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What Is Montessori?

Anita Chastain
Founder and Head of School
Chesterfield Montessori School

Choosing a school or educational philosophy for children is one of the most important decisions parents can make. It can be quite a challenge weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public education, and traditional education vs. a more progressive style of education. There are financial considerations that go along with these decisions as well. When all factors are carefully considered, however, the decision can become an easy one.

For those parents who are contemplating a private education for their children, Montessori ranks high among their considerations. Understanding what Montessori means is the first step.

Montessori is an educational philosophy developed by the Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori, which began in 1907 and is currently practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide—serving children from birth through 18 years of age. In the United States, more than 4,000 independent schools, as well as many public schools, use the Montessori approach.

“I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it, and that is what is called the Montessori method.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori is a respectful, child-centered approach to education. It is based on the premise that children naturally love to learn. Montessori classrooms provide carefully designed “prepared environments” for optimal learning and are characterized by beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility.

As highly-trained professionals, Montessori teachers generally receive a full year of training beyond a bachelor’s degree. They provide individual and small group instruction. Under the guidance of a Montessori teacher, children engage with the many scientifically-developed, didactic materials that encourage exploration and enhance the development of essential cognitive skills. Children learn to collaborate and work together in mixed-age classrooms. Long, uninterrupted periods of work provide children the freedom to progress at their own pace and rhythm, with no upper limits on learning. Children in Montessori develop the qualities needed for success in the twenty-first century, including innovation, collaboration and a global context.

Modern research supports what Dr. Montessori discovered through scientific observation: hands-on learning best develops the growing mind. Studies have shown a clear social and academic advantage for children in a Montessori primary program (ages three to six years). A study published in the September 29, 2006 issue of the Journal of Science showed that Montessori five-year-olds had better math and reading skills, better social skills and better “executive function,” which is key to handling difficult or novel situations. Study authors Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia professor of psychology, and Nicole Else-Quest, a former graduate student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin, also found that Montessori elementary students produced essays that were “significantly more creative and… [used] significantly more sophisticated sentence structures.”

To ensure the integrity of her work, Dr. Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). As the largest AMI-accredited Montessori school in the greater St. Louis area, Chesterfield Montessori School provides the highest quality education a child can receive, offering programs for toddlers (16 months to 30 months), primary (2-1/2 to 6 years), elementary (1st through 6th grade) and adolescents (7th and 8th grade). Everything provided for the children is made of the very finest materials offered—even the pencils used for cursive handwriting practice are of fine art quality.

Chesterfield Montessori School offers families a supportive environment and the opportunity to be involved with a community of people who have a shared commitment to provide the very best for their children. Most importantly, an authentic Montessori education provides children with the opportunity to engage in their task of “self-construction” in a peaceful, calm and productive environment.

For more information call 314-469-7150.

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