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Montessori Education
THE MONTESSORI METHOD
Philadelphia Montessori Charter School’s (PMCS’s) educational program is an unwavering commitment to the Montessori method of education. One hundred years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, developed a unique approach to teaching and learning that arose from her observation that children teach themselves. The educational model she developed is used today in thousands of schools in the United States and across the world. The structure of Montessori learning involves the use of many hands-on materials with which the child may work individually. At every step of his learning, the teaching materials are designed to test his understanding and to correct his errors. Dr. Montessori recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is self-motivation of the child. Children must move themselves toward learning. Montessori education introduces children to the joy of learning at an early age and provides a framework in which the intellectual and social disciplines go hand in hand.

KEY COMPONENTS OF THE PMCS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM:

Focus on Education for Life

The purpose of PMCS goes beyond helping students to acquire basic academic skills. Rather, the focus of the curriculum is on "education for life," on developing character and self-esteem. Montessori schools give children the sense of belonging to a family and help them learn how to live with other human beings. The goal is for the child to graduate with both academic skills and with a sense of independence, inner peace, and security.

Student-Centered Classrooms

PMCS gives children, within a controlled environment, the freedom to choose their own activities. This is based on the belief that children learn by doing, which requires movement and spontaneous investigation. Children may select an activity and work with it as long as they wish, so long as they do not disturb anyone or damage anything, and they put it back where it belongs when they are finished. Both the teacher and the Montessori materials (explained below) help to facilitate this child-directed learning. Individualized "lesson plans" are developed for each child based on the child’s previous skill attainment. Each child is given lessons at his/her own developmentally appropriate level in all subject areas. Lessons are re-presented until the child attains mastery. Presentations and teacher follow-up establish the foundation for spontaneous choice.

Specially Trained Teachers

Because of the unique role of the teacher in the Montessori classroom, PMCS requires its teachers to have undergone specific Montessori training, which includes rigorous training in child development and psychology, observation and student teaching, use of the Montessori materials, and classroom management. PMCS mandates that all teachers have Pennsylvania State Certification and Montessori certification. When this is not possible, PMCS often places two certified adults in a classroom (one state certified and one Montessori certified) to team teach.

Multi-Age Classrooms

The charter school adheres to the Montessori model of multi-age class groupings that correspond with the developmental stages of childhood rather than traditional grade groupings. In other words, rather than organizing students by grade level (kindergarten, first grade, second grade, etc.), PMCS groups its students in three groups – Early Childhood*  (ages 3 to 6), Lower Elementary (ages 6 to 9), and Upper Elementary (ages 9 to 12).

The multi-age class groupings allow younger students to experience the daily stimulation of older role models, who in turn blossom in the responsibilities of leadership. Students not only learn with each other, but also from each other. At each level, children are given three years to mature in all subject areas. Their social skills develop on a continuum, as well, within the three-year time frame.

The teacher knows each child for three years and really understands the learning styles and needs of each child with a great deal more depth and is, therefore, able to respond to individual learning needs more efficiently.

*Please note, the 3 and 4 year old portion of the Early Childhood Program is temporarily suspended. Please check back for updates regarding our plan to bring this special aspect of our program back to PMCS.

Classroom Environment

Montessori classrooms tend to fascinate both children and their parents. They are bright, warm, and inviting, filled with plants, animals, art, music, and books. There are interest centers with hands-on learning materials, intriguing mathematical models, maps, charts, fossils, historical artifacts, computers, scientific apparatus, perhaps a small natural-science museum, and animals that children are raising.

Rather than rows of desks, the PMCS’s classrooms are set up to facilitate student discussion and stimulate collaborative learning. The environment fosters within children a feeling of comfort and safety. Children can typically be found scattered around the classroom, working individually or with one or two others at tables or on the floor.

Montessori Materials

In her studies of child development, Dr. Montessori noted that most children do not learn by memorizing what they hear from their teachers or read in a text. Instead, they learn from concrete experience and direct interaction with the environment. Asking a child to sit back and watch adults perform a process or experiment is like asking a one-year-old not to put everything in his mouth. Children need to manipulate and explore everything that catches their interest.

Therefore, PMCS uses learning materials (other than textbooks and workbooks) that are designed to stimulate the child into logical thought and discovery. The materials are provocative and simple, each carefully designed to appeal to children at a given level of development. Each material isolates and teaches one thing or is used to present one skill at a time, as the child is ready.

Focus on Peace Education

Peace education is be a common theme that runs throughout the general curriculum. The Montessori model allows children to develop as compassionate and intelligent human beings in an atmosphere of love and respect. Children will be taught continually to respect everyone and everything in the environment and to solve problems through peaceful means. The ultimate aim of the peace education component of PMCS will be to develop children with strong, active commitment to solving problems and living together peacefully. That way, children will be able to break the cycle of distrust, anger and fear, and will carry this spirit of peace and cooperation with them into adulthood.

In the Montessori classroom peace education is not taught as a separate curriculum but is the unifying thread throughout the child’s academic, social and emotional experience in the classroom. It is "taught" through the interactions between teacher and child, child and child(ren), and children and their use of the materials in the environment.

At the elementary level, when two children come to the teacher in conflict and are angry, the teacher asks each child to write what happened. This approach gives each child a chance to be "heard" and helps to defuse the anger. Children then talk it out and work together to decide on how to resolve their disagreement.

In every classroom a peace table or corner is set up where children can go when they want to be alone or need to be alone because they are tired or out of sorts. Modern life is chaotic, and many children need this kind of space in their lives. Because instruction is individualized, children do not "miss" their lessons while they are choosing to take a "time out." Once they are feeling better, concentration and learning will be possible.