The first Montessori classroom was founded in 1907 by Maria Montessori. Over one hundred years later, the teachings of Montessori continue to inspire and influence educational curriculums around the world. The philosophy provides our youngest learners in Stepping Stones into Montessori, Preschool, and Kindergarten a strong foundation to reach for their personal best in a curriculum that supports the development of the whole child.
Through her observations, Montessori recognized the potential of the child lay within the child's interaction with the environment. She believed that the goal of early childhood education should be "learning how to learn" rather than "learning what to learn." The objective was not to fill the child with facts, but rather to encourage his own innate desire to learn. Montessori developed many materials that are geared specifically to the interests, size and pace of the young child. In a Montessori environment the child, teacher, and environment form an equilateral triangle with each interacting to create a place where the individual child's development is fostered and respected.
Following the philosophy of Maria Montessori, our preparation of the environment provides materials in a sequence that allows each child to grow and develop at his own pace. Materials progress from the concrete to the abstract. Each material prepares the child for future learning. In the Practical Life area, activities build on the child's natural interests and tasks that are familiar to her. Montessori structured these activities such as pouring, scrubbing, learning to care for oneself and the environment as a way for the child to perfect through repetition his eye-hand coordination, concentration, and sense of independence. The Sensorial materials are designed to help develop his abilities to make judgments, compare and discriminate through isolation of the senses. Academic areas provide materials to learn concepts of math, language, geography, and history. Materials spark the child's interest and imagination leading the child to an understanding of concepts as well as a joy for discovery.
The philosophy of Montessori has many core components that align with a Handmaid education. Our grace and courtesy lessons foster the Handmaid's pedagogy of the heart that generates an environment that each individual feel known, respected and loved. Handmaid values listed in their book, Our Educational Style, include the values of freedom and responsibility. In our environment, the children take responsibility and ownership in the classroom. The children care for the materials and return them ready for the next child to use. The children learn that when they are responsible then freedom to make more choices become available to them. A key component in our rooms is the freedom for the child to work on activities that are of interest and can challenge him to his next level of growth. The Handmaid value in communion comes to life as the children learn to be part of the classroom community enjoying activities in partnership. As the children become teachers to each other the value of gratuitousness unfolds. Our class is a space where we share our gifts. In Montessori's teachings, there is much written about the respect for life and peace education. These key values are seen in our classroom as children learn about our earth and how to care for our resources. It connects with the earth symbol in each of our rooms that reminds us that we are a part of a bigger whole. It is instilled in our children that each of them has a part in bringing peace to our world when we act with love. It is through both the Montessori philosophy and the Handmaid values of education that we pass on the future to our children.