What is a Montessori Education?

5 min readJul 24, 2023

Montessori education is a child-centered method of education. This education model was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, educator, and early women’s rights activist, in the early 20th century. The Montessori method is based on the idea that children have an innate desire to learn, and that they learn best when they are given the freedom to explore and discover their environment in a self-directed, hands-on way. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about what is a Montessori education.

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Key Points

  • There are currently over 20,000 Montessori schools in over 110 countries. 5,000 of those schools are in the United States.
  • A Montessori classroom is generally split into stations; each station represents a certain set of skills or knowledge, such as life skills or math.
  • The Montessori approach is based on the idea that children go through different developmental stages, and that they should be allowed to guide their own learning.

Montessori: The Woman Behind the Method

Maria Montessori(1870–1952), was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator who developed the eponymous Montessori method of education. She believed that children have an innate desire to learn and the capacity to be self-taught. The role of the teacher is to provide a stimulating environment that allows children to develop their full potential. Her method emphasizes self-directed learning, and hands-on, experiential learning activities. Montessori education focuses on the whole child, including their physical, emotional, and social development. Montessori’s approach has been widely adopted in schools around the world. As of 2022, there are over 20,000 Montessori schools spread across the globe in 110 countries. The United States currently boasts over 5,000 Montessori schools.

Maria Montessori believed that children have an innate desire to learn and the capacity to be self-taught.


Lasting Legacy

Dr. Montessori is remembered as a pioneer in education and as one of Italy’s first female physicians. Her work transformed the lives of many of Italy’s children who were previously considered uneducable. Her efforts always prioritized children, rather than furthering her own personal goals. Montessori’s legacy continues to inspire educators and parents to create environments that nurture the unique abilities and interests of each child. Her method is a powerful reminder of the importance of giving children the freedom to explore and learn in their own way, at their own pace, and in a way that is meaningful to them.

Montessori Classrooms

The Montessori classroom is designed to be a stimulating and nurturing environment that encourages children to be active, curious, and independent learners. The classroom is usually divided into several stations, including a practical life station, where children can learn basic life skills such as pouring, sweeping, and buttoning; a sensorial station, where children can explore the world through their senses; and math and language stations at which children can learn basic concepts such as counting, reading, and writing.

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Montessori Teachers

Montessori teachers act as facilitators and guides rather than authority figures or experts, encouraging children to discover and explore their environment, rather than imposing their own ideas and knowledge on them. The Montessori teacher is responsible for preparing the environment, observing the children, and providing them with materials and activities that match their needs and interests. The Montessori teacher does not give tests or hand out grades. And if they do give homework, it’s more likely to be an experience than an assignment.

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Montessori Method Collaborative Learning

The Montessori method emphasizes the importance of social interaction and cooperation, and the development of self-discipline and self-control. Children are encouraged to work together and to respect the work of others. The value of collaborative learning is that it allows students to learn from one another, develop social skills, and increase their understanding of a subject through active engagement and discussion. Additionally, collaborative learning can increase student motivation and engagement and can lead to deeper learning and better retention of material. Collaborative learning also helps to prepare students for the real world, where they will often need to work with others to achieve common goals, by showing them the value of teamwork.

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Sensitive Periods

The Montessori approach to education is based on the belief that children go through distinct developmental stages, or sensitive periods when neural pathways are opening to new experiences. Specific needs, abilities, and interests are characteristic of each period. Montessori teachers strive to understand the unique needs and abilities of each child and to provide them with activities and materials that are appropriate for their stage of development.

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Self-Directed Learning

One of the key principles of Montessori education is the importance of self-directed learning. Given the freedom, children choose their own activities and work at their own pace. This allows them to develop a sense of autonomy and intrinsic motivation, and to become confident and independent learners. It follows that Montessori students tend to embrace their individuality and allow others to do the same, without question or judgment. Res

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Respect for the Child

Montessori education is also known for its reverence for the child and for childhood. Montessori education focuses on the development of the whole child, including physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. The Montessori method encourages children to develop their creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving skills, and to become responsible and compassionate individuals. It encourages adults to help children on this path, but to allow them to guide their own growth. When it comes to punishments and rewards, the Montessori method favors teaching children about cause and effect over using the same punishment/reward system for every act.

Image Credits: Shir-Hashirim Montessori, Los Angeles

Alternative and Progressive

The labels alternative and progressive are often used to describe Montessori education. Montessori schools offer a different structure and philosophy from traditional schools and are considered by some to be more progressive or alternative. However, as the fastest-growing movement in education, those labels may be falling by the wayside in the not-too-distant future.

Additional Montessori Resources:

The following links are provided for quick and easy access to our library of Montessori articles. Happy reading!

General Interest Articles: