The most important discovery that Dr. Montessori contributed to the field of child development and education is the fostering of the best in each child. She discovered that in an environment where children are allowed to choose their work and to concentrate for as long as needed on their task, they emerge from this period of concentration (or meditation or contemplation) refreshed and full of good will toward others. The teacher must know how to offer work, to link the child to the environment (which is the real teacher), and to protect this process. We now know that this natural goodness and compassion are inborn and do not need to be taught, but protected.
Adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt someone who is
busy at a task. Groups form spontaneously, or older children schedule meetings
or study groups with each other and with the teacher, when necessary. The group
studies almost never take precedence over self-selected work.
The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. Math, language, science,
history, geography, art, music are studied, at all levels.
There are no papers turned back with red marks and corrections. Instead, the child’s effort and work is respected. The teacher, through extensive observation and recordkeeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what he or she needs in order to improve.
Subjects are interwoven, not taught in isolation, the teacher modeling a “Renaissance” person of broad interests for the children. Children can work independently on any material they understand.
All kinds of intelligences and styles of learning are nurtured: musical, bodily-
kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional
linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math).
There are no grades or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and recordkeeping. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishments and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, love of learning and level of work.
Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children
learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other—cooking,
cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being
considerate and helpful, and by doing social work in the community.