For most parents, the type of education they are able to provide for their children is a very important decision. Decisions such as whether to send them to public or private schools, whether there are religious factors to be considered, whether they will need to go to boarding school....the decisions are endless. However what is not generally thought of is the type of education they will receive. In Australia, mainstream education is broken down into primary and secondary school, with these years generally being from prep to year 7 and then from year 8 to year 12. While each state and territory governs the administration of their education system, there is a national curriculum that is adhered to across the country, focusing on certain areas of learning. Having grown up and been through this system themselves, most parents would not think to question this or even look for other alternatives. However there are alternatives out there which are deserving of greater recognition in order to give parents more choice.
Montessori education is not a new method of learning, having been founded by Maria Montessori who established her first classroom – Casa di Bambini - in 1907. Over many years, she observed and worked with children and discovered their natural ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings. The idea that children teach themselves became the cornerstone of her educational philosophy which became known as the Montessori educational programme. She believed each child passes through what she termed sensitive periods, where a child is at their optimal best for learning experiences, where they can learn almost unconsciously. By allowing children to develop skills naturally, they cultivate a love of learning through their natural curiosity. Creating an atmosphere where children actually want to learn is a great gift and one I would argue most parents would want to set up for their own children. An excellent resource for Montessori information, Montessori Education provides a comprehensive overview of the key developmental phases of learning and the ‘sensitive periods’ each child passes through during these phases. For an overview on the differences between Montessori and traditional education, you can also see my blog entry Montessori vs. Traditional Schooling.
In Australia, there are a number of Montessori schools in the private sector, however programs are also starting to flourish in the public arena as well. This can only be considered a good thing as parents have greater control and influence on the type of education they wish to provide for their children.