JANESVILLE, Wis. — Montessori method education is exploding, especially thanks to popularity on social media.
The method was developed by Italian doctor Maria Montessori in the 1900s. The name isn’t trademarked, so while there are guiding organizations schools can be members of, no two schools must be the same. The idea of the method is to focus on the interests of individual children instead of teaching the same to all.
While summer is a little calmer at Rock Prairie Montessori School in Janesville, it’s always busy when there are little ones running around. The school serves kids from 18-months-old through middle school.
In a Montessori-style school, you’ll see miniature versions of objects like sewing machines and kitchens. The goal is to have kids playing with things they’ll see “in the real world” every day.
Martha Carver is the head of school at Rock Prairie. She fell in love with Montessori education.
“Montessori focuses on children and their needs as unique individuals,” Carver said. “You honor each child’s individual ability to grow in the way that they are going to grow.”
Especially at a young age, there’s a huge focus on the non-academic parts of life.
“We are looking at the whole child,” Carver said. “Their social/emotional aspects are just as important as how they learn.”
A study from the University of Virginia looked at 2,000 young adults, half of whom had some Montessori education. Those who had at least two years of Montessori experience got better wellbeing scores than those who didn’t.
Psychology Today said Montessori can offer an advantage in some areas, but more data needs to be collected to weigh its full impact.
“Instead of your typical, the teacher is the sage-on-a-stage, the person that tells you what to learn, and you learn it — in Montessori education, it’s experiential,” Carver said. “The child dives into the areas they’re most interested in. And they continue to go further, and we’re facilitators.”
Carver said she isn’t surprised it’s a trending topic right now.
“It speaks to humankind’s needs to understand each other globally. Montessori introduces geography as early as 4 years old,” she said. “To work together as a team, and to be critical thinkers, Montessori does that from the very youngest ages.”
While the method is having a moment, it’s over 100 years old, so it won’t be going anywhere.