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What is Montessori?

By Anita Chastain

Choosing a school for your children is one of the most important decisions parents make. It is a challenge to weigh the pros and cons of private vs. public education, and traditional education vs. a more progressive style of education.

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 Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori, which began in 1907 and is currently practiced worldwide, serving children from birth through 18 years of age. It is a respectful, child-centered approach to education, 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. Under the guidance of a Montessori teacher, children engage with 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. Montessori-educated children 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. 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. The study 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-recognized Montessori school in the greater St. Louis area, Chesterfield Montessori School provides the highest quality education a child can receive, offering programs for toddlers through 8th grade. Most importantly, our authentic Montessori education provides children with the opportunity to engage in their task of “self-construction” in a peaceful, calm and productive environment.

Anita Chastain is the Founder and Head of School of Chesterfield Montessori School. For more information please call 314-469-7150 or visit www.chesterfieldmontessori.org.

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