Montessori Magic Explained

The Environment

by Casey Hardigan

Children have an innate desire to learn. They soak in their environment, positive or negative, like sponges. Rather than interfere and try to mold little people into what society deems as desirable, Montessorians create the perfect conditions where the child can concentrate and explore freely, revealing himself as an individual based on his interests and unique strengths. The classroom has freedom within limits; boundaries not barriers.

A Montessori classroom has no posters decorating the walls or alphabet loudly displayed along the edges of the ceiling where the child can barely see it. The rooms are decorated with framed Van Gogh or Da Vinci paintings, children’s artwork, family pictures, and plants displayed at their eye level so they can revel in beauty without being bombarded with distractions. Teachers minimize interruptions and protect a 3-hour work cycle creating an environment ideal for the child to concentrate. When a child concentrates on interesting, attractive work that is meaningful to him, he can become his best self.

Lessons are arranged on the shelf in order from least difficult to most challenging and every lesson has countless extensions so the teacher can adjust to meet each child’s needs. The teacher presents a lesson to a child one-on-one or in small groups first, but each material has a control of error. When Mark works independently on the Spindle Game in Math he has to count the correct amount of spindles for each numeral 1-10. There are only enough spindles to fit correctly in each space. If he gets to 10 and counts out only 9 spindles, he will realize he made a mistake somewhere earlier. He may not realize or correct his mistake right away, and that’s okay. Children often need weeks or months of practice with the same material before they master it. Good Montessori teachers allow them the time and space to do so. Montessori teachers don’t step in and correct. It is more powerful for the child to correct himself, than be told he has made a mistake or given the answer.

Traditional settings often require children to sit at a table or desk for extended periods of time listening to a teacher at the front of the room. Montessori materials are hands-on and require movement. The Red Rods and Pink Tower, for example, develop the child’s senses. Children arrange the pieces from largest to smallest or longest to shortest, developing their sense of order, refining their movements, and honing concentration. The child uses their brain and body in harmony, directing their energy in a purposeful way to fully absorb the concept The materials also force the child to cross the midline, engaging both sides of their brain.