What is Montessori Education?

Montessori education is an innovative approach to learning that focuses on child-centered education. This method was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s and is still used today in many schools around the world. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes the importance of independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development.

Children are encouraged to learn at their own pace and follow their own interests, while teachers act as guides and facilitators rather than dictators. The Montessori method has been shown to be effective in promoting creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in children. It is a unique and valuable option for parents looking for alternatives to traditional education methods.

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator who developed an innovative approach to education known as the Montessori method. Her method emphasizes self-directed learning, hands-on exploration, and individualized instruction. Montessori believed that children learn best when they are free to explore and discover on their own, and that they should be treated with respect and given the tools they need to succeed. Today, Montessori schools can be found all over the world, and many parents choose this approach for their children’s education.

Animals and their homes montessori nature sort matching free printables sign up

Montessori education was born out of passion.  It began with a story. A story of a young Italian woman who was under enormous pressure for no other reason but for merely being a woman.  Maria Montessori had a desire to pursue a medical career – at the time privilege was assigned only to men.

At a critical moment in her life, she was very close to giving up her dream having to endure constant humiliation and unfair treatment from fellow students at the medical university. However, one day she saw a poor young child playing with a red object on the side of the road. She was fascinated by the way that child was engaged in interaction with the object.

This incident impacted her in a major way and she became determined to conclude her study. Later on, she took up a challenge to work with destitute children whom the state labeled “unable to learn”.

Her success and transformation of those children drew the attention of people from all over the world, including the Queen.  Maria Montessori opened her first Montessori environment in 1907 –   on 6 January 1907 in  Rome, Italy.

“When the children, ranging between the ages of 2 to 6 entered, they were dressed all alike in some thick, heavy, blue drill. They were frightened and being hindered by the stiff material, could move neither arms nor legs freely. Apart from their own community, they had never seen any people.

The children were quiet, they had no interference either from the teacher or from the parents, but their environment contrasted vividly from that which they had been used to; compared to that of their previous life; it seemed fantastically beautiful. The walls were white, there was a green plot of grass outside, though no one had yet thought to plant flowers in it, but most beautiful of all was the fact that they had interesting occupations in which no one, no one at all, interfered. They were left alone and little by little the children began to work with concentration and the transformation they underwent, was noticeable. From timid and wild as they were before, the children became sociable and communicative. They showed a different relationship with each other, of which I have written in my books. Their personalities grew and, strange though it may seem, they showed extraordinary understanding, activity, vivacity and confidence. They were happy and joyous…

What was the wonder due to? No one could state it clearly. But it conquered me for ever, because it penetrated my heart as a new light. One day I looked at them with eyes which saw them differently and I asked myself: “Who are you, are you the same children you were before?” And I said within myself: “Perhaps you are those children of whom it was said that they would come to save humanity. If so, I shall follow you.” Since then, I am she who tries to grasp their message and to follow them…

It has nothing to do with any educational method of the past, nor with any educational method of the future. It stands alone as the contribution of the child himself. Perhaps it is the first of its kind, which has been built by him step by step”

– a fragment from a talk by Dr. Maria Montessori to her students on the 6th of January 1942.

The Montessori method was 50 years in the making. Maria lived through the First and Second World Wars, she traveled the world educating on her methodology, giving lectures, and perfecting her method, approach, and materials. Hence it comes as no surprise to discover how strongly she advocated for peace and used education as a tool to foster peaceful coexistence. 

Her passion and love for all mankind, and belief in empowering children from the very start of their lives led her to understand children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs on the deepest level.

Montessori is not a fast track to a child’s success; it is not going to guarantee that the child will turn into a genius the moment he or she steps into the classroom. However, the relevance of the Montessori method is even more significant in today’s world when we seek our children to achieve excellence not based on fear of being punished or desire to compete. Today many parents choose to encourage children to become the best versions of themselves and work with determination and perseverance, think creatively, and work in an atmosphere of cooperation, not competition. The value is placed on a strong connection and depth of relationships between children and adults. It resonates with many when Montessori emphasizes how important it is to treat children with the respect they deserve:

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
― Maria Montessori

Montessori education has always been about cultivating a child’s innate curiosity and providing an environment that supports their natural ability to learn. In a modern world filled with distractions and information overload, Montessori education is more relevant than ever. By encouraging children to explore and discover on their own terms, Montessori schools prepare them for a lifetime of self-directed learning and personal growth.

Whether it’s through hands-on activities, collaborative projects, or individualized instruction, Montessori education empowers children to become confident, capable, and compassionate members of society. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, Montessori education offers a timeless approach to learning that prepares children for success in any endeavor they choose to pursue.

