How Children Learn
A lot of people ask me why and how the Montessori Method differs from the traditional method of educating a child. My simple answer to that question is that in the traditional, we teach children how we as adults want and think they should learn. The Montessori way, on the other hand, teaches children the way they want to learn.
Children are born to learn. They come out as tiny babies and they start growing. The world is new to them and all they want to do is understand and know this beautiful, vast and new world that is before them. They see adults do things and they want to learn to do the same. Talk, walk, sing, dance, sweep, clean, read and write. Children want to learn all these things and more.
God has programmed them to learn in a certain order, if a child can’t sit, crawl, and walk, how would he learn to run, skip and dance. One step at a time is best, isn’t it? So you as a parent or teacher who wants to aid the child along, should watch the child and provide the enriching environment that will help him learn at his own pace, what he needs to learn. This is what a good Montessori teacher, classroom and school should aim to do all the time.
Therefore when parents come into the school system with their child expecting the school and teacher to make their 18-month-old start writing 1, 2, 3 and A, B, C, it’s not going to work! At that age, the child has just started walking and talking probably! All the child wants to do at this stage is to play and explore this world that they can finally reach out and touch, by moving towards that one special thing that has caught their attention.
Let the children play! Play is what they need right now a time for writing will come; a time for reading will come. Read to them, but stop please stop writing figures and symbols on the blackboard and on a sheet of paper and making them say after you the numbers and the letters of the English Language, and even worse, making and forcing them to write. This is not fair, neither is it right.
This is the reason why children usually don’t want to go to school. It’s the same old same old. They have to sit at a table, keep quiet, write ‘1’ and ‘a’, all before they are 2 years old! Instead, do you know what the child would really like to do, and if you let him do this he would want to come to school every day?
Let him sweep the floor, string some beads, play with colourful play dough, learn some new songs and sing them daily, sit and listen to the teacher reading a story to the class for a few minutes, not 30 minutes! If they could run around the playground area, climb up and slide down a slide and then ride a bicycle. Aha… that would really be fun! If you did this the child would want to be at school.
If the teacher kept a lot of the materials at a level where the child could get to them on their own, if the children were allowed time to explore what they were doing without being interrupted to do another adult lead lesson. That would make a big difference. A lesson where the children have to sit again for another 30 minutes listening to the teacher talk and talk yet again. is not age appropriate! These are practices that you would not find in a good Early Years traditional or Montessori school.
Early Years Education involves understanding the child’s preferred learning style and providing the right environment for him to grow and develop. I love Montessori, but even if you don’t, please pay attention to that which resonates with the child you teach or parent. Provide the best child-friendly environment for them so that they can learn and love learning. As parents, we should research best practices and not compare children and draw up high unattainable standards for our children. Learning should be fun, so find ways to make it fun for the children.