by Susan Friese
I've been reading a lot recently about the Montessori method in education and all the research that has gone into how peer groups work so well in an educational setting. I know how well this works with my teenage students and I have structured my study centre to run on similar philosophies. As I have said before, teens are not so different from toddlers as they both require a certain level of patience and humour when trying to educate them.
I have drawn many parallels here between Montessori for kids and the way we can educate teens, so please bear with me.
Whilst Montessori is mostly geared towards primary school, I believe that the same principles should apply to secondary education as well. This is especially true where the syllabus is already provided and the students are required to work through it autonomously.
Please note that I am not affiliated to Montessori, but Cambridge in fact. I do, however, believe in alternative educational approaches for the new generation of bright young things!
One of the cornerstones in Montessori (and my centre) is that children are free to take their work and do it wherever they choose to, with whomever they choose.
Many students often prefer to sit on the floor or outside in the sunshine or even, sometimes, under a desk. As long as a kid is working, why would I care if she’s upside down? The only set rules at a Montessori and here is that the students must respect each other and not distract and disturb others. For this reason the kids need space to move about, different places to sit and slouch around and the freedom to do so.
I have never understood the rigidity of conventional school, although I do appreciate that the conventional teaching style requires conformity and restrictions, and for many kids that’s okay. But I believe that kids should be free to work wherever they are comfortable, individually or in groups. I often joke that I'm here just to crack the whip!
So what if your kid doesn’t get on with people his own age or if she prefers to wear trousers instead of a skirt?
I, personally, am not a fan of anything that inhibits a person’s creativity and prefer an environment that celebrates the differences between individuals. In my centre I have seen a grade 8 student help a grade 10 kid with maths, and a 17 year old assist a 12 year old with art. And they all share their YouTube videos. Montessori principles too rely on children working with children of other ages and in a way that benefits everyone. They aim for, “A classroom atmosphere which encourages social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching and emotional development.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this. How can a person ever be expected to work well at ‘varsity or in the workplace when they have no experience with this?
I truly feel that kids from a more flexible educational system have more life skills for the real world:
Freedom of thought is also hugely important to me, especially in the new South African context. Kids need to feel confident in expressing their opinions in order to succeed with in higher learning institutions. To quote from the South African Montessori Association website, “Montessori children tend to be very socially comfortable. Because they have been encouraged to problem solve and think independently they are happy, confident and resourceful.”
This means that they will make excellent secondary and tertiary students. Cambridge exams are hugely reliant on informed opinion writing as well as creativity and unique approaches to problem solving. It would seem that Montessori schools would be a great lead in to higher learning that requires students who are able assimilate and relay information rather than regurgitate required data.
What resonates with me about the Montessori method is that they aim not only for academic achievement but also emotional strength and development in children. I am not a trained teacher, in fact my degrees are in psychology, so I can appreciate the equal importance of both. Children shouldn’t have to conform to their environment, they need to learn how to make their environment work for them.
We don’t want to raise pure academics, we want balanced and spirited adults who can face the world without fear and limitations.
I found much of my Montessori-based detail on this informative site.
Originally appeared on the To Educate Academics website before becoming Penhurst Academy.