If you follow along with my Instagram, you may have seen my celebratory post on Thursday when my Milana began her journey at Montessori school with Nico and Gabriella. I wasn’t just excited for the logistical ease this brings to my life with all three kids going to one place, but also because I am so thrilled to have her in the Montessori environment from 8-3 every weekday.
I know what you must be thinking…. What possible benefits could a 6 month old get from the Montessori method?
Well, don’t mind if I tell you!
First, let me remind you the answer that I give when people ask why I travel with my kids so young since “they won’t remember it” — if what we did with our young children didn’t register inside them somewhere, then we wouldn’t bother reading to them, taking them to museums, parks or anywhere else. Every interaction they have helps to form the very basis of who they become. So for that reason alone, what kind of environment they are in and what interactions they have are extremely important.
Second, a more substantive answer.
Maria Montessori said that babies have an unconscious absorbent mind. That is, they take in impressions of the world around them without any effort. They absorb by very nature of being able to do little else. And, both fortunately and unfortunately, they absorb the good and the bad.
“He is by no means passive. While undoubtedly receiving impressions, he is an active seeker in the world.” -Maria Montessori
Montessori knew that the period of time from birth to age 3 a child’s brain develops more rapidly than at any other time, and more learning takes place than at any other stage of development. Recognizing this, the Montessori approach to infants and toddlers is based on love, nurture and individual child development in peaceful, supportive and safe environments. These early years are the years that lay the foundation for later learning – and the stronger the foundation, the more the child will be able to build upon it.
One of the most important things about early Montessori education to me is the respect teachers display for students. Teachers always engage with students on their levels, never leading from a power position up high or at the front of the classroom. Children’s big emotions aren’t simply tolerated or put up with, but explored and nurtured and encouraged, respectfully of course.
Infants are approached in the Montessori environment as whole people, just as each student is, regardless of age. They are spoken to as though they understand everything that is being said, which the teacher or guide narrating what they are doing or going to do.
Education must begin at birth. -Maria Montessori
You may have read here or elsewhere about the prepared environment in a Montessori classroom. This trickles down to birth to three classrooms as well, with the classroom design intended to foster independence and desire for exploration. Practical life and self-care is a heavy presence in this environment, with a focus on washing, dressing, eating, toileting, cleaning, preparing food, and taking care of plants or animals. The children in this space take great pride in doing things for themselves.
Another thing that is so beneficial in the Montessori approach for infants is the mixed aged classroom, which can be from 18-36 months, depending on the program. At my children’s school, they follow Montessori’s classic 3 year classroom swing, which gives students that enter as infants a chance to begin as observers in the classroom, grow into followers of the older children, and then become the leaders. Having watched Nico go through this cycle in Birth to Three, it was really remarkable to look back over his time in the program and watch how he went from being the young one in the classroom to being the leader and guiding the younger friends. Developing leadership skills as well as caretaking, for others and the environment, is so wonderful to see at such a young age.
I could probably sit here and talk for hours about the many benefits that I see to a Montessori early education, but the fact is- it might not be for every child or every family. I do believe my children benefit because I model what they are used to at school at home (as much as I can, at least).
That being said, I believe there are benefits that I couldn’t even possibly begin to tell you about (don’t challenge me to try!) because so many of them aren’t exactly tangible. It’s easy to quantify things like “my kid can recite the alphabet” or “my child knows how to count to 100” – that’s not what I perceive to be an advantage to early Montessori education.
I don’t send my kids to Montessori to be smarter, although I certainly think that the way they learn is forever changed and that has obvious academic advantages. I send my kids to Montessori because the program is based on respect for the child as a unique individual — emotionally, mentally, intellectually, physically, spiritually, and every other possible way one could imagine.
And for that reason, I think a Montessori early education program is something for every parent to think about!
And if you’re intrigued, check out my post on Edoki Academy’s Montessori Preschool app, where you can find the Montessori method and environment at home in tablet form!
Have a beautiful week, friends. Thanks for your engagement!