You may have heard about Montessori, read about it, and even thought about enrolling your children in it, but it’s also quite possible you aren’t sure exactly what it is. Essentially, a Montessori education centers on each child, with the teacher presenting lessons to the individual, rather than a group. This individual attention helps the teacher become more familiar with the child and thus understand the child more fully, and be better equipped to provide for each child’s unique educational needs.
The first clue that things are different at the Montessori School of Ojai is the quiet. There are no screaming children, no bells, no loudspeakers, or slamming lockers inside the school. Instead, students work on math assignments while sitting at low tables, or read quietly, nestled among pillows in an elevated reading nook or on comfortable chairs placed around the classroom. Montessori has structure. Classrooms are based on creating natural connections to reading, writing and math. Children learn at their own pace, one not tied to a strict schedule or tests. Without standardized tests, Montessori instruction nurtures a sense of internal discipline and the ability to meet deadlines. And even without the standardized tests, students leave MSO and succeed in both traditional public school settings as well as private schools. Montessori School of Ojai graduates have attended Yale, M.I.T., and Oxford, just to name a few.
The Montessori movement is recognized to have begun in 1907 when Maria Montessori opened the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome where she developed a set of activities to encourage children’s natural development and ability to educate themselves. However it started, over the next several decades, Maria Montessori built an impressive network of schools, teachers, and materials based on Children’s House.
As the parent of young children, Dr. Victoria Matthews developed an interest in the Montessori Method and moved with her family to England in the early ‘70s to study at the St. Nicholas Training Centre in London under Miss Child and Miss Homfray, both of whom had studied and worked extensively with Dr. Montessori. Upon Vickie’s return to the U.S., she joined several families in establishing Ojai Valley Children’s House, which later changed its name to the Montessori School of Ojai. Vickie continues as a consultant, and assists with teacher training in the Montessori Method for all staff at MSO, allowing the school to maintain a strong connection to the original teachings of Dr. Montessori.
The school is not only a place for individual learning, it is a community of children, where the child learns to interact socially.
The Montessori School of Ojai philosophy is drawn from the vision of Maria Montessori, who believed that the environment which encourages the fullest development of student potential is one that affords the opportunity to explore intellectual as well as creative abilities. We believe in working together in a spirit of cooperation, seeking to cultivate and express that which is excellent in each child. Intellectual curiosity and a spirit of inquiry are the activating factors in the educational process. Participation in school community builds caring and responsible individuals, promoting lives of integrity, awareness, and purpose. Our school embraces the belief that life can be lived in its fullest sense through lifelong efforts toward personal development and growth.
To these ends, Montessori School of Ojai students should be provided the necessary skills that will enable them to approach life with a sense of inquiry and purpose. The Montessori School of Ojai education will:
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was Italy’s first woman physician. Through her observations of children, she came to believe that every child has an inborn desire and ability to discover, explore, and learn. She developed a system of education based on observing children’s needs and sensitivities at different ages. She espoused developmentally appropriate curriculum at a time when child development was little understood or recognized.
Maria Montessori was always a little ahead of her time. At age thirteen, against the wishes of her father but with the support of her mother, she began to attend a boys’ technical school. After seven years of engineering, she began premed and, in 1896, became a physician.
In 1907, she was given the opportunity to study children, taking charge of fifty poor children of the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenzo slum on the outskirts of Rome. The news of the unprecedented success of her work in this Casa dei Bambini “House of Children” soon spread around the world, people coming from far and wide to see the children for themselves. Dr. Montessori was as astonished as anyone at the realized potential of these children.
The concepts of the Montessori approach to education are elegant in their simplicity, yet based on sophisticated understandings of the relationship between human development, learning, and environment. Her training as a medical doctor gave Maria Montessori the observation skills she used to closely study children in a variety of countries and from a number of different cultures and backgrounds. Her observations led her to the conclusion that the human mind is constructed to organize and learn from the environment.
Based on this recognition, Dr. Montessori developed a prepared environment carefully designed to support the young child’s “absorbent mind” and to assist the child’s complete development. The prepared environment is a fundamental aspect of Montessori education, stemming from the underlying philosophy of providing children with the optimum tools to help them achieve self-reliance and education.
During World War II, Dr. Montessori was forced into exile from Italy because of her antifascist views, and she lived and worked in India. It was here that she developed her work Education for Peace, and developed many of the ideas taught in her training courses today. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.