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What is Montessori?

Maria Montessori's philosophy drives from the notion of the child as an individual who is on a journey of self-discovery, creating the adult she is to become. An integral part of the child's journey is the desire to learn about her environment. The child has what Montessori termed "an absorbent mind." The child is capable of effortlessly acquiring knowledge of her surroundings. The child's acquisition of language is a good example: she is not taught her native tongue through the conscious effort of an adult. Given this "absorbent mind," it is easy to see why a stimulating environment can have such an impact on the child. The child is naturally interested in her environment and has an intrinsic desire not only to learn about it but also to achieve competence in it.

How is the Montessori philosophy applied?

Montessori’s recognition of the child’s “absorbent mind” led her to rethink the approach and structure used in the educational environment. She prepared an orderly setting, one in which the child could sort out her chaos of impressions. She arranged materials in sequence to challenge the child but not to overwhelm her. Montessori created an atmosphere that fostered self-education based on intrinsic motivation. The Montessori classroom structure differs from the traditional classroom in several ways. The classroom is divided into distinct areas — daily living, sensorial, math, language, art, and music. The learning materials are arranged on shelves; appropriate materials are available to all of the children. The child is free to choose the activities which interest her, moving from concrete experiences to the more abstract. Montessori’s approach emphasizes “hands-on” or manipulative activities, since book work and “lectures” generate a minimum of interest in the young child. This approach also provides an outlet for her abundant energy.

The learning materials in the Montessori environment are referred to as “work,” not toys. The child works with the materials rather than plays with them. This terminology gives the activities added dignity. The child enjoys calling her activities “work” as she can identify with the work her parents perform. In addition, the child sees that purposeful work can be enjoyable. The child finds the work gratifying because she determines what she wants to do. The child is not subjected to materials for which she is not ready or in which she has no interest. Through her choices she reveals herself. By observation the teacher can determine interests and abilities. The joy is in the doing rather than in the end product. Many times a child works hard on a project only to forget to take it home at the end of the day. Moreover, the results of much of the child’s work are intangible.

The Montessori materials incorporate a control of error. This means that the child can correct a mistake she may make. For example, if she fails to return all of the cylinders to the correct holes in the cylinder block, she will have one that does not fit. She, then, can figure out how to overcome this difficulty without unnecessary intervention on the part of the teacher.

Discipline is closely allied with constructive work in the Montessori environment. When the child is involved with an activity, she is not interested in causing a disturbance. Also, when a child is forced to participate in a group activity which disinterests her, she rebels. Removing this obstacle removes the need to rebel. In addition, the child does not feel the need to divert attention from her inabilities since she is working at her own pace. The role of the Montessori teacher is to help the child create the adult she is to become. The teacher prepares the educational environment and directs activities. She is not the center of the activity, rather, the child is. She familiarizes the child with the materials that are available and works with the child when she needs assistance. The teacher constantly observes the whole environment, making any necessary changes in its preparation.

Source: A Children’s Habitat Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten. 25 November 2006.

About the Provider:

My name is Brenda Schoen, and you already know a lot about me from my qualifications and from “Why I Teach,” found elsewhere on this site. Other information you might like to know is that I am an energetic middle aged woman who has been married over 30 years to my best friend, Dennis. He is a communications manager for Union Pacific Railroad. We have two children, their spouses, and four grandchildren. Our home is pet free and smoke free.


Lois Thomeczek is my co-teacher. She usually works with me two mornings a week, and she is also my substitute. It is a benefit for both the parents and their children to have a familiar substitute on call. Parents don’t have to find back up care at the last minute, and the children have continuity. Lois was a teacher’s aide in the elementary schools for 14 years. She has been a preschool teacher with me for over 10 years. She is an outstanding teacher and the children love her.


• We use the Montessori method which is developmentally appropriate, hands-on, and individualized.
• The award winning “Handwriting Without Tears” is the technique we use to learn to print.
• Our weekly theme is a letter from the alphabet and the sound it makes.
• Besides the fundamentals of phonics, writing, counting, shapes, colors, etc., we also have fun learning sign language and cooking.
• We are NAFCC accredited. Less than 1% of the child care homes in Kansas have national accreditation.


• Certified Montessori Preschool teacher since 1991.
• Teacher/Assistant Director in a center for 4 years.
• Opened Montessori Home Preschool/Childcare in 1995, state licensed.
• Obtained my CDA, Child Development Associate, in 2006.
• State licensed and nationally accredited.
• Certified as a Kansas preschool director.
• 32 college credit hours specifically in Early Childhood Education, 4.0 GPA.
• AS degree in Early Childhood Education in 2009.
• Love and Logic parenting classes.
• "Handwriting Without Tears" workshop.
• Basic sign language classes.
• First Aid and CPR.
• Preschool Board Member at my church for 6 years


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