A Montessori education is characterized by the the philosophy held by the teacher, the carefully prepared environment, the didactic materials, and, always, the underlying mission to "follow the child". 

Montessori falls under the heading of 'constructivist' educators, believing that intellect is developed through experience, constructed by the child.  The Montessori curriculum is the most thoroughly comprehensive of any constructivist pedagogy, with materials developed through decades of observation and refinement.

Some of the key components of a Montessori education:
  • mixed-age classrooms, with children of ages 3-6, and remaining in the same class for the whole three year span
  • 3 hour work cycle, free choice time uninterrupted by scheduled 'specialists', 'classes', or events of any sort
  • lessons are presented to children by the teacher on an individual or small group
Some elements in typical Montessori primary classrooms that are different than other preschools:
  • children's artwork is not displayed on the walls/boards en masse
  • glass, instead of plastic, is used for water work, and colored pencils rather than markers
  • fantasy make-believe play is not part of the curriculum

     The lessons, then, are individual, and brevity must be one of their chief characteristics.  Dante gives excellent advice to teachers when he says, "Let thy words be counted."  The more carefully we cut away useless words, the more perfect will become the lesson.  And in preparing the lessons which she is to give, the teacher must pay special attention to this point, counting and weighing the value of the words which she is to speak.
     Another characteristic quality of the lesson in the "Children's Houses" is its simplicity.  It must be stripped of all that is not absolute truth.  That the teacher must not lose herself in vain words, is included in the first quality of conciseness; this second, then, is closely related to the first: that is, the carefully chosen words must be the most simple it is possible to find, and must refer to the truth.
     The third quality of the lesson is its objectivity.  The lesson must be presented in such a way that the personality of the teacher shall disappear.  There shall remain in evidence only the object to which she wishes to call the attention of the child.  This brief and simple lesson must be considered by the teacher as an explanation of the object and of the use which the child can make of it.
- Maria Montessori

  • Why glass?  Why markers?  Is the choice of every material in the room so deliberate?  Should it be?
  • Without knowing Montessori's position on fantasy, what is your initial reaction to the inclusion of fantasy in early childhood?
  • Why do 'typical' schools separate children by age in one-year groupings?  What are the implications of multi-age?