“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” 
~ Dr. Maria Montessori

Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, Montessori education prepares children to take on the future with confidence and zeal, propelled by the gift of self-knowledge and a lifelong passion for learning. The first thing visitors to a Montessori classroom notice is the peacefulness of the environment and the students working in a variety of seating options using hands-on, beautifully designed materials. Several ages of children and at least two teachers are in the same “Learning Community”.  The most current cognitive neuropsychology research supports Montessori methods - indeed many of the elements that Montessori teachers have been using for over 100 years are now identified as “state of the art” in conventional education.

In today’s educational terms, Montessori Education is: 

  • Brain-based education supported by current cognitive and educational neuropsychology research
  • Multiple learning styles/multi-sensory, 
  • Project-based, experiential/hands-on, and interdisciplinary,
  • Differentiated/individualized for each student. Students can work at their own pace with teacher guidance and direction, taking more time on some tasks and less on others as needed.
  • Classrooms with flexible seating choices that allow movement, and have beautiful interior designs, 

What a Montessori Class and School Look Like, and How  They Work.

Montessori elementary and secondary classrooms are fundamentally different from conventional classrooms. In fact, they are so different that it can be hard to understand how they work, and why they are so great at helping children thrive. While it would be easy to write volumes about this topic, here are five key differences, and how they matter to your daughter’s success.

  1. Teachers are guides, not lecturers. They individualize instruction to keep each child optimally challenged.
  2. Children have choices, there’s no one-size-fits all curriculum pace. Students are encouraged to be curious; they are engaged and love learning. They are given choices about how they want to demonstrate their learning - presentation, project, essay, video, webpage, book chapter, art project.
  3. The classroom is full of materials instead of textbooks and worksheets. Children learn to solve problems, do their own research, and think, instead of repeat memorized jargon.
  4. The day has 2 – 3 hour work periods in elementary school, and a combination of 2-3 hour work periods and seminars in secondary school - instead of a schedule where activities are constantly changed, and students are at the mercy of the bell.
  5. Children learn with and from each other, in a mixed-age environment, with a team of teachers that they spend 3-4 years with. Instead of competing with each other, they grow into a community, and practice all-important social skills every day, and see two to five teachers model effective teamwork. 
 An example of a montessori upper elementary classroom. Notice the natural lighting and wood furniture, open floor space and a choice of seating. Photos of odyssey heights school for girls classrooms will be available in mid-august, 2018.

An example of a montessori upper elementary classroom. Notice the natural lighting and wood furniture, open floor space and a choice of seating. Photos of odyssey heights school for girls classrooms will be available in mid-august, 2018.

Successful Montessori Graduates

What is most striking is the wide range of fields that successful Montessori graduates are in, and how many of them directly credit their success and outlook on life to their time in a Montessori school - even if they only attended until age 6 or 9.

  Both Founders of Google   In a 2004 interview ABC’s Barbara Walters asked Sergey and Larry about the reasons why they and Google became so successful. She was surprised that it wasn’t their supportive college professor parents, but their Montessori education that was the vital key. Sergey and Larry specifically pointed to the curriculum of self-directed, [but teacher guided] learning.     “I think it was part of that training [from Montessori education] of not following rules and orders, and being self motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently.”  said Page.

Both Founders of Google

In a 2004 interview ABC’s Barbara Walters asked Sergey and Larry about the reasons why they and Google became so successful. She was surprised that it wasn’t their supportive college professor parents, but their Montessori education that was the vital key. Sergey and Larry specifically pointed to the curriculum of self-directed, [but teacher guided] learning.

 “I think it was part of that training [from Montessori education] of not following rules and orders, and being self motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently.” said Page.

  Katherine Graham:   1st Female CEO of a Fortune 500 Company   Katherine Graham was enjoying her life as a Washington socialite when her husband’s suicide in 1963 forced her to assume control of the Washington Post. In doing so she became the first female publisher of a major American newspaper. Her confidence faltered but—remembering that what matters is how people learn, not what they know—Graham said,    “The Montessori method, learning by doing, once again became my stock in trade.”   Her reign at the highly-regarded paper lasted more than two decades. Katherine Graham’s time as owner and editor of the Washington Post and was recently featured in the movie “The Post” where Graham was played by Merryl Streep

