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Montessori Education: Behind the Method

MontessoriThe Montessori method is a philosophy of education developed over one hundred years ago by pioneer educator Maria Montessori (the first woman to attend medical school in Italy). Through careful observations of children, and the development of the first Casa des Bambini, Dr. Montessori developed a method of education where each child is recognized as an individual and where the curriculum supports not just the academic growth of a child, but his physical, emotional and social growth as well. Dr. Montessori stated, “It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.” Montessori education is still going strong in today’s world of ever-changing educational philosophies. And schools that offer this type of education can be found all over the world.

Students in a Montessori school are grouped in multi-aged classrooms where younger children have the opportunity to learn from their older peers, and the older students become role models and have leadership/mentoring opportunities (a five-year-old can give a lesson to a three-year-old, or help the younger child tie her shoes, or zip her coat). Each classroom has materials specially designed for the age group it serves, and students move through the curriculum at their own pace as there are no artificial boundaries based on age. Children who progress more quickly are encouraged to continue moving through the curriculum while those who need more time may progress more slowly without feeling rushed or pressured.

Montessori students are encouraged to become independent learners–to be able to think and do for themselves, and to problem solve. They learn to be contributing members of their classroom community who are respectful of one another and of the “works” in their class. They are taught that there is a world beyond their immediate classroom, and how to reach beyond the walls of their class to help their school, community, and the world at large. One study* comparing students in a traditional public school to students in a public Montessori program found the Montessori students to have better academic and social skills.

Montessori is a method of education that prepares students for life.

There are several Montessori schools in Rhode Island, serving children from toddler through eighth grade. Visit one today to find out how a Montessori education can benefit your child.

Angel Care Montessori
150 Waterman Street, Providence, RI 02906
Phone: 401-273-5151
E-mail: info@AngelCareMontessori.com
Programs: For toddler, preschool and kindergarten

Cornerstone Montessori
415 Tower Hill Road, North Kingstown, RI 02852
Phone: 401-294-6458

Greenwood Montessori School
11 Clifford Street,Warwick, RI 02886
Phone: 401-739-1191

Montessori Centre of Barrington
303 Sowams Road, Barrington, RI 02806
Phone: 401-245-4754
Programs: For ages 18 months — kindergarten

Montessori Children’s House
518 Lloyd Avenue, Providence, RI 02906
Phone: 401-331-6120
E-mail: mchprovidence@earthlink.net
Programs: Preschool to age 9

Montessori of Greenwich Bay
3285 South County Trail East Greenwich, RI 02818
Phone: 401-234-1243
E-mail: Lynne_Way@cox.net
Program: 18 mo. to 5 years

Newport Montessori
82 Valley Road, Middletown, RI 02842
Phone: 401-848-9474
Programs: Ages 3 to 6

Ocean State Montessori School
100 Grove Avenue, East Providence, RI 02914
Phone: 401-434-6913
Programs: Age 3 through grade 8

Quest Montessori School
54 Exeter Road, Exeter, RI 02822
Phone: 401-295-4012
E-mail: pcraymond@questschool.org
Programs: For grades 1- 8

Sandcastles Montessori Preschool
251B Post Road, Wakefield, RI 02879
Phone: 401-789-1965
E-mail: kvincent@sandcastlesmontessoripreschool.com
Programs: For ages 18 months — kindergarten

Windswept Montessori School
220 Moonstone Beach Road, South Kingstown, 02879
Phone: 401-783-3222

*Science, September 29, 2006.

Erica Douglass, mother of three former Montessori students (now all teenagers), is the Director of the Ocean State Montessori School in East Providence. Erica received her Montessori teaching certification from the New England Montessori Teacher Education Program. Through her own children, and from the many students she’s had the privilege of knowing, she’s seen the benefits of a Montessori education firsthand.

Photo Credit: Faye at Ocean State Montessori School. Photo by Jason Thompson

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  • My daughter attended a Montessori Toddler Program and a Montessori program from 3-6 years of age. It was the best environment possible for her. It true that she had freedom to choose the activities within the classroom but there is structure to the process. Respect to the materials and peers. She was able to transition to a “NORMAL” traditional school for for 1st grade and is currently in 3rd grade. NO ISSUES. The only thing that was adapted for her due to her Montessori background was that her teacher allowed her to write in script instead of print. Not all Montessori Programs are created equal. I would suggest researching them to make sure that they are TRUE MONTESSORI programs that follow Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophies and guidelines. Not a watered down version and/or interpretation. Check out the AMI and AMS websites. Now my 2 year old son goes to the same Montessori Toddler School to provide him with the best foundation he can have that will assist in creating a love for learning, respect for the materials, his peers, and his community. Yes all this at 2 years of age.!!!

  • I want to add that my two older children attended Montessori in CT and my younger two attended Montessori of Greenwich Bay in East Greenwich. All schools are different as Montessori is a public domain but this small community is loving, caring and the teachers respect each child as a unique individual and helps them bring out their gifts. It is true to the authentic Montessori method.

