The basics of a Montessori education

The Montessori philosophy and approach, based on the research and insights of Maria Montessori, is unique. And Montessori schools (including preschools), in Ontario and other provinces, have several progressive classroom practices. Some of the main ones are discussed below.

Self-directed work: Montessori students do lots of independent work. While the learning environment provides some structure, students often choose their own tasks and learning materials. With some guidance from the teacher, they also determine the pace of their studies. This allows them to do work they find challenging and stimulating, and that they’re likely to complete. It can also lead to a love of learning, throughout the school years and beyond.

Concrete learning: The main focus is on concrete learning, rather than abstract learning. Especially at the preschool and elementary level, kids work with lots of different concrete materials to learn important practical life skills.

Minimal tests and grades: Montessori schools almost never test students or give them assignments. Moreover, student work is rarely graded, except in high school (and sometimes middle school).

Instead, student progress is informally assessed through observation and developmental rubrics. The belief is that kids should be intrinsically motivated—by doing meaningful work they enjoy and find fulfilling—rather than externally motivated (through grades, report cards, and the like).

Individualized curriculum: Montessori schools focus heavily on academics, even sometimes at the preschool level (3-6). Kids must master the basics in math, science, the language arts, and other subjects. They can then move on to more advanced work.

The curricular focus and pace, though, will differ between children. Each child will move at a different pace and study subjects in different ways, depending on their specific learning needs and interests.

Montessori curricular and teaching approach

In Montessori schools in Ontario, subjects are almost never taught in isolation. Typically, several subjects are taught together, as part of what’s called an integrated curriculum. For instance, biology or chemistry aren’t taught as single subjects, except possibly in high school (and maybe middle school). Rather, they’ll be taught as part of an integrated unit.