What is a Montessori Guide?
There’s a lot of terminology that’s unique to Montessori; one you’ve probably come across is “Montessori Guide.” If you’re new to Montessori, this may be a confusing term. After all, most of us had “teachers,” not “guides” as children.
If, during your Montessori homeschooling research, you’ve seen the term “Montessori guide” and wondered what that means, it’s pretty simple; it’s you!
Specifically, because of the way Montessori is structured, you guide your child rather than teach them, so “guide” is simply a more accurate term for the role of the educator.
Note that Montessori guides are sometimes referred to as Directors or Directresses. Don’t let that one throw you for a loop! It’s just a synonym for “guide.”
What is a Montessori Guide?
Here at Multisori in particular, we use the term “guide” in two contexts:
- You as the parent, helping to guide your child’s learning through Montessori homeschooling
- Certified Montessori Guides, who are trained to teach based on the philosophies of Maria Montessori while striving to understand the individual needs and nature of the child.
Certified Montessori Guides have quite a bit of hands-on classroom experience, and hours of experience with Montessori-specific tools and concepts.
In this article, we’ll go over both concepts and hopefully provide you with a better understanding of what a Montessori guide is and does, and how it shapes young learner’s experiences.
Montessori teachers are called guides because they - quite literally - guide rather than teach their students. They rarely instruct in front of the entire class and almost never tell kids how to do assignments. Instead, they are most often found curating a meticulous learning environment, giving a 3 period lesson to a small group of children or manually showing children how to work with developmentally appropriate Montessori manipulatives and materials.
Ultimately, the children choose what they want to work on from the environment prepared by the guide. And then, the materials themselves do the majority of the teaching.
Are Montessori Guides Teachers?
By contrast, teachers in a traditional school setting are often found at the front of classrooms, teaching one specific lesson to the entire class at the exact same time. In this arrangement, the students are passive receivers of the information being provided by the teacher. They are stimulated in primarily visual and auditory ways.
Montessori Classrooms Involve Movement
Maria Montessori believed - and the research backs her up - that children learn best when they are allowed to be active learners. And, the more senses that can be involved, the better!
When a child is actively learning, they are in both physical and mental motion, directing their own education through their minds AND hands. You can see this natural phenomenon in toddlers and infants, who want to explore every nook and cranny of their environment, soaking in as much information as possible. And, they don’t limit themselves to sight and sound! They want to touch, taste, and move EVERYTHING!
Dr. Montessori believed that children at all stages of development learn best from this method of education; this is why self-direction and kinesthetic learning are primary goals of Montessori programs.
Your role as a Montessori homeschooler is parent/teacher in your child’s Montessori journey is to guide them, not “teach” them. We say “guide” because it’s far more accurate as to your role in their education; you’re behind the scenes, curating their experience and quietly observing. As a non-certified Montessori homeschooling parent, however, your role is naturally different from that of a certified Montessori guide. Your own children are more apt to really want you personally involved than they would be with a non-parent. This makes the Montessori homeschooling dynamic a totally unique learning experience – and it’s one of the many reasons not to try to turn your home into a Montessori school.
What does a Montessori Guide do?
Your primary responsibility in the role of “guide” is to help your child access and encounter their environment in a way that helps them direct their learning. To put it simply, you curate the materials they use and remove obstacles that would prevent them from exploring the space.
You might also decorate the learning environment in a way that entices them, and even facilitate game play. For example, the “Get Me” game requires the child to fetch the Montessori math materials the guide requests. Additionally, you will create and stick to a routine that’s best for your specific family’s needs.
In the classroom, a Montessori guide's role is similar. They observe and support the children as they learn. This support is provided in a gentle, quiet way that doesn't disrupt the child's natural learning process.
Through observation, the Montessori guide identifies and removes obstacles when needed and at other times stands back to allow the child to work through the struggles themselves. They document progress and present lessons when signs of readiness appear. Then, they rotate materials or direct children to materials that may intrigue them most at their age and stage.
Demonstrating new materials
Montessori has many materials that are unique to this way of learning; the Golden Beads, Pink Tower, and Color Tablets, for example, are all foundational Montessori tools. These items encourage children to explore using all of their senses and intrinsic curiosity, but they do require some direction. The lesson presentation is simple, short and more visual that auditory (the guides DO as much as they SAY, if not more!)
Montessori Guide at Home
As your children's own Montessori guide, you will name the items when you present them and then demonstrate their use. You will commonly use the three period lesson for this during the primary years. This goes beyond simply stacking blocks in the Pink Tower or evaluating colors with Color Tablets. You will also model inquisitive behavior, demonstrating that each problem should be considered and approached from different angles.