Montessori education is highly effective because it recognizes that each child is unique and requires a personalized learning experience. The approach is designed to promote self-directed learning, which means that children are encouraged to explore and make discoveries on their own. This helps develop their independence, curiosity, and creativity. Montessori classrooms are also carefully prepared environments that promote hands-on learning and exploration.

By providing children with a range of materials and activities, they are able to learn through their senses and engage in meaningful, real-world experiences. Additionally, the Montessori approach emphasizes the development of social and emotional skills, such as empathy, communication, and problem-solving, which are essential for success both in school and in life. Overall, Montessori education provides a holistic approach to learning that fosters a love of learning and prepares children for a lifetime of success.

Science backs up Montessori proving that students show great outcomes across many areas of child’s development:

“Psychologists in the US found that across a range of abilities, children at Montessori schools out-performed those given a traditional education. Five-year-old Montessori pupils were better prepared for reading and maths, and 12-year-olds wrote “significantly more creative” essays using more sophisticated sentence structures.
Some of the biggest differences were seen in social skills and behaviour. Montessori children displayed a greater sense of “justice and fairness”, interacted in an “emotionally positive” way, and were less likely to engage in “rough play” during break times. ” (Source – via theguardian.com)

To grasp the essence of the Montessori education one has to see it in action. I chose a couple of videos that can give you a more clear insight into the world of Montessori:

Tour of a Montessori toddler classroom in Amsterdam by The Montessori Notebook

Montessori education is not limited to a Montessori school. It takes all sorts of forms – there are public Montessori schools, Montessori playgroups, Montessori homeschools, Montessori cooperations, Montessori daycares, etc. And even if your child doesn’t attend a Montessori school, Montessori-inspired parenting can be your way to gain all the benefits of this practical and brilliant way of raising children.

I’ve asked people who have seen Montessori success firsthand through daily experiences at school, childcare, and at home – Montessori teachers, guides, and parents, to share their opinion on the essence of Montessori education. These incredible people from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide scope of knowledge opened up their unique perspectives based on personal experience, understanding, and views:

Montessori education is a way of life. It is multifaceted. It is creating a self-teaching environment & following the child throughout its educational journey. Montessori education is a learning experience for children and adults, bridging gaps between them. It is the meeting of minds.

-Nikita, Owner/Director North Hills Children’s House

Montessori is a method of education that encourages children to explore their world, to understand and respect the life forms, systems, and forces of which it consists.

-Jing, Teacher

Some really know very little about Montessori. The points we want to make are that the children move ahead as quickly as they master the material. They do not have to wait for the rest of the class to catch up or If they are absent for some reason, the class does not move ahead as it is all individualized and the child begins again where he left off when he was there. Montessori education includes many interesting topics for children and their teachers. For example, the study of shells from the beach can take off in many directions with everyone in the classroom becoming familiar with some of the incredible treasures of the ocean. They classify by type, color, use, and food, to mention just a few possibilities. The study usually goes on as long as there are new areas to learn. The math and language in Montessori education are comprehensive and wonderfully effective for the learner. Geography begins early and continues along with the history of the places and different forms on earth. Montessori education is never finished as there is always something new to learn and creates the desire to be a lifelong learner.

-Julie, Director (Wider Horizons School)

Montessori Education is about seeing the child as a person, allowing them responsibilities like choosing their own work and cleaning up after themselves. It is also about the process of learning, not the end result. They need to understand HOW they got to that learning, not just the final answer. If they know HOW they can transfer their learning to more opportunities to learn! They will learn more when they are interested in learning and see for themselves if they are getting it right (self-checking). It also encompasses grace, manners, respect and all those good qualities our society seems to have overlooked.

-Lisa,  Director (Children’s Manor Montessori School)

For me, Montessori education is about following the child. To allow the child to follow its natural instincts and rhythm. To be able to make choices, become independent and responsible by using child-size material that is seen being used in the home. Montessori education has its origins from a doctor and scientist, Dr. Maria Montessori who observed children, and saw how children developed by going through different stages. Through many developments, she came up with materials that allow the child to isolate only 1 difference and to see for themselves where an error has occurred ensuring self-respect and confidence.To problem solve without the interference of an adult. To be able to work on their own, and group – sharing their knowledge with other children of a class with mixed ages To understand the class limits/ rules and to follow them with respect as this shown to the child/adults. To be without fear or of punishment or belittle behaviour. In essence, Montessori education is Allowing the child to grow in spirit, mind and wellbeing, to be self-confident, independent and to love life.

