Montessori Childcare programs have become a popular choice in Australia. Let’s take a look at what makes Montessori Childcare programs unique.
Montessori Childcare Programs
When a parent is looking for childcare or preschool options, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices they are presented with. Across Australia, and indeed the world, there are a large number of families making the choice to attend Montessori-inspired childcare and preschool programs to give their child a great educational start. But what is Montessori childcare and how does it differ from a regular childcare or preschool program? In order to unpack this we must first start by understanding where this method began – with Maria Montessori herself.
On August the 31st 1870, Maria Montessori was born in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy. She was raised in a family that highly valued education and Maria became a physician and educator with a strong interest in child development. Maria was particularly interested in exploring how children learn and she became an innovator in her field, developing her very own approach to education. Through her studies and observations, Maria discovered that children had an innate ability to teach themselves when provided with developmentally appropriate materials and given the freedom and space to follow their own interests. It took over 50 years for her to refine what she had learned and to develop it into what we now know as the principles and practices of the Montessori approach. You can access a detailed biography about Maria Montessori’s life here: Biography of Dr. Maria Montessori | Montessori Australia
The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori believed that the first six years of life are crucial for shaping the way in which a child’s personality and values are developed. Maria used her studies in medicine and her training in scientific observation to develop her educational approach which is based on a deep understanding of child development. Maria believed that children have a biologically inbuilt path of development and learn best when interacting with materials freely rather than through direct instruction.
From her research, Maria determined that education in early childhood should centre around a child’s natural desire for learning and so her approach is heavily child-centred and respectful of children as powerful learners. Within a Montessori program, child choice is considered a very important aspect of the program and educators are trained to guide and scaffold learning in a way that ensures children a high degree of autonomy.
A Montessori childcare or preschool program aims to provide an environment that is exciting and stimulating so that children are inspired to explore. Supporting children to become confident and involved learners is considered crucial for developing the skills and dispositions for lifelong learning.
The Montessori curriculum is centred around 6 core areas of learning. Literacy, numeracy, practical life skills, sensorial exploration, science and cultural studies form the basis of the Montessori program. If you would like to know more about the underlying principles of the Montessori method, further information can be found here: Montessori Education Method – The Montessori Method of Education and its Key Principles (montessoriacademy.com.au)
The Montessori Educator
In a Montessori childcare or preschool, there is usually a very high child to adult ratio and the role of the teacher is to follow the child and guide their play based on skillful observation. The teacher works alongside individual children or within small groups and aims to support learning by supplying children with the tools they need to discover and find out information by themselves.
A trained educator is considered to be a valuable part of the learning environment within a Montessori childcare or preschool program and the role is not to ‘teach’ the child, but to instead guide the child as they teach themselves. The educator is a facilitator that quietly and gently encourages the child in ways that support them to follow their own ideas and natural instincts.
Montessori teachers must hold a specific certification on top of other early childhood qualifications, so they are highly trained in the method and connect with other educators to continuously build upon their practice. Montessori teachers also don’t rely on standardised tests, they instead use observations to track and monitor the progress that children are making and to inform their own practice.
In a Montessori childcare program, children generally remain with one teacher for three years. This gives the opportunity to develop strong relational trust with the child and their family and allows the educator to gain a deep understanding of each child and how they learn.
If you are interested in becoming trained as a Montessori teacher, you can find further information here: Montessori Training | Montessori Australia
The Montessori Learning Environment
Within a Montessori childcare or preschool learning environment the space is specifically designed for independence. Children are encouraged and supported to manage their own needs and the resources and furniture are all appropriate to the size of the children. Children are given the freedom to make choices about their learning, but are also gently guided by caring adults.
Within a Montessori classroom, the learning environment is set out with purposeful activities that are designed for children to be able to progress at their own pace. The materials and activities are carefully selected to support hands-on learning and to spark the child’s natural desire to discover, explore and learn.
Montessori classrooms are well known for their beautifully designed spaces with materials that are carefully and intentionally selected to meet the needs of the children within that group. Many of the activities provided involve real-life tools and materials to support the development of real-life skills. You can browse a wide selection of Montessori-inspired resources here: The Montessori Shop | Montessori Australia
A unique aspect of a Montessori classroom is that children are placed in mixed-age groupings to enable younger children to learn from older children and to allow for an environment where co-operation and kindness is strongly encouraged and supported.
If you are considering whether to access a Montessori childcare or preschool program for your child, the following video provides further information about Montessori education and care: Why choose Montessori education for your child?
Summary of Montessori Childcare
Montessori Childcare and preschool programs aim to give children the skills they need to succeed in learning as well as life skills. There are many Montessori childcare centres throughout Australia and the world, and the key learning areas have become popular in many educational programs.
There are also many early learning centres out there that foster educational programs which cover these principles without calling themselves a formal ‘Montessori’ childcare. It is up to parents and caregivers to do their own research when deciding what kind of early learning program is best for their child.
Disclaimer – I am in no way affiliated with any Montessori ChildCare Centres and so this article is not a recommendation or an endorsement at all. It is simply an overview of what Montessori ChildCare can provide, and you should always do your own research when it comes to choosing a quality early learning service for your child.