Ask an Expert; Why Montessori?

Ask an Expert; Why Montessori?

By Olynda Smith

Question: What’s the #1 reason you recommend Montessori?

Thank you to the parents who sent in this question! I always appreciate an opportunity to geek out on the Montessori Method.  

     There is so much to love about Montessori. Often, parents love it because their kids come home happy, while making leaps and bounds academically and socially. My reason for recommending Montessori is perhaps an unusual one—but one that I believe is the fountainhead of all the other benefits gained in the classroom. I recommend Montessori because it supports each child in becoming and remaining their true selves. That true self is what we might today think of our best or highest self.   


     We often think of personality traits as being fixed. Children are often labeled difficult, shy, lazy, or studious. In fact, especially during early childhood, these aspects of a child’s behavior or personality are subject to change. I have witnessed again and again how the environment and philosophy of the Montessori method allows most children to settle into themselves. And as a result, often, the more difficult personality traits drop away and a confident, curious, caring child emerges. It is truly a miracle to witness. 


     Maria Montessori observed this in her first students over a hundred years ago. This process of emergence has been termed “normalization” in English. It points to the idea that children are not becoming something else, they are becoming their own “normal” selves. Some of the qualities Montessori noticed about children who had normalized were “spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others.” I know a child has normalized, because I feel I can finally meet them.  
 

     To provide a child with the support needed to be in the world as their true self is an incredible gift. Montessori noted that this is “the most important single result of our whole work.” A child who has settled into themselves has the internal freedom to learn deeply, take risks, and do hard things. A child who is interacting with the world as their true self has room for growing their social and emotional intelligence. A normalized child knows they are a valuable part of a bigger community, and they behave accordingly. For this reason, the work of normalizing is the foundational work that all the other benefits stand on. 


     The benefits of this emergence into their true selves will follow a child throughout their lives, positively impacting every corner of their relationships and work. The positive impact of children who live their whole life as their true selves ripples out into society as a whole and ultimately into the world.  Working with little ones can feel like small work. But, there truly isn’t more important work out there.