Learning & Activities


What is a Montessori Education?

Full frame of a Montessori classroom toward the front of the frame is a round wooden table at which three young children are seated. A young brown-skinned girl with black curly hair wearing a shirt-sleeved pink t-shirt toward the left part of the frame seated at the table which is child-sized, playing with a wooden block with graduated holes the smallest being toward the front of the frame getting increasingly larger as you go towards centerpoint. A light-skinned male child With light brown hair wearing a seafoam green short-sleeved T-shirt is facing the camera and playing with three pink blocks that he has stacked. Frame right is the back of a light-skinned boy whose left arm is extended across the table reaching for a pink block he is wearing a shirt-sleeved salmon colored T-shirt. In the back of the frame arethree children and an adult man seated at a rectangular child sized table. The adult male is hunched down leaning against the table using his elbows for support, next to him is a light skin boy with longish blonde hair wearing a button front shirt that is plaid mostly red white and blue. He is looking down at some thing the teacher is doing but is obscured by the head of the child wearing the green shirt. Across the table from the teacher and the blonde haired boy are two little girls whose backs are facing the camera the girl on the left is wearing a sundress that is primarily magenta with orange accents the girl on the right is wearing a navy and white striped dress. The background consists Of an L-shaped sofa with blue and pink pillows, Upper right frame and then the upper left frame an adult size desk with a Charles Eames chair. The chair is white.

What is a Montessori Education?

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 to answer the question: What is a Montessori education?

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.

Full Frame: A very colorful Italian postage stamp with white, scalloped edges. An image of Maria Montessori as an elderly woman with white hair, holding a walking stick /cane in her right hand looking toward the frontof the frame, in deep red and white is visible in the left 1/3 of the frame. Behind her, center and right frame are depictions of seven little dark haired children and one dark haired adult seated in green grass, with their arms outstretched at their sides. Trees are visible in the background. It is an illustration, not a photograph. In the upper right frame is the word Italia, in the bottom right corner the number 50, nd in the lower left corner iare the words: Maria Montessori with the years 1870 1952 below her name. all of the writing is deep red.
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.

A classroom with a wooden laminate floor. The background is a neutral colored wall on which hang shelves with books and glue and markers, in the renter frame. Windows are in the wall on the left and right frames. In the classroom itself, four tables. There are three children seated At the table and frame left closest to the left is a light-skinned little girl with stringy light brown hair. She is wearing a pink and orange sundress. She is looking at some things she is holding in her hand bit away from the table. To her left closer to the center of the frame is a light-skinned little boy with short blonde hair; he is obscured by a plastic tub that is on the table in front of him, but underneath the table you can see that he is wearing shorts and he is barefoot. Seated to his left in the center of the frame is a brown skin boy with very close cropped black hair he is wearing a short-sleeved coral colored T-shirt and rust colored shorts he also has on black tennis shoes with white soles. He has a pencil in his left hand or possibly a wooden dowel. Behind them are four other children two little boys and two little girls. A light-skinned boy facing the camera is looking down at something on the table. He is obscured by a basket on the table. Across the table from him with his back to the camera is a olive-skinned little boy wearing a short sleeve awkward T-shirt and khaki shorts he is sitting crosslegged in the chair. A light-skinned little girl in the back right frame wearing a blue and white striped sundress has her head down performing a task at the table. A brown-skinned girl with waist long black hair has her back to the camera across the table from the little girl wearing the sundress
The Montessori classroom is designed to be a stimulating and nurturing environment that encourages children to be active, curious, and independent learners.

©Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

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.

A brown-skinned smiling female presenting adult with long dark hair, wearing a white scooped-neck t-shirt and a beige sweater is visible crouching at a low round, wooden table with 4 children: a brown-skinned, male-presenting child wearing a coral-colored short-sleeved t-shirt with a white pocket on the left breast. He id =s to the teacher's left, but to her right in the frame. Next to that kid, is an olive-skinned male presenting child wearing an aqua sport sleeved t-shirt. Next to him, front left frame a female =presenting child is visible with her back toward the camera. She is light-skinned, her hair is light-brown and pulled up in an unremarkable elastic. A light=skinned, male presenting child sits next to her, upper left from. He is wearing a navy and white striped shirt. All of the people in the photo are focused on bright colored manipulatives small wood shapes used in math activities.
Montessori teachers act as facilitators and guides rather than authority figures or experts.

