Here we are in Maria Montessori’s birthday month! Her 149th birthday would have been at the end of this August. And while her career began in the 19th century, we believe that Montessori education is more relevant today than ever, not only because of the needs of our world, but also because of research that consistently supports her approach.
Four ways Montessori education is so relevant today
Montessori teaches peace
Montessori began her work more than 100 years ago. Now, the issue of peace is ever more pressing. Our world is torn by violence, hatred, and bigotry. The news can be horrific at times, and there is an urgent call for a new, more compassionate kind of world. Montessori lived through both World Wars, and saw the importance of establishing a peaceful people. In her writing, she stated, “Preventing [war] is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education.” She was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize three times.
More than executive functioning or social skills, more than advanced academic abilities or curiosity, Maria Montessori’s hope was that her work would establish the foundation for world peace. What other education system can claim that it was designed for this? And, more importantly, will it work? It is the worthiest of purposes.
Montessori activities teach Executive Functioning
If you sit down with your phone during dinner, you are likely to get alerts for breaking news in Hong Kong*, which teams won this round of AFL*, who liked your recent post on Instagram, as well as a few urgent questions from your friends and family. Having well-developed executive functioning helps us cope with this constant stream of input. If you’re not familiar with the term, executive functioning is the command center in your brain. It covers all the processes that allow us to manage ourselves and our tasks. It helps us prioritise important tasks, ignore low-priority information, and concentrate on work. The Montessori environment is uniquely designed to support the development of this skill. In fact, research has shown that children who attend Montessori schools have higher executive functioning (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006). Children in this environment make frequent decisions about what work they are going to choose, when they are going to do it, and how they are going to do it. These opportunities, on a daily basis, strengthen executive functioning and give children the skills they need to manage our increasingly complicated world.
Montessori learning teaches social skills
The world is smaller than it’s ever been. Travel is easier and communication is faster and more frequent. We are exposed to people from all around the world, and we communicate with friends, family, and strangers on multiple platforms. What does this mean for a population of people who are trying to communicate positively and effectively in ways their grandparents couldn’t even have dreamed of? It means that social skills are of the utmost importance. Studies show that children who attend Montessori schools have a more positive and developed social understanding than their peers (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005). This is natural, given that the classrooms also operate like miniature communities.
Montessori students are lifelong learners
The job market is changing at a dizzying rate. Gone are the days when most students could begin training for their dream job when they were in college. The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is now purely hypothetical, as most of the jobs that will be available to our children when they enter the workplace have not even been invented yet! It is increasingly important for children to develop skills of creativity and a passion for continuing to learn. With these skills, they can adapt to an evolving workplace and the modern demands of their jobs. Because the Montessori environment is designed to encourage discovery, mastery, and process, children are intrinsically rewarded for exploring new information and challenging themselves. They develop a habit and desire for further learning, whatever the topic. Many high school teachers have observed, “Give me a Montessori kid and I can teach him anything.” Research suggests that children who come from Montessori classrooms are creative, enjoy hard work, and seek to be challenged– all necessary for our current job market (Lillard et al., 2007; Besançon , & Lubart, 2008).
As the world changes and grows, it becomes challenging in new ways and provides new opportunities. As more research emerges, you can be increasingly confident that Montessori is more than just a theory– it works. It will prepare your children for the world they are growing into, and give us all the best chance for peaceful people, who may one day establish a peaceful earth.
Lillard, A.S. & Else-Quest, N., “Evaluating Montessori Education,” Science 131: 1893-94 (Sept. 29, 2006).
Rathunde, K. R., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2005). The social context of middle school: Teachers, friends, and activities in Montessori and traditional school environments. Elementary School Journal, 106, 59-79.
ACADEMIC–SEEKING MASTERY AND LIKING SCHOLARLY WORK:
Lillard, A. S., Heise, M. J. R., Eve M., Tong, X., Hart, A., & Bray, P. M. (2017). Montessori preschool elevates and equalizes child outcomes: A longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01783
Besançon, M., & Lubart, T. (2008). Differences in the development of creative competencies in children schooled in diverse learning environments. Learning and Individual Differences, 18, 381-389. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2007.11.009
MONTESSORI PEACE QUOTE: Montessori, M. (1972). Education and peace (H.R. Lane, Trans.). Washington, D.C.: Henry Regnery. (p. 27)
* Minor modification from source
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