In Montessori Education, the specially designed place that children come to work in is called a ‘prepared learning environment’. The first ‘work’ your child will do in the program is to orientate themselves to the new space in which they find themselves, which may take a couple of sessions. 

The space will be arranged in exactly the same way each week in order to assist this orientation process. Each area in the ‘environment’ has a specific order and contains activities or ‘materials’ which serve different purposes for your child’s development.

The preparation of each Montessori environment includes the careful preparation of the Montessori developmental materials appropriate to that environment. The Montessori materials are sets of objects, each set designed to exacting specifications. In general the materials are designed to:

In recent years there has been much debate about the integration of digital technologies, specifically the use of computers, in early childhood settings. In the view of Montessori educators the disadvantages of computer use in early childhood settings outweigh the advantages. For this reason, computers are generally not found in Montessori early childhood settings for children under six years of age.

Maria Montessori was born on the 31st August 1870, in Chiaravalle, Italy. From an early age she broke through the traditional barriers for women, attending a technical school with initial ambitions to be an engineer, to go on to choose a career in medicine. In 1896 Montessori became one of the first Italian women ever to obtain a medical degree. In her early career as a doctor, she was asked to represent Italy at the International Congress for women’s rights in Berlin, where she called for equal pay for women.

The Montessori curriculum is organised in a developmental sequence from one phase of learning to the next. Individual students, however, are able to work successfully through elements of the curriculum in a sequence unique to themselves. For this reason, comparisons between students may not be meaningful. The validity of norm-referenced assessment and the ranking of students are further reduced in the Montessori context because, in a multi-age classroom, there are comparatively small numbers of children at the same age and stage.

Montessori environments are prepared to be both beautiful and ordered.

From birth children are deeply interested in everything around them. They are driven to explore their world in the service of their own development. If they are to respond to this drive, children need the freedom to explore and discover their environment independently, and to engage their full attention on what interests them with a minimum of interference and interruption.

Personal development in Montessori early childhood settings revolves around the lessons of grace and courtesy, the Montessori lessons designed to ensure the needs of everyone in the setting are respected and to promote social harmony. These lessons are given to individual children, small groups or to the whole group. The lessons can be given:

The study of mathematics is a reflection of the human tendencies for investigation and orientation, for order and classification, for reasoning and making judgements, and for calculating and measuring. In the Montessori Children’s House (children 3-6 years of age), when mathematical concepts are first presented to children, they are embodied in concrete materials.

The Montessori environment prepared for preschool children from three to six years of age is called the Children’s House. The Children’s House is prepared to be homelike, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and orderly so children come to think of the setting as a ‘mini-community’ where they learn skills they can apply at home and in the wider community. Cooperation, rather than competition, is encouraged.

Montessori environments for infants and toddlers are prepared to be as homelike as possible, and to involve small children in a round of daily activities including quiet times and rest periods. The characteristics of these environments include:

  • continuity of care
  • an ordered physical environment
  • consistency of activity and expectation.

In environments with these characteristics infants build a sense of security, a sense of order and a sense of time.

Montessori environments are prepared for multi-age groupings of children. These groupings operate very like family environments, providing key learning and development opportunities in two ways. First, multi-age groupings encourage children to aspire to the achievements of older peers. New students enter an established and mature environment with effective models of both work and social interaction.

Young children in a field of wildflowers

Dr Montessori outlined four consecutive planes, or stages, of development from birth to maturity, each plane spanning approximately six-years. At each plane of development children and young people display intellectual powers, social orientations and creative potential unique to that stage. Each plane is characterised by the way children in that plane learn, building on the achievements of the plane before and preparing for the one to follow. The timing and nature of the transition between planes vary from individual to individual.

Cosmic education Montessori teacher with children

Introduced to the primary aged child (6-12 years), “Cosmic Education is related to the development of human beings, not just a new educational method, or a new technique of teaching subjects in a syllabus. Cosmic Education is a form of relating children to the universe, its furnishings, and humanity, so that they are able to understand the law and order underlying their existence and to realise in themselves all the developing potential that is their birthright.” Dr Maria Montessori

Moveable alphabet letters

“Written language complements spoken language and is integrated with it.” (Maria Montessori, The Formation of Man)

Montessori said that writing is a complex action requiring certain abilities that can be categorised into two main groups: physical ability (the use of the hand) and cognitive ability (the use of the mind).