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21st Century Skills the Montessori Way

The Montessori curriculum is designed so that children work in a prepared environment with specially designed materials that allow them to explore concepts hands on. This method has been proven to be more effective at encouraging creative thinking and problem solving over other preschool and early education programs. In a Montessori classroom, students are not learning to take standardized tests, rather they are exploring topics, learning how disciplines are interrelated, developing the confidence and independence to explore any topic, and acquiring problem solving skills.

Montessori classrooms are designed to foster leadership and teamwork. Classes consist of mixed age groups where older children model behavior, demonstrate peaceful conflict resolution, work collaboratively with and provide support for their younger peers - and all the while building strong character and leadership skills.

From an early age, students have the freedom to explore topics that interest them, with the expectation that they share what they learn with the class. Students routinely present their work to their peers; exploring the myriad of ways that information can be shared from writing a research paper, to giving a presentation, or authoring a webpage amongst many more.

These are just some of the ways in which a Montessori education starts children on the road to success at a very early age, and ensures that they graduate with real world tools necessary for success both in and out of school.

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How is a Montessori Classroom Different from a Traditional Classroom?

As you observe in the classroom, you witness children freely moving around the room and making self-directed choices regarding their work. Without knowledge of the guidelines that govern a Montessori classroom, this freedom can easily be misinterpreted.  Prospective parents sometimes ask if this freedom means that their child will be able to avoid work that they find challenging or less appealing. In fact, while the children do have the freedom of choice, their choices are governed by a simple set of principles.

Learning in a Montessori classroom is facilitated by manipulative materials that transform abstract concepts of math and language into concrete tools for the child to work with. When the child begins their workday they have the freedom to choose one of these works off the shelf, but only if they have received a lesson on how to use it from the teacher. A great example is the early counting lesson with the Spindle Box. This lesson helps the child build an awareness of quantity, the related numeric symbol, and the concept of zero. After the teacher ensures the child can recognize each number, and she or he demonstrates this lesson, the child may work with the material for as long as they remain engaged, attempting to place the correct number of spindles in the slot for each number. Each lesson in a Montessori classroom, builds in a control for error. If the child finishes and there are not enough spindles or some remaining, then there is a mistake in their work.  This is evident without input from the teacher, and they can try again until they perfect their work. Children are capable of deep concentration and will often repeat a lesson many times until they feel that they have mastered the concept. This gives the child a deep sense of independence and confidence.

When a child gets a lesson, they are receiving the information passively, but it is through repetition on their own that they develop mastery. While engaged in a challenge, even a very young child has a remarkable ability to concentrate. However, this concertation is fragile. In order to protect and encourage concentration, once a child has chosen a lesson to work with, they may keep that lesson for as long as they remain engaged, and another student may not use it until it has been returned to its place on the shelf. For the other children, waiting for a lesson to be returned to the shelf encourages patience and respect for their peers.

In a traditional setting, all the children go through lessons together at a similar pace. For example, a math class may begin with the teacher saying, “Open your books to Chapter 9…” How many children in that class have mastered all the material in chapters 1 – 8? If the child is behind, that new lesson will simply cause more confusion, leading them to think they “can’t do math.” If a child grasps a new concept within the first 15 minutes of a 40-minute lesson, what are they doing for the rest of the time? Perhaps daydreaming or even goofing off. When children are bored they will seek to amuse themselves and often this leads to a child being unfairly labeled as difficult or disruptive. In a Montessori classroom, a child is not likely to choose a work that they have mastered as it will no longer engage them. They cannot take works until they have had a lesson, so they won't be struggling with concepts they do not yet understand. So, each child is naturally directed to choose from materials that are tailored for where they are in the learning process. Each child proceeds through the curriculum individually under the careful direction of the classroom teacher.

The focus on standardized testing in today's traditional educational models leaves little time for the development of non-cognitive skills such as cooperation, resilience, persistence creativity, empathy, and leadership. This is to the detriment of the child, as it has been shown that these skills are better determiners of lifelong success than simple academic achievement. In contrast, the Montessori curriculum devotes significant time to developing skills for practical life, modeling grace and courtesy, strengthening character, and becoming strong leaders at a very early age. When children learn these skills young they are better prepared to move on to be very successful in high school, college and beyond.

To learn more about how the Montessori method is different and is an education for creating innovators visit this great webpage: The Montessori Method: An Education For Creating Innovators

Learn More about Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education

Montessori classroom environments are prepared by scaling everything down to the child’s size and gearing all materials to the child’s inner needs. This allows the child to learn by making their own choices and by moving at their own pace. A classroom environment is best understood by a child when they can make immediate personal contact and have a hands-on experience with everything in the room.

Recognizing that there is an important correlation between muscular activity and learning, Dr. Montessori incorporated movement into the use of the equipment, which includes error-control factors that the child can understand without having to be told.

The teacher serves as an enthusiastic guide in the child’s progress from simple to complex, rudimentary to refined, outer to self-control. In addition to learning from one’s own experience, children also learn best from other children. The three-year age group in each classroom gives younger children a series of models for imitation and older children the opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by helping younger children.

Dr. Montessori’s research indicates that children have fantastic powers of concentration if properly stimulated, far exceeding that of most adults. Children would rather work than play when given a choice between toys and stimulating work.

While the above are the basic Montessori principles, explanation alone cannot describe what must be seen to be fully understood. Dr. Montessori’s insights into the inner needs and workings of children resulted from direct observation of children in actual classroom situations. We encourage you to do the same. To schedule a classroom observation, please contact

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"This school changed the life of everyone in my family in a positive way. It gave our daughter the courage and methods to become herself. She remains close to people she met when she was four years old (15 years ago). We can't thank the school, teachers and other parents enough. You become part of the best family in the world. "
-Parent of a LMS graduate

"My child is now in high school.  Surprising to me, every one of her teachers commented in her recent end-of-semester reports that she is lively in class, asks great questions, and seems to genuinely love learning.  I credit Montessori with developing her ability to learn through questioning. "
-Parent of a 2006 graduate