-Marie, Director / Teacher  (Sunflower English Club)

Education-based on scientific observations of each individual child and preparing the environment for their needs.

-Lucie, Director ( Montessori Kilbirnie)

Montessori education is a teaching method that caters to the needs of the child. The children choose what they are interested in. The teacher acts as a guide in the classroom, rather than a “teacher”. The activities are simple, easy to use and age-appropriate. The classroom is not cluttered – and is a safe nurturing environment for young growing minds. Montessori Education is dedicated to creating young independent children – who are empathetic, kind, and smart.

-Maggie, Former lead teacher ( 6 years) now stay at home mom / inspired Montessori business owner

Montessori Education is the learning philosophy, developed and very intentionally designed by Dr. Maria Montessori, to let children lead the way in their own learning. The Montessori guide, or trained teacher, follows the lead of the child in their development and interests. Dr. Montessori created materials specifically designed to help children learn academics in a concrete way, setting them up for success with the inclusion of control of error (meaning self-correcting). The curriculum includes activities, materials, and the philosophy that all help children become independent and confident, as well as giving them the skills needed to achieve success in cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development. Children who are in Montessori environments also excel in executive function skills. All of this is based on the guide (teacher) being trained in the philosophy, pedagogy, and curriculum and creating a setting where independence and learning are encouraged through the thoughtful preparation of the environment/classroom.

-Frani,  Teacher Mentor and Curriculum Specialist

Montessori education is an easy way to teach in order to do the life more practical. It makes independents kids.. they solve their own problems and learn from their mistakes.

-Christian, Teacher/Mum

Montessori Education is child-centered, child-initiated, hands-on learning, where age-appropriate activities are offered by the adults to help nurture and further the child’s interests and development.

-Kate, Teacher

Teaching my child to become a capable, compassionate,  intelligent adult with real-world lessons.

-Loralie,  Mom/Teacher

Montessori is meeting children where they are and giving them the tools to move forward with their development. It is removing anything that poses an obstacle to their growth. It is maintaining their curiosity and responding with, “let’s find out!” It is treating the child with respect, always, and with trust. It is setting the boundaries and practising the skills of the child’s culture(s), but also helping them to define when cultural expectations are unfair… and then working with the children to change them.

Montessori is an education for peace – because in practising Montessori we help children to be their best selves, and when they grow up being their best selves they reach out to touch the world with their love and their innovation and their skills and their refusal to give up or accept injustice. Practising Montessori as an adult is an act of love, hopefulness, and trust, but it is not always easy. It can be difficult to trust the child when we were not always trusted as children; it can be difficult to find patience when our lives are so, so busy. Sometimes, in our excitement, we struggle to let children find out answers for themselves, and sometimes, in fear of their potential struggles or our own challenges, we might not think they are ready for things that they actually are ready for. Because we so often have to overcome our own expectations, practising Montessori requires us to observe; watch and listen and wait and finally to respond to the child’s needs. But though it can be difficult, it’s infinitely worth it because of what it does for children, and what they, in turn, will do for the world.

-Megan,  Parent/Teacher

Montessori Education is the result of thorough observations and experimentations done by a very passionate lady who quit fame and professional career to undertake the role of children carer. The time she spent at the first Casa of Bambini reformed Early Childhood Education standards. Montessori education is not only about academic achievements. It is about the whole being of the child.

-Huda, Teacher (Montessori House)

Montessori education to me is a way of learning that’s is open to a variety of experiences. I love that learning can be on the go just as it can be at home or in a classroom. Experiences that lead to teachable moments, that happen throughout our daily adventures. I love the Montessori way of Teaching independence with lifelong values of loving learning. Having an environment set so the children, child in my life, can be successful throughout her daily activities whether it be reading books to potting her own plants. It’s available when she has an interest anytime.

-Shannon, Teacher turned stay at home mum

Montessori education is a child-centered approach to learning that honors and respects each child’s innate desire to learn by providing a rich environment specially structured for them to expand and explore their curiosity. My favorite nomenclature cards are ones that have to do with language.

-Bonnie, Director (Countryside Montessori)

Montessori education empowers a child to be independent and self-reliant so they grow up to be emotionally strong and confident individuals.

-Aparna, Mum

Montessori education is a hands-on way of learning, using all 5 senses, giving concrete before abstract. With this interesting way of learning, children develop a curiosity for wanting to know more. A love of learning for life.

-Anne-Marie, Mum/Teacher/Directress (Rainbow Stars Montessori. Barbados)

Montessori Education – it’s a way for children to learn via their own interests using engaging, colorful, high-quality materials that can serve as a way for a child to become engrossed and focused on learning. The Montessori classroom should be inviting, clutter-free, and include multiple areas of interest for students to find materials they are interested in discovering more about.

