Why Montessori?

The outcomes and impact of the Montessori Methodology are many and are of great significance. The effects are concrete and perceptible, but not exactly quantifiable. Children working in a Montessori environment have shattered the myth that children cannot concentrate or be orderly. This has to be witnessed to be believed. What is more important is that the impact is not transitory or restricted to the classroom. Dr. Montessori says that the period between 3 and 6 years is the sensitive phase for formation of character. Given the right approach and right environment the children reveal amazing tendencies and potentialities.     

  1. Responsibility- When the child is given freedom to choose he quite naturally selects what he is interested in, and works with involvement. The child reveals that he can make determined choices. The choices are not random, but progressively developmental. The impetus to progress is natural and not unusual and we can witness this even in the little ones in our primary classrooms. Having chosen the task the child also shows, that contrary to our belief he takes responsibility for his actions. If a child spills, he cleans up. When he grows older he exhibits the same responsibility.
  2. Controlled movements and Discipline– Although there is freedom to choose, work is orderly. Movements are controlled. For example, in pouring grains, the grains have to be poured only up to the line marked. In all activities guidelines for movements are presented. Acquiring this power of controlled movements is very important. “The more delicate the work, the more it needs the care and attention of an intelligent mind to guide it.”
    Work and movement is not only connected to intelligence. Through externally controlled movements spontaneous inner discipline evolves. Verbal moral instruction is of little use to a child. Mental control is practiced, and developed, through the direction and control of the hands. This is the practice followed even in the learning of the martial arts.
    If an activity is thrust upon a child, there is displeasure, and discipline cannot evolve. Discipline if enforced, will be superficial, and contained to the classroom. Allowing the child to do as he likes even before his powers of control are developed is equally harmful. He may become capricious and may not be able to control his impulses. 
  3. Concentration– All activities are designed to cultivate concentration through controlled movements. For example, folding a napkin along marked lines. Concentration cannot be had for the asking. It has to be cultivated through active work, through work that involves the hand and mind.
    Random play that is non-developmental does not involve the mind. Purely intellectual activity that wholly and exclusively involves only the mind need not necessarily be interesting to the child. Dr. Montessori says, “Only a piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities and leads him to self-mastery.” This is the only way in which we can ensure emotional development along with intellectual development, and is probably the best way to foster creativity.
    Doing work in which one is completely focused and deeply engaged makes one feel satisfied and refreshed. It is like meditation.
  4. Independence begets self-worth– Independent work and self-correction gives the feeling of ‘I can’ and motivates ‘to do’. With every activity completed successfully the child builds, brick by brick his self-worth and self-esteem. There is no expectation or need for any external gratification or appreciation. His own learning, his own achievement is his greatest reward.
    Being accustomed to the mode of trial and error and eventual success the child plunges into work with great enthusiasm. The practice of self-correction and self-learning, an important feature of the Montessori Method, have far reaching consequences on his personality. Even as a child he is open to guidance yet determined and strong-willed.
  5. Logical Sequence of Steps– Any complex process has to be first broken down into a logical sequence of simple steps. This is how all activities are presented to the child. 
  6. Meticulousness– Having broken the activity into steps, every step is given great attention. This leads to a systematic, meticulous work cycle. Every detail is observed, every detail is attended to, the outcome is good, and there is immense satisfaction. How nice it would be if everybody worked like this!
  7. Attention to detail– A child observes and learns how much to slant the bottle to get the correct control to get the right movement of grains. He is like a tennis player who tries to get the exact angle, position of arms etc., or a musician who is conscious of the minutest note. This skill satisfies the tendency and need for exactness. It is a qualification for perfection.
  8. Grace and Gentleness– “Work is inseparable from movement”. Performing an activity with grace is a skill by itself. It requires immense muscular control. Are we not awestruck watching ballet dancers and gymnasts?!! The grace of a running leopard or a dolphin’s leap is natural. In man this versatility has to be acquired and not so easily achieved. It requires precise and delicate interplay of the voluntary muscles. Dr. Montessori says that should man fail to develop his fine motor skills and develop only those required for heavy physical work his mind will also stay at this low level at which his movements have remained.
    Working with gentleness is a practice that has far reaching effects on the psyche. It has a naturally calming effect on the body as well as on the mind. A person who is gentle outwardly in physical aspects will effectively tend to have a calm and balanced mind too.   
  9. Every step is an activity by itself, and every movement and step, is important by itself– Every activity is a meaningful activity. Every step is superior in itself. When the child is asked to keep the tumbler gently he cannot see the ultimate purpose, but he will still do it. There is all-round excellence. This attitude of giving everything equal importance is a spiritual quality followed so naturally in the Montessori environment. Giving importance to the parts is giving importance to the whole. 
  10. Completing the job undertaken– Winding up is as important as performing the activity itself. It is equally purposeful to the child. This practice helps the child to have the resolve to complete any task he undertakes. It is in a way a discipline to persevere till the end.
  11. A taste for quality work/ a job well done– Completing a task properly becomes a cultivated habit. 
  12. Desire for doing meaningful activity– Motivation to work comes natural. The taste for doing intellectually satisfying and progressively challenging tasks becomes insatiable.
  13. Repetition– Repetition means perseverance, experimentation and experience. Experience adds value. Repetition leads to increased awareness. It generates the potential for application of awareness.
    All the above mentioned qualities are precious values of great spiritual significance that are directly observable in the classroom. This seems unbelievable. But, what is more incredible is that these qualities have a lasting impact on the psyche because they are achieved naturally through active personal experience.
    Society today is highly competitive. It is a traumatic experience for parents to prepare and train the child to run this rat race right from pre-school.  Parents wrongly conclude that the slow paced, stress free education adopted in the Montessori classrooms is not suitable for the cut throat competition the child has to face in the actual world. The truth is, the Montessori child is strongly built with all or many of the above mentioned qualities. He is independent, he has learnt to be disciplined. He thinks, reflects and perseveres till he succeeds. He has slowly and steadily trained himself to qualify for life. Like a Shaolin master, he can face rigors with a maturity and equanimity that comes from his meditative approach to work in the most formative years of his life in the Montessori environment.