Knowledge can be best given where there is eagerness to learn…
– Maria Montessori
Pacifica Montessori School implements the Montessori method in full, and all of its teachers are accredited by Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and/or the American Montessori Society (AMS). There are many schools that integrate elements of the Montessori method and will use the name Montessori, but the education they offer is not comparable. There is a much deeper, cumulative effect on children when the Montessori method is fully implemented, particularly over the Primary (Preschool and Kindergarten) and Elementary years.
The Montessori method strives to prepare children for everything their lives will bring. It nurtures the development of the whole child, fostering independence, self-esteem, strong moral character, and a lifelong love of learning.
Dr. Maria Montessori’s method and findings have been embraced and validated by neuroscience. In this interview, Dr. Stephen Hughes, assistant professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, confirms her findings; that children learn best when interested; the hand is the instrument of exploration and understanding; and purposeful activity helps to develop executive functions.
Foundational to the Montessori method is a hands-on, experiential, integrated curriculum that ties language, history, math, art, and science together. The “work,” which begins in preschool, is sequential and moves from concrete, sensorial experiences to a more abstract understanding of various subject areas. Our academics are rigorous and challenging, and because of the experiential nature of the method, our students learn that mistakes are a natural part of learning. This builds perseverance — a critical factor for their personal, and later professional, success in the world.
Everything in the Montessori classroom has a clear educational intention behind it. This is why it is called a “prepared environment.” Children are encouraged to be self-directed, and they interact independently with the materials in a purposeful way. They learn at their own pace, naturally progressing as they master lessons in specific subject areas. Each lesson is designed with built-in measures, known as “control of error,” which allow children to reach and experience their own success. Our teachers are also closely observing the progress of students, keeping an eye out for “sensitive periods” when students show clear indications that they are ready to advance to higher-level material.
This combination of teacher observation and self-measure is how children “pass tests” in the Montessori method, which is much less stressful than the quizzing and testing common to other school curricula. No child is compared to another child, and no child falls through the cracks. By contrast, conventional schools tend to be very reliant on standardized testing, which narrows the scope of what school is for and teaches to the test. In the Montessori view, tests and grades tend to be short-term motivators that are far less effective than building a deep, self-driven motivation to learn for the sake of learning.
Every class is led by a Montessori-trained teacher, supported by a trained assistant. True to Montessori principles, our classrooms are mixed-age, and students as young as Kindergarten teach lessons that they have mastered to younger students. This practice not only cements the knowledge a child has gained, but it creates a deeper connection among the children in the class. This mentoring practice — fundamental to Montessori — breaks down the typical barriers among children of different ages, gender, and abilities. It also helps children work through the vulnerable experience often associated with learning new concepts, with the help of older classmates. This builds empathy, connection, and a strong sense of community among the children, while deepening their individual grasp of material.
Our students tend to excel academically, fulfilling their maximum potential in terms of higher cognitive functioning. They learn how to organize themselves, manage their time, and go deep into subject matter, naturally building an inquiring mind and a remarkable capacity for concentration. Most of our students take an accelerated track in at least one subject area, and most perform beyond their grade level on the Stanford 10 Test, which we administer to elementary students each year. While those scores are immaterial to our method, we know those scores can be useful after our students graduate to other institutions.
Finally, the Montessori method values character development hand-in-hand with academics, and our students are known to be socially engaged and respectful members of any group, as well as society at large. They are taught to put materials away in the proper place when finished, so another child can use them. They learn how to make choices about what they are going to do and to communicate thoughtfully instead of impulsively. These skills help them learn to socialize inclusively and to accept one another authentically. Honesty, trust, kindness, and respect for oneself, other children, and adults are all inherent parts of the Montessori method, and discussions about these topics are integrated throughout the typical school day.