The Montessori system of education was developed by an Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952), who based her method on observations of children, backed by her medical, psychological and anthropological training. Although this method is used mostly for classroom learning, its basic concepts can be adapted to home education as well.
In a Montessori setup, children are not age-segregated. This allows for the exchange of learning between the different age groups – elder students can help younger ones, while the younger ones can learn from activities of the elder students. The learning takes place in a prepared environment through specialized Montessori educational materials. Children can choose which activities to work on from the ones they are presented with (freedom within limits) and spend uninterrupted blocks of time doing what interests them. This method prefers to let children learn by working with materials (‘discovery’ model), as opposed to direct instruction. Thus, each child works through his individual cycle of learning, according to his unique capabilities and needs.
Philosophically, the Montessori method maintains that children must be respected for what they are – different from adults and from each other. They are natural learners who possess an unusual sensitivity and intellectual ability to learn from their environment, a quality which is diminished in adults. Montessori considered the first six years of a child’s life as the most important period of development, in which unconscious learning gradually emerges to a conscious level.
The role of a teacher is that of a trained facilitator, who is always ready to direct and help. However, Maria Montessori believed in not interfering with the child’s natural desire to teach himself and become independent – a balance that Montessori teachers must learn to maintain. Ideally, the Montessori setup is a busy, productive and joyful atmosphere full of respect for the child.
Some of the drawbacks of the method might include the costly specialized educational materials, which are provided in schools, but that homeschooling parents would have to purchase for their children. Likewise, Muslim parents opting for the Montessori education should consider the extent to which they would like to implement the method in their homeschooling. Since we are ordered to teach the Deen to our children – this being the most important part of their education – we cannot leave this aspect of their overall grooming to their own wishes.