Why Does Montessori Use the Term "Guide"?
The aim isn’t to explain and exhaustively break down every tool or concept you present to your children. Rather, you will guide them on how to use these materials, and let them explore on their own. This is why Montessori says “guide” and not “teacher”.
After demonstrating how to use each of the new materials, your goal is to sit back and observe as they direct their own exploration and learning. As your children may desire your presence, don’t ever be afraid to stay close by. This sense of security is one of the most awesome benefits of homeschooling in general!
Modeling ideal behaviors
As a parent and guide, you should be modeling good behavior to your children. Politeness, tidiness, respect for others, and curiosity are all traits and behaviors you should display. Being a guide means not just curating their learning experience but also guiding them emotionally and socially as well.
Remember that a child can not learn until their physical, social and emotional needs are met. This may mean slowing down or changing directions when you otherwise would not. But, it’s not a race.
And, it really will all come out in the end - research is clear that children who master skills later in life are at NO disadvantage to children who mastered them earlier.
Observation and adjustment
Part of being a guide is not just curating the environment where your child learns, but also being present to observe them. It’s important to remain quiet and not to interfere whenever possible. However, there are certainly times where it will be necessary to step in. For example, if the child’s frustration is growing to the point of emotional dysregulation, then it’s important that you move to redirect or guide the child. While a large part of the Montessori experience is helping children develop a sense of self-direction and perseverance, if they become too frustrated, it will impede their ability to learn.
One way you may be actively involved in your child’s learning is when they have questions. In a typical classroom, the teacher would give instruction, or lecture. As a Montessori guide, however, you will help them answer their own questions.
Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know that one. Let’s look it up!” Answering in this way shows your child that no one knows everything, that learning never ends and that there’s fun just in the learning process itself.
For instance, if a child is stuck and asks for help, you can help them brainstorm solutions, or walk through the problem with them. In this way, you’re involved and still actively guiding them, but you’re not taking the experience of learning or discovery away from them. The goal is to help the child build grit/perseverance, self-reliance, and confidence, but to also be available when they need you.
As Maria Montessori said herself - "to stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the first duty of the educator.”
What is a Certified Montessori Guide?
So we now know what a Montessori guide (or Directress!) is, when it comes to your specific classroom, but if you recall, I mentioned there were two contexts.
The second is a Certified Montessori Guide, and here at Multisori, we pride ourselves on being backed by them. But what does that mean exactly?
There are two major organizations in the US that offer Montessori training and certification - American Montessori Society (AMS) and Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). They both require a bachelor’s degree for admission and hold their members accountable to remaining true to the Montessori Method.
Both AMS and AMI have standards established to ensure their members continue to provide research-backed education.
Certified Montessori Guides are trained to teach based on the philosophies of Maria Montessori while striving to understand the individual needs and nature of the child. Specifically, they take classes on:
- Classroom organization
- Classroom management
- Montessori structure and foundational beliefs
- Manipulatives and tools
- Developing and updating Montessori curriculums
Certified Montessori Guides will have quite a bit of hands-on classroom experience, and hours of experience with Montessori-specific tools and concepts.
Montessori Homeschool Curriculum You Can Trust
We know that everyone starts at the beginning, and that’s especially true when it comes to deciding to homeschool your child. It’s a mission critical decision in child-rearing, and if you’ve decided to do it, I know you want to do it right! While I am personally certain that we offer the best Montessori homeschool curriculum on the market, I also remember how hard it was when I first started on my homeschooling journey. It’s tough to know who to trust in a new industry with new terms and a million “experts” offering ever-conflicting options, opinions and information.
Montessori Homeschool Curriculum Backed by Guides
That’s why we put our curriculum to the test! We went to the REAL Montessori guides - not the ones selling “Montessori” products and educational tools online. No, I’m talking about the ones in the primary classroom trenches, who teach a variety of children all year long. I’m talking about the Montessori guides who are certified AND who have homeschooled their own children. I’m talking about the Montessori guides who know their stuff and have no interest in selling anything to anyone.
The results? Certified Montessori Guides love M3 by Multisori!
Still feeling overwhelmed? We want to help! We encourage you to download our free 150-page curriculum sample, and be sure to join our Facebook community!
And if ever you have questions about our Montessori Homeschool Curriculum, you can always reach out to me - Mandi Zielinski - directly via the chat function on this website or within our Facebook group. I look forward to learning more about your family and your homeschool journey!