My son is currently 4-years-old, and is lucky enough to be attending a Montessori School here in Australia. It is a bit of a drive from our house, and with another baby on the way, it was a drive my husband and I were worried wouldn’t be viable next year.
I have been looking at different education systems for the past three years for my work, however only this year have I had to look at it from personal circumstances with my own child.
In Australia we have the Public School System, Catholic Education, and Independent Schools, with Montessori schools falling under the latter.
I have visited schools in all of these categories, looked at our local options and been blown away at how little has changed in the 25 years since I started at school; behaviour systems that endorse public shaming, very little concrete learning, and everything becoming digitalised. Interactive whiteboards, and iPads being promoted like they are the best thing in the world. In both situations, I’ve left with my heart and head hurting at the thought of all these children missing out on the Montessori method of education.
When researching Montessori at the start of your journey, you may read things like “Montessori is not for boys, ASD children can’t do Montessori, Montessori is too structured, Montessori is too free,” and so on and so forth.
After three years of running classes, observing schools, managing centres and talking to parents, I strongly believe Montessori is for EVERY child.
The prepared environment, the individual lessons and materials with isolated concepts, the way the Educators speak to students, the structure of the work cycle; everything that happens in a Montessori school, happens because it’s proven to work. Science shows this is how children learn, this is what makes them happy.
And because this is how CHILDREN learn, whether they are auditory, visual or tactile learners, the equipment speaks to all of them and draws them into want to learn, inviting them to play.
As Maria Montessori stated, “Play is the work of the Child.” Children play in a Montessori environment, it is just not what society typically pictures play to look like. When we hear ‘play’ as adults, we envision children running around loudly, toys everywhere, dirt and no structure. This is a version of play, however so is the calmness and focus in a Montessori classroom. It is a version of play that children crave. Their developmental need for a sense of order, for repetition and freedom in choices. Their need for boundaries and for uninterrupted time – all of this is in a Montessori setting, and for over a century, all over the world, WORK!
Boisterous boys who could never sit still, or created chaos wherever they went can sit for almost an hour straight building a tower out of ten pink cubes. Children who couldn’t focus on anything for more than a minute, sit there for hours, day after day, pouring water from cup to cup, spooning beans from bowl to bowl with a calmness and beaming face like you’ve never seen before.
I see children bouncing out of the car, running to class, bursting with excitement to start their day. I see children not wanting to leave the classroom at the end of the day because they want to keep playing. I hear children helping younger children, whilst two others are sitting at the Peace Table sorting out their conflict better than many adults I know can.
Until you have really observed, really seen Montessori in action, I promise you, you won’t believe me. I also promise you, that the moment you see your child’s face light up and look towards you with pride and such happiness after completing work from one of the shelves, you won’t be able to look at Education the same way again.
I know globally, it is extremely hard for services to keep up with the demand for Montessori, which makes access to a school difficult, starting a centre difficult with a lack of trained teachers available. I know that in some countries it is extremely expensive to attend a Montessori School and then there are some centres that are just not Montessori.
As a parent, I feel the pain and I know how hard it is to make decisions about a future we cannot predict, amidst the busyness of our own lives that are over-scheduled, hectic and overwhelming.
But as the world changes, and technology shifts the way we function, the way we work and live; as environmental impacts come to light, and the world seeks new solutions, there has never been a more important time for creative, innovative, motivated citizens than right now.
Dr. Maria Montessori designed her method of education to ensure students would become contributing members of society. The only education method that provides this holistic opportunity is Montessori, and the world needs it more than ever.
Nothing is more important than education. With education, we can change the world. But the world has moved on, and the system remains the same.
It’s time for change; it’s time for an education revolution.
Rebecca Grugan, is the Managing Director of I AM Montessori. After discovering the Montessori method when her child was only twelve months old, Rebecca fell in love with the method and made a pact to get more families access to such a wonderful education. She is extremely passionate about bringing quality education and care to children using the Montessori method, believing every child should have access to this way of learning. Her specialty is in explaining the benefits of Montessori to parents and educators and helping them set up Montessori work spaces. Rebecca started I AM Montessori three years ago to provide services that the movement needed in Australia. I AM Montessori now provides accessible training, sells materials, runs Parent Child Classes, and they are an Approved Family Day Care Scheme and manage Child Care Centres. She believes that Montessori is the education of the future, and all children deserve to learn that way.