Authentic Montessori Education

The Montessori name does not have a franchise anywhere in the world, like McDonalds or Samsung. Which means that any institution can be called Montessori without necessarilyoffering authentic Montessori education. There are schools in Romania bearing the name of Maria Montessori (just like other schools bear the name of MihailSadoveanu), without following the Montessori curricula or the specific principles of this approach.

Particularly for the parents looking for an authentic Montessori school/kindergarten for their children, this can be both frustrating and confusing. Below you can find some basic principles to guide you in recognizing the authenticity of the Montessori education:

The Montessori teacher has a relevant formal training or the training is ongoing for the age level of the children she/he is working with (for instance, if a 3-6 course was followed, that person will work in the 3-6 class). In order to consult the list of Romanian teachers who graduated AMI courses, you can access it in the specific section on MIB website.

Multi-age classes. A specific element for the authentic Montessori education consists of grouping children from three levels of age in the same classroom, therefore we have:

  • groups of children between 3-6 years old in the same classroom
  • groups of children between 6-9 years old, 9-12 years old or 6-12 years old groups

This way of grouping the children involves the fact that a Montessori classroom is built in three years: the class starts with children aged 3-4 years, in the second year another proportional group of 3-4 years old children is added (the children from the previous year are now 4-5 years old), and in the third year another third of children aged 3-4 years is added. The 6-9 and the 9-12 groups are built in the same way, and the 6-12 classes are built in 6 years. The proportional balance of the ages is one of the success elements of a Montessori classroom. Multi-age groups are spaces where beneficial social and academic development occurs as the young ones learn from the older ones, and the older ones offer help and become models for the younger ones, as it actually happens naturally in real life.

Children up to 3 years old are grouped into infants (2 months -12/15 months) and toddlers (12/15 months – 3 years old) following criteria of safety and care quality.

The uninterrupted working cycle is a specific Montessori element allowing the child to have enough time to work and rest. When she works, the child handles materials, repeats, classifies, explores, finds solutions at her own pace, thus building her own solid knowledge foundation. During this period, children are free to choose activities from the working space and to perform them without being interrupted by optional activities included in the program of the institution. The length of the working cycle differs depending on the age level of the class, therefore:

  • for toddlers (1.5 – 3 years old) – around 2 hours in the morning
  • for the 3-6 age group – 3 hours in the morning and a possible working cycle in the afternoon
  • for the 6-9 and 9-12 or 6-12 groups – 3 hours in the morning plus the afternoon working cycle

Individual approach. An authentic Montessori program supports the individual development of the child. The teacher plans activities for each child depending on her/his level of development and the specific interest of each child. Therefore, the development of the child as a whole becomes the main aim of education in the Montessori class. Up until the age of 5 years, children choose naturally to work on their own, that is why, up to that age, presentations of materials are much more individual. In elementary, children are attracted by working in a group, that is why presentations are naturally done in small groups, particularly depending on the level of knowledge, not necessarily on age level (for instance, a 6 years old child with a passion and advanced knowledge in geography can work on a project on this subject with an 8-year-old child). The Montessori curricula taught during the training course and the Montessori curricula approved by the Education Ministry are the main sources of inspiration for the Montessori teacher in her/his work with children.

Specific and complete Montessori materials, appropriate for the age level and developmental level of the children from a specific class. The materials are arranged on the shelf at the level and disposal of the children, they have an intelligent purpose and are made of quality materials. Beauty, quality, quantity and authenticity of materials, as well as the bright and not crowded space are indicators of a well-planned and harmonious Montessori environment.

Freedom and limits. In a Montessori classroom, children have the freedom to move, to choose their activity, to interact with others as long as the respect for the self, for others and for the environment is maintained. In other words, the child is given as much freedom as it is of use to her for developing harmoniously and using her energy in a positive way. In the Montessori environment, children are not allowed to do whatever crosses their minds, randomly, as it is sometimes mistakenly understood the Montessori education, but they are guided to act intelligently, within clear limits, to her benefit and to the benefit of others.