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.

Center frame 10 pairs of light-skinned and brown-skinned hands are visible all placed on top of one another. The arms are all extending from the center of the frame out. For example, at 6 o’clock and 5 o’clock are light-skinned arms wearing a blue and white plaid long sleeve cotton twill shirt with button cuffs. On the right wrist is a wrist watch. Arms extending out at 5 o’clock and 4 o’clock are two very light-skinned arms wearing long sleeve yellow shirt at four and 3 o’clock are olive skin hands wearing long sleeve orange shirt at two and 1 o’clock are brown skin hands wearing a shirt over which they are wearing a dark jacket. Next to them at 12 o’clock or light- skinned hands wearing a short sleeve shirt that is out of frame mostly. Next to them at 11 o’clock are light-skinned hands/arms wearing a long sleeve Brown shirt next to them at eight and 7 o’clock or olive-skinned hands wearing a green shirt.
The value of collaborative learning is that it allows students to learn from one another and develop social skills.


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.

Six months old baby girl crawling over white background The boy is Asian appearing. She is wearing a light pink knitted cap ad a white  short-sleeved onesie / romper with apink strawberry pattern.. Her mouth is open. She seems happy.
Learning to crawl is evidence of a sensitive period of development.


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

Frame right: a young light skinned child with strawberry blonde hair facing away from the camera is seated on a natural wood floor. In the bottom part of the frame blue Jean clad thighs are visible. A light- skinned hand is resting on the right thigh. In front of the child on the floor is a mat that is striped from a very light flesh color to white to blue. The pattern repeats four times. On the mat is a natural round wooden bowl with marbles that are yellow, blue, green, and red. There are marble-sizedsmall cups in the mat in which the young child is placing one marble each. There are 9 cups on the mat six of which have in marble in them. In the upper right frame there is a wooden box with the small wooden cups in it.
Even the youngest students can benefit from self-directed learning opportunities.

©Kostikova Natalia/Shutterstock.com

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.

In the center of the frame are seven wooden cubes that are approximately a half inch cubed. On those seven cubes are the letters R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The cubes are natural wood and the letters on them are Times New Roman all uppercase. They are black. In the front of the frame are eight of the 1/2 inch wooden cubes. They are slightly out of focus. Behind the small cubes with the word respect on them are dozens of similar cubes all with letters on them.
Montessori education is known for the reverence it has for the child and for childhood.

©Fabrik Bilder/Shutterstock.com

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.

Famous Montessori Alumni

You may have heard Beyonce, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Princes Harry and William circulated as Montessori alumni. Sites that champion a Montessori education often point to these individuals as evidence of the ability of this educational style to set children up for success. The American Montessori Society reports that they were unable to confirm if any of these individuals actually attended a Montessori school. So, it's safe to say that you shouldn't add these names to your list of celebrities that have attended a Montessori institution!

Here's a list of celebrities who actually attended a Montessori school:

  • Taylor Swift, award-winning singer and songwriter.
  • Jeff Bezos, billionaire and founder of Amazon.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google.
  • Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton
  • Steph Curry, NBA MVP and Golden State Warriors player
  • Anne Frank, writer and Holocaust victim
  • Will Wright, creator of the mega-successful Sims video game series
  • Prince George
  • Seth Curry, NBA player
  • Joshua Bell, violinist and Grammy award winner

Two celebrities who are also often circulated as Montessori alumni are George Clooney, actor, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. The American Montessori Society was able to confirm that neither of these individuals attended a Montessori institution. If you see any celebrity listing themselves or being listed as a Montessori alum, be sure to verify the claim with a trusted source. The popularity of a Montessori education means that many people have and will continue to falsely present themselves as alumni.

Additional Montessori Resources:

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

General Interest Articles:

Articles that Explain More About Montessori's Principles and Methods:

Articles that Answer How:

Montessori vs. Articles:

To top