  • I am sad to see an elementary school teacher so negative about Montessori. Montessori offers choice to a child. Preschoolers shouldn’t be asked to stay in a “center” area for 20 min. if they are getting nothing out of it and then asked to leave if they enjoy. Children are not empty vessels waiting to be filled by teachers who direct what the child is supposed to learn. The environment is filled with beautiful materials designed by a doctor who scientifically observed chidren and then developed her method. Follow the child not follow the teacher. Montessori education is a gift to a child.

  • Could it be that Montessouri students are like students from any other preschool? Some are lovely, some annoying? Some fit in, some don’t?

  • The very best students I taught were Montessori students-responsible, independent, leaders. They knew how to take a suggestion and build upon it, make decisions and develop plans. They were, without fail, the best students in the grade every year.

  • Karen, I’m sorry your experience with Montessori children hasn’t been positive but I feel obliged to offer a different perspective. Montessori is a developmental approach with loads of activities designed to improve gross and fine motor skills in three to six year olds. The language program is exemplary and typical children in Montessori schools write spontaneously at four and a half (though not without the requisite preliminary activities) and read at five and half. I think there is a common misperception that children in a Montessori class are allowed to do whatever they please but that couldn’t be further from reality. Montessori children have free choice within the “prepared environment” of the classroom but it is a freedom with limits (I’ve got too much to say on this one issue to continue here). Oh, and silliness, sincere love for the child, play, and yes, the occasional rumpus happen too.

  • As an elementary school teacher we always groan when a child comes to us form a Montessori environment. Not only are they not prepared for a learning environment. We had one little boy who had terrible fine motor skills. His mom asked his old Montessori school why they never worked on those readiness areas and they told her that he did not choose to! Sure they know a lot of information— like land forms…. but we call those “Montessori Tricks” designed to impress the observer but without any real substance to them. Young children need to be in a developmental preschool NOT an academic one. The irony is they learn more and are better prepared to think and explore when they are allowed to play, be silly, and have teh occassional rumpus.

  • My son attends Cornerstone Montessori School in North Kingstown. And while I’m sure a lot of his growth & development is completely age-appropriate (normal!), I have been thrilled with his progress this year. In addition to his increased interest in continents, letters & sounds, and sequencing…he has also learned to be more responsible & respect individual space. Of course, he still challenges me and acts like a 3-yr.old, but I’m really happy with our school choice. He enjoys learning from the older kids; the environment is calm & peaceful; and he is never made to do anything that doesn’t interest him.

  • what I learned from this post is that we all like to think we are doing what’s best for our children. Whether it’s Montessouri school, public school, Swiss boarding school…everyone is doing what they think is best. it can sometimes seem that people are self-congratulatory about whatever school they have chosen–but I think it’s just enthusiasm–like evangelism: you want to share the good news!

  • My son Neel is in his 3rd year at Ocean State and I am amazed at how he has transformed as an individual within these years. He has become more self independent, has logical interpretations to the common challenges and activities, approaches problems methodically, is compassionate towards others etc etc.
    He also gets a lot of exposure about various cultures and being of an ethnic culture himself he doesn’t feel left out and is given the opportunity to express himself fully.

  • My elder daughter is six and in her fourth year of Montessori education, currently at Ocean State Montessori, and she has developed a strong sense of independence and confidence in her abilities.

    One way this has clearly manifested is in her eagerness to prepare breakfast for the entire family on weekends. While the rest of us begin to awake, she sets the table, gets out the food, pours the cereal, pours the milk, and finds a decorative centerpiece. She’s very proud of herself. This is only one small example of the strong personal foundation, of course along with the academics, that Montessori fosters in children.

  • To the poster who wanted to know how to do “Montessori at home”:

    There’s a great book titled “Teach Me to Do it Myself” by Maja Pitamic (a Montessori preschool teacher) that is a guide to supplementing your child’s education with Montessori techniques at home. It is geared to preschool – early elementary aged children. I used a bunch of the ideas in the book with my daughter and we both enjoyed the experience.

    Here is a link to it on Amazon:


  • My daughter is in her third year at Ocean State Montessori. She loves it and we love the school. Our daughter has learned so much, beyond academics. She has learned practical life skills, conflict management, and most importantly, developed a wonderful sense of self, through independent exploration. The children she attends school with are thoughtful, curious and wonderfully courteous. I cannot say enough about the Montessori methods, and Ocean State, particularly.

  • My daughter is in her fourth year at the Ocean State Montessori School. It has been a wonderful experience for her as a student and me as a parent. A Montessori education is so much more than academics. It’s about learning to be a good person, being independent but also helping others. Students come away with a great education, positive self esteem and a solid foundation for the future.

  • Here are a couple of suggestions for “supplementing” your children’s education…giving them chores teaches them independence and responsibility (feeding animals, watering plants, setting the table, dusting, vacuuming, folding clothes). Participating in community service activities teaches children about the importance of helping others–donating to food pantries, animal shelters, clothing banks, toy drives, etc. Have your children help pick the food and talk about what a family may need to make a whole meal.

  • my children go to public school–what can i do to make up for the deficits in their non-montessouri education? i want them to be as well-rounded and well-adjusted as a montessouri child.