Montessori schools put emphasis on individual learning styles

It began in the late 1800s and it’s still alive in Southlake today.

The Brilliant Children’s Montessori School at 1400 W. Southlake Blvd. is just one of many Montessori Schools in Southlake and in other parts of the Metroplex where young students are taught things in a unique way.

The Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to 18 years old.

  Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural pyschology development. Although a range of practices exists under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:

* Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options

* Uninterrupted blocks of work time

* A Constructivism (learning theory) or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction

* Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators

* Mixed classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common

In addition, many Montessori schools design their programs with reference to Montessori’s model of human development from her published works, and use pedogogy lessons, and materials introduced in teacher training derived from courses presented by Montessori during her lifetime.

“Brilliant Children’s Montessori aims to bring the highest quality early child development program to our wonderful community,” said Kavitha Suresh, owner and operator of one of the  local Montessori schools. ” Using the natural setting of a Montessori classroom environment, and highly qualified teaching and administrative staff, we want to provide gradually increasing, age-appropriate challenges to children between 2 and 6 years of age  that would help instill the love of learning in them. We cater to needs of children as young as 6 weeks.

“We believe that every child is unique and want to provide the individual attention the child deserves by maintaining small group sizes and a limited enrollment. The primary objective of our school is to promote the joy of learning.”

Lisa Everett, one of the teachers at the Brilliant Children’s Montessori School, said that Montessori schools differ from regular pubic schools in that the curriculum is more child-centered.

“The students are taught to work independently and basically choose  their own work from a list of projects that we give them,” Everett said. “They work on their own and at their own, individual pace.”

Everett added that, unlike most schools, various age groups of children are grouped together.

“In the public schools and in most regular schools, kids are divided by age groups,” she said. “With a  Montessori education, children of various age groups are grouped together. This way, the young ones learn from the older ones and the older ones learn to become leaders because they will actually start teaching the younger ones how to do certain things.”

The pairing of older students with younger students also creates more ambition in  younger students, Everett said.

“While it is a characteristic of the Montessori way of teaching that students gravitate to the parts of the curriculum that they like best, the younger students normally want to do whatever the older students are doing,” she said. “It’s just human nature. I’ve taught a lot of siblings over the years and, what I have found is that, in many cases, the younger sibling learns things much quicker than his older sibling just because of that motivation to keep up with his older brother and do what he’s doing.”

Students in Montessori schools are trained in several different areas, including but not limited to: sensorial, practical life, zoology, botany, math, language and art, Everett said.

“There is something built into the materials that will allow the student to see if they are getting an assignment right without a teacher there,” she said. “So I will start them on a lesson and show them the lesson completely. Then, they will go do it.”

Everett added that, unlike most schools, students work on the subjects that they want to instead of being told which subjects to focus on.

“We give them a list of projects to do and they can work on that one project as long as they want to,” she said. “A lot of our projects involve things like pouring and scooping, especially with the younger students. What educators have learned over the years is that intelligence and concentration comes from working with the hands and that any project that we do with the hands improves their concentration and attention span. This helps them as they get older because, as they get older, they will have more involved projects and assignments where longer periods of concentration are required.”

Everett said that, in Montessori schools, students follow their natural drives.

“We want the child to follow their natural drive and not have work dictated to him,” Everett said. “In this way, children learn things quicker because they work on what they are passionate about and what excites them. They still get all of their work in the other areas of the curriculum completed, its just that they complete it in their own way and in their own time and it’s been amazing to see the results of these methods and how quickly these students learn things.”

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