-Raychell, Primary Teacher

Montessori is a peacefulness and natural flow of a child’s development, where the child’s spirit is engulfed in the happiness that comes from feeling free to be their authentic self and pursue their independence. 

-Sandy, Director (Children’s Home Montessori School)

To answer the question “what is a Montessori education one must take a breath, take some time to thoroughly think what that encompasses and most importantly remember all that is connected regarding a Montessori education. To me, the meaning of education is acquiring knowledge, exposure to new experiences and new learning that takes place. So, Maria Montessori, had this all figured out. But she felt that there were special important aspects that needed to be included in learning.

A connection to our hearts and souls, kindness, respectfulness and inner peace that would be strong enough to emit that peace within our own environment and world. Because education on different aspects within our lives is not entirely complete unless a good sense of self, peace within and shared kindness remains important and is exercised, our education becomes mechanical and remains on the surface. So my opinion of Montessori education is something strong, unique and everlasting as it remains an important component to our own being.

-Gerri, Teacher (Shoreline School of Montessori)

Montessori education is a way of life, a lifestyle and it’s a particular and different approach to the child. It means respecting the child, believing, respecting his times and spaces. In terms of spaces, it means above all offering an environment organized according to his needs and his age, a well-kept, clean and beautiful environment! Montessori education also means offering child freedom! but not freedom understood as unfortunately often it is misunderstood not be free to do what he wants but the freedom to act! to move to work in a suitable and organized environment.

-Anna, Mom/Blogger/Director of Vivo Montessori ecommerce of Montessori Materials and educational toys

Montessori Education to me is the best form of education. I am a toddler teacher and to see the development of the child as an individual is rewarding. I see changes in my toddlers on a daily basis, the look in their eyes when they master something new. Montessori lets the child develop at their own pace without being compared to any other child in the class. The freedom to move around the room is great too, especially for the child that cannot sit still for a period of time. Plus it also promotes teamwork and encourages socialization among the children. The Montessori method of education is one that can be expanded to engage the child for longer periods of time, due to the fact that the activity can be set up for the advancement and not just the same thing day in and day out which will bore the child. The child learns from their own mistakes by correcting what they did wrong without the help of the teacher unless it is truly needed. I totally love being a Montessori teacher.

-Lois, Toddler Teacher

Montessori education is an open-ended learning experience that emphasizes following the child through interest-led learning. The development of the whole child is encouraged as the child interacts with concrete materials and peers in a lovely, engaging prepared environment. A lifelong love of learning is initiated.

-Becky, Mum/homeschool teacher (Montessori certified lower el)/ Montessori music teacher (primary-upper el)

It is a method that provides freedom and independence for the child development, it is an environment where children can grow, discover, grow in peace. It is an education for life.

-Pia, Teacher/Mum

In my opinion, Montessori Education is an absolutely natural way to teach and lead children with respect to their personality and nature according to age, their possibilities and interests. It´s a friendly way to show and explain to them the world and everything that we have and see in our lives.

Montessori with its philosophy and special toys offers teachers and parents very clever way how to help their kids to grow into smart people with the right opinions who will be again good parents and teachers in the future. Montessori is very different in comparison with usual education, which offers just a lot of information to kids, but they are not really prepared for real life, not prepared to solve the problems (personal or general ), think with own brain and compare the opinions and statements of other people. It would be great if every child has the opportunity to meet the Montessori Education from early childhood.

-Adriana, Mum

Montessori Education is learning and experiencing life and development fully and completely as my children desire to understand, with guidance from myself as their mother and ‘homeschool organizer.’

-Heidi, Mum/homeschool organizer

The question “what is Montessori” has had so many possible explanations! Is it a lifestyle? …a method?…a philosophy? I tend to think it is a little of all. A Montessori environment should provide: the best of us as guides, respect for our children, a “scientifically” created environment, an environment that is inviting, refreshing, peaceful and dynamic, exercises that promote independence, creativity, self-assurance, and concentration, follow the Human Tendencies and Sensitive Periods of the children, is guided by the needs of the children at the time (instead of following what parents or other adults “educators” promote).

-Vivian, Montessori Guide of 30 years

Montessori Education, for me is indeed ‘Education for Life’. I feel each and every one of us should go through it at some point in our life. My belief – is that, if you are a true seeker, it comes to you. Montessori in its entirety came into my life at the age of 35, when I chose to move to education as a second career choice. I feel proud to be able to share and show this path to the younger generation because it truly enables them to understand the nuances of life and how to live them happily and purposefully. It is wonderful to see the love for learning and the growth in each and every child as they become independent human beings.

