"Montessori" is becoming a buzzword among parents and educators. With the popularity of Montessori schools on the rise, you may find yourself wondering if it’s right for your child.

The Montessori Method is a specific teaching style that focuses on five key areas of child development: practical life, sensorial materials, mathematics, language, and culture. It is tailored to each child’s unique attributes and learning preferences.

To better understand a Montessori education, it helps to know the background behind the method.

History of the Montessori Method

After spending years studying pedagogy (the theory of education), Dr. Maria Montessori was invited to open a child care center in a poor district of inner-city Rome in 1906. The children in this area were disadvantaged and uneducated, and Montessori was determined to give them a true opportunity to learn.

In 1907 she opened "Casa dei Bambini" (Children’s House) and began working to create brand-new educational methods. Montessori observed that when the children were given opportunities to learn through hands-on experience, they absorbed information more quickly and thoroughly.

In 1909, Montessori published her first book about creating a curriculum that cultivates the innate desire to learn within children. Once the book was translated to English, its first 5,000 copies sold out within just four days. Montessori schools spread throughout Western Europe, and the first Montessori school opened in the United States in 1911.

According to the American Montessori Society, there are 5,000 Montessori schools serving more than 1 million children in the United States today.

Key Principles of the Montessori Method

In order to determine whether the Montessori Method is right for your child or students, it helps to know more about what makes it unique.

1. Experiential Learning

Rather than simply seeing and hearing information, children in Montessori academies interact with it in a tangible way. For example, children learn how to count, add, and subtract using physical objects rather than pencils and paper.

They learn how to read and write with a set of wooden letters called a movable alphabet. Montessori found through her own experience that children can learn more effectively when they are moving and touching physical elements.

2. Individualized Curriculum

Montessori educators believe that every child learns differently. Therefore, teachers customize curriculums for each student at their own pace and style. This may include one-on-one lessons to replace or supplement group lessons.

3. Social Collaboration

Instead of separating children born the same year into different grade levels, Montessori academies group children in three-year age ranges together.

This encourages younger kids to learn from their older peers and helps solidify concepts and foster leadership skills in older children. The idea is to create a sense of team-building and community throughout the school year.

4. Self-Assessment

The Montessori Method encourages children to use their critical thinking skills and apply corrections to their own work. This helps them to grow into confident and independent learners.

5. Soft Skills Development

While the Montessori Method does encourage students to deepen their understanding of core subjects like math and language, it also treats soft skills with equal importance. Collaboration, self-motivation, independence, and problem-solving are the undercurrent of the learning techniques at Montessori academies.

Is the Montessori Method right for your student?

If you are still curious about the Montessori Method, see it in action. Check out this video from the American Montessori Society for a peek inside a real Montessori classroom.