself, for others, and for their environment. Children are given the freedom to develop according to their own unique path and as a result they are able to reach each developmental milestone as and when they are ready. Active in their self-construction, they develop their responsibility, self-control, inner discipline and abilities to make choices. The children grow into confident, socially aware, empathic adults who are contributing to the humanity.
As an educational system, Montessori is practiced internationally in over 22 000 schools worldwide, and has a longer track record of success than any other educational approach in the world.
In Bulgaria, Montessori education is available in private and public nurseries, primary and elementary schools, where there are established Montessori classrooms for children between 1 to 15 years of age according the planes of development. The number of Montessori classrooms in Bulgaria is constantly growing. Most of these are private primary schools and elementary schools, with an increase in the number of classrooms within the public education.