Katherine Graham: 1st Female CEO of a Fortune 500 Company

Katherine Graham was enjoying her life as a Washington socialite when her husband’s suicide in 1963 forced her to assume control of the Washington Post. In doing so she became the first female publisher of a major American newspaper. Her confidence faltered but—remembering that what matters is how people learn, not what they know—Graham said,  “The Montessori method, learning by doing, once again became my stock in trade.” Her reign at the highly-regarded paper lasted more than two decades. Katherine Graham’s time as owner and editor of the Washington Post and was recently featured in the movie “The Post” where Graham was played by Merryl Streep

  Gabriel Garcia Marquez:   Nobel Prize Winner for Literature   Marquez said his Montessori education gave him   “the desire to kiss literature”  and states,  “I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

Marquez said his Montessori education gave him “the desire to kiss literature” and states, “I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”

 
  Julia Child:   Chef and Best Selling Author   Julia Child attended Montessori school and credits that education for her love of working with her hands.    "[Maria] Montessori wanted kids to develop 'a friendly relationship to error,' – to understand that mistakes are a normal part of learning, and that to learn, you must be willing to make mistakes, and then to move forward,"     writes       John Long   , head of a Montessori school in    Houston   , who wrote about Child’s connection to Montessori education.

Julia Child: Chef and Best Selling Author

Julia Child attended Montessori school and credits that education for her love of working with her hands.

"[Maria] Montessori wanted kids to develop 'a friendly relationship to error,' – to understand that mistakes are a normal part of learning, and that to learn, you must be willing to make mistakes, and then to move forward," writes John Long, head of a Montessori school in Houston, who wrote about Child’s connection to Montessori education.

  Anne Frank:   World-Famous, German-Born WWII Diarist   In April 1934, Anne started attending a Montessori kindergarten. Anne’s father,  Otto Frank,  later said about choosing a Montessori school for his daughter:    “Anne was a demanding character. She continually asked questions... When we had visitors, it was difficult to free yourself from her, because everyone and everything interested her... It was good that Anne went to a Montessori School, where     each pupil gets a lot of individual attention    .”

Anne Frank: World-Famous, German-Born WWII Diarist

In April 1934, Anne started attending a Montessori kindergarten. Anne’s father, Otto Frank, later said about choosing a Montessori school for his daughter:  “Anne was a demanding character. She continually asked questions... When we had visitors, it was difficult to free yourself from her, because everyone and everything interested her... It was good that Anne went to a Montessori School, where each pupil gets a lot of individual attention.”

  SEAN “P Diddy” COMBS:   Grammy award-winning musician, rap recording artist and ceo of bad boy records   The multi-talented hip hop artist Sean “P Diddy” Combs says he feels fortunate to have attended Mount Vernon Montessori School during his childhood, recalling that,   “I feel like I was nurtured into wanting to be somebody special”.

SEAN “P Diddy” COMBS: Grammy award-winning musician, rap recording artist and ceo of bad boy records

The multi-talented hip hop artist Sean “P Diddy” Combs says he feels fortunate to have attended Mount Vernon Montessori School during his childhood, recalling that, “I feel like I was nurtured into wanting to be somebody special”.

Montessori Classroom interior Design

The design and flow of the Montessori classroom create a learning environment that accommodates choice. There are spaces suited to group activity, and areas where a student can settle in alone. Parts of the room are open and spacious, allowing an elementary student to ponder a 10-foot-long Timeline of Life, or a secondary I or II student to create a mural illustrating their science research project.

You won’t find the customary rows of school desks; children work at tables or on the floor, rolling out mats on which to work and define their work space. Nor are you likely to find walls papered with brightly coloured images of cartoons and syndicated characters. Rather, you might see posters from a local museum, a mural of a forest or farm to bring nature into the room, or framed photographs or paintings created by the students themselves. There are well-defined spaces for each part of the curriculum, such as Language Arts, Math, and Culture. Each of these areas features shelves or display tables with a variety of inviting materials from which students can choose.

Many classrooms have an area devoted to peace and reflection: a quiet corner or table with well-chosen items—a vase of daisies; a goldfish bowl—to lead a child to meditative thought. And always there are places to curl up with books, where a student can read or be read to.

Each classroom is uniquely suited to the needs of its students. In elementary-level rooms you’re likely to see large tables for group work, a sofa and soft seating, computers (or 1:1 iPads like at Odyssey Heights), work rugs and floor cushions so students can work on the floor. In secondary school communities the design is typically like a combination of a great coffee shop and design studio, with a variety of seating - tall tables, regular tables, a desk or two with carrels for individual work, plus specialty areas for fitness, visual and performing arts, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Above all, each classroom is warm, well-organized, and inviting, with couches, rugs, and plants and flowers to help children and teens feel calm and at home.

(Description from The American Montessori Society)