-Reena, Early Childhood Educator /Trainer

*What is Montessori Education?*

Montessori education in a nutshell for me is looking at the holistic child. Children get an introduction to real-life lessons at an early age.*

*What is discipline? How do we achieve this by having a controlled environment with clear-cut boundaries.*

*What is leadership? A mixed-age group where children are given the care for each other. By taking responsibility and acting on the responsibility given to them.*

*How to be a self-learner? Giving the child self-corrective materials and the adults not interfering when mistakes are made. It is OK to make mistakes! *

*The heartbeat of Montessori being practical life activities. These build up confidence hand-eye coordination concentration and the freedom to Cleanup at your pace and time.*

*Reading Writing and Arithmetic will always be learned. Nevertheless to understand and feel for our selves and those around us brings about another dimension.*

*We need to look at the man of tomorrow and give him all the raw materials to build on his character and love for the earth we live in.*

*If we say we care for humanity we need to spread the Montessori Method of Education and have people who will look at the child and then let the child lead us for a better world for the future generations to come.*

– Needra, Director

Montessori education is an education for life. This means we want to teach the child how to learn and instil in them a love for learning. Learning is something we never stop doing. it is a lifelong skill. We as their guides help them learn.  Sometimes it means motivation, questioning, helping them think and more. Today modern education is catching up with Maria Montessori. They now realize what she did over 100 years ago that movement helps children learn. Today they go about it in unique ways. But the materials are there to teach the child. We introduce them to the environment and we step back, observe and let them learn. This is often hard to do, but it is better for the child for them to discover rather than to listen to us talk. This discovery process is what helps them love learning.

Especially in the preschool, the materials help to order the child’s mind and are most important. However, the materials Maria Montessori created are not the only materials we now have to use. I have added so much from other sources, especially after the preschool years, especially in the field of logic. I believe this helps the child to further see and understand the relationships in other fields of study.  Obviously in the field of Math, but in science, history and other aspects of life. It most importantly helps them learn to think for themselves.

But I think I’ve gotten off-topic. When we present the material to the child and step back to watch, we can learn how best to help the child next. We can ask ourselves how we can better present this to them, how can I help the child extend his interest in an area, what is the child ready to learn next? This is how we help the child. As the child gets older and is ready to branch out into other areas, there are so many more areas of study open to him. It’s exciting, but it does keep us on our toes.

Montessori wrote many books on the subject. I would suggest reading at least one of her theory. It can help a lot. They help us see how to put the child first and really respect the child where he or she is at, at the present moment. We must always remember that we are there to serve the needs of the child;

-Rosemary, a Former Montessori teacher for 20 years turned homeschool grandmother

To me, Montessori Education is about helping children to grow in their own way in helping them to learn more about the world around them. It’s a great way to help them learn to make decisions for themselves and to discover things in their own way and in their own time. It’s not about being pushing and forcing kids to learn things that they are not interested in.

-Karen, Director of a small children’s/babies home in Uganda.

Montessori Education is a self-paced,  individualized method of education that addresses the “whole child”. Keen observations lead the teacher to present materials that intrigue the child and “unlock” the child’s potential. With character training at its core,  the child receives detailed lessons on manners, virtues, and positive communication skills – the fact that they can often spell, read, complete 4-digit addition & subtraction equations and know what a sphere, cube, and cylinder are by 5 is just icing on the cake!

– Jennifer, Director of School, Lead Teacher of 25, and mother of 3

Montessori education is a method of education that develops the whole child that is the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and even spiritual abilities of a child through the help of a prepared environment and an observant guide(directress or parent). In Montessori education, a child is prepared for the real world, through self-discipline, independence, and analytical thinking.

– Ebele, Mom

Montessori education prepares children to look at their world, whatever that world maybe, or turn into. It is guiding children to look deeply at the things around them. Exposing them to as much as they can absorb, and letting all of the bits stick where they will. Each little “unimportant” piece becoming another block it the child’s character, personality, and “toolkit for life”. Montessori is an education that creates builders, people who are not afraid to take on a challenge. It is education that prepares you to seek the truth, to not just take someone’s word for it, but to discover and understand for yourself. Thanks for all of your great resources that make learning more beautiful. Beauty is important. There is too much ugly out there in the world, but we *try* to dwell on the good, the beautiful, and not add to the ugly.
– Lauren, Homeschool mom

What do you think!? Is Montessori education relevant today?

You might enjoy our learning resources

About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.