Maria Montessori underscored her teaching methods with principles that she believed applied to the way that most - if not all - children learn. She developed her pedagogy - her teaching style and philosophy - by observing how children interacted and learned. She determined that through the use of a prepared environment, a student could direct their own learning and develop self-reliance with very positive outcomes.
The more she studied childhood learning and observed children at her school, the better she honed her principles. We still use these learning concepts in Montessori homeschooling today.
Understanding the primary 8 principles of Montessori homeschooling will give you a better understanding of why we teach the way we do, and the faith we put into our children to teach themselves. Having faith in the Montessori Method - and your children - will make you feel much more confident in your decision to pursue Montessori homeschooling.
What are the 8 Principles of a Montessori Education?
- Avoid Extrinsic Rewards
- Learn with and from peers
- Contextual learning
- Avoid Adult Intervention
- Prepare the Environment
Children learn best when movement is involved
Maria Montessori believed that a seated child couldn’t learn as well as children who were actively and physically engaged with their lesson. Montessori focuses on interactive lessons that have children moving and manipulating materials. This helps them learn more profoundly and retain information better.
We here at Multisori make sure we keep this first Montessori principle in mind as we develop curriculum. For example, our Montessori Language Arts curriculum streamlines and lightens the load of teaching children to read and write using a multi-sensory, kinesthetic approach in your Montessori home environment.
Montessori + Movement
Including movement in learning starts as young as infancy, when children can be on a floor bed in order to freely explore their environment upon waking. In toddlerhood, Montessori uses physical counting materials which a child can touch and feel to make learning math easier than worksheet based alternatives. Actively engaging with nature helps children connect concepts learned in science, math and geography to one another, deepening the child’s understanding of all subject areas.
Finally, physical activity helps the brain think better and more clearly. Many modern schools keep physical education to once or twice a week, and recess is a scant 15-20 minutes per day. This isn’t enough exercise or movement to help engage young minds, and it’s one powerful reason why Montessori education works so well for young children. Many Multisori homeschoolers spend 4 or more hours outside each day, often learning with their Multisori materials outside!
Control and autonomy
People feel better about their lives when they feel they’re in control of their actions and choices. In a Montessori homeschool, children choose what they study. They direct their education based on what interests them, and though you curate their materials, you don’t hand-hold. This gives kids a higher degree of autonomy than is found in traditional schools (or traditional homeschools!), which in turn makes them enthusiastic about learning.
In a classroom/household with multiple children, this freedom helps foster play and learning that benefits the group. As children age, they learn to be more collaborative while still retaining independence, self-direction and reliance.
Humans - especially children - learn better when they’re interested in the subject matter. Part of the appeal of child-driven learning is that kids will dive more deeply into a subject that captures their interest than into one that is thrust upon them. The Montessori practice of long, uninterrupted blocks of learning helps give children the time and space they need to learn deeply.
Driving education on a specific, interesting topic also helps a child intrinsically motivate themselves to learn. When the subject captures their focus, they study it even more because they want to, not because it’s required.
Extrinsic rewards hurt motivation
When you give rewards for learning, children seek the reward, not the education. They see learning as a means to an end, not a journey of discovery. In fact, Montessori education is against extrinsic rewards (such as praise) because it seeks to build a powerful internal motivation system in kids.
Children who learn to seek intrinsic motivation for their actions are more responsible, more confident, and better leaders as adults. They learn for the pleasure it brings and for the sake of being a better person. Likewise, they are motivated to care for themselves and their space because it feels good on its own, rather than to seek your approval.
Collaboration is important
When you’re homeschooling multiple children, chances are you’re working with a variety of ages. Even children in Montessori schools are put into multi-age groups. Being in mixed-age groups instead of stratified by grades is extremely beneficial to children. Older children can help younger children with lessons, and younger children provide opportunities for older children to model good behavior. It’s also socially beneficial to older children to have peers that are younger, as it helps build character, patience, and leadership qualities.
Contextual learning is better than abstract learning
Reading a book or having a lecture about a subject is fine, but learning within a broader context is so much more meaningful. The reason that Montessori stresses multiple sensory inputs when learning letters, for instance, is that children retain more when you involve more senses.
The same is true with contextual learning by incorporating hands-on materials that are related to the topic at hand. For instance, learning about cooking from a book can be fun, but actually cooking with mom and dad is priceless and far more impactful.
It’s best to keep your intervention in the classroom to a minimum. Children under the age of 3 will require more help than older children, but the goal is still to be directly involved as little as possible. It’s important to find the balance between allowing a child to work at something and finally get it and helping before they get overwhelmed and frustrated.
When children know they can count on you for help if necessary, but are largely allowed to explore on their own, they develop secure attachments and confidence.
Orderly environments help children learn
Montessori might be child-driven and less rigidly structured than other types of learning, but that doesn’t mean that Montessori homeschools are cluttered messes. Children thrive when they can expect what comes next, where things go, and when there are few external stressors. Psychological studies show that clutter actually causes low levels of background anxiety, and the same is true with children.
An orderly, tidy environment is highly beneficial to everyone, but especially young children. It also shows them that everything has a place and helps them work to be responsible for keeping the environment in order. Maintaining a well prepared environment also serves you well when it comes to establishing routines in your homeschool!
When everything they use has a place, children can easily put things back when they’re done. Moreover, when they see their parents keeping their space tidy, they will understand that everything should be organized and tidy. When you model peaceful and organized behavior, they will imitate you.
Let the Montessori principles guide your homeschooling journey
Maria Montessori believed these 8 principles were critical to helping young children learn to their greatest capabilities.
Children need movement in order to truly learn and retain what they experience. Likewise, contextual learning is critical to retention and better understanding of the lesson. So, get out in nature, or have them help you cook, do chores, or any other hands-on learning activity.
When children are allowed to explore on their own - particularly concepts that interest them - they will happily dive into education. Self-directed learning in a topic that they enjoy will result in serious focus and powerful increases in subject mastery.
Kids who are educated in a mixed-age classroom have opportunities to seek collaborative efforts. They also have younger students they can model good behavior to, and older students they can look to for advice and direction. Children who grow up in mixed-age classrooms are natural leaders and collaborators as adults.
Strike a balance between intervening in your child’s learning and allowing them to struggle until they learn something. It’s best to allow them to learn on their own, but don’t let them get super frustrated and give up.
Keeping your space orderly and tidy will help kids learn better by reducing the anxiety of clutter. Having a space for everything also helps them be a part of keeping your environment tidy and organized.
Maria Montessori’s principles are still guiding Montessori classrooms today, and can have a powerful impact on your homeschooling journey. As your children learn and grow, you’ll constantly find new ways in which these principles can be applied to your educational journey.