The Montessori approach to early childhood education offers a broad vision of education as an “aid and a preparation for life.” It is designed to help children grow from birth to maturity, and succeeds because it is flexible, interest-based, and aligned to children’s key developmental stages. The Montessori Curriculum and classroom structure incorporates flexible learning in a number of ways. Ultimately, this leads to the development of an optimal learning environment that caters to the needs of a diverse range of students and abilities. So how is the Montessori Curriculum flexible?
Learn at your own Pace and Practice
Through scientific observation, Doctor Maria Montessori determined that children move through ‘sensitive periods’ for learning particular skills, and that if they were provided with supportive and flexible learning opportunities to practice these skills, they would make extraordinary progress. She also determined that children learn best at their own pace, and when given a choice of activities that challenges them, not only to master a skill, but to practically apply it. The concept of ‘sensitive periods’ is crucial to the Montessori philosophy of education, as it encourages children to follow their inner directives as a guide towards wholesome growth.
The concept of flexible learning is also evident in the layout of the Montessori classroom. This is particularly clear in the toddler and preschool classrooms, which have a very similar range of Montessori materials available for the children to work with. Everything in the classroom has a purpose and a place. The environment is ordered, engaging and simple to support independence, learning and discovery. Each classroom also features designated shelves and materials associated the five key learning areas: practical life, sensorial, art and culture, language, and mathematics. By providing students with freedom of choice and access to all areas of the curriculum, children who are developmentally advanced or behind can work at their level without feeling left out. The flexible curriculum also allows these students to progress socially, cognitively, emotionally and physically with their class group, which fosters a sense of belonging, and nurtures their holistic development.
Child Centred Learning
The role of the Montessori Teacher also makes the concept of flexible learning in the Montessori classroom abundantly clear. In the Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to choose and then explore different Montessori materials from each area of the curriculum. Children are free to work with the materials without intervention or intrusion, as long as they are respectful of the material, themselves, and the other students in the Montessori environment. The Montessori Teacher guides and follows the children in their interests rather than setting a curriculum that dictates what children should learn at specific times. Most traditional preschools deliver the same lessons, at the same pace, in the same order for all the students. Montessori education is individualised to the child, encourages flexible learning, and accommodate multiple learning styles. In this way, the Montessori Curriculum caters to the unique needs of each individual child, and their interests, talents and abilities.
The freedom and choice associated with the flexible curriculum encourages children to pursue their passions, flourish in independence, develop a true love of learning, and work through challenges to find solutions. In this way, Montessori’s flexible curriculum aims to provide children with strong foundations for future learning, and to prepare them, not only for school, but for life.