Which traits or areas does the system lay emphasis on developing?
Development of personality – a child’s emotional, spiritual, and intellectual wellbeing; all aspects are strengthened. So the child is not just learning any set agenda. She will learn everything that other methods can teach her but at the same time she is also developing as a person.
What sets the Montessori system apart from other curricula for early learning?
What sets Montessori apart is that it gives children an opportunity to develop their inner strengths, so you don’t see the usual competiveness that you see in children – it’s not something they need at this age. Since each child is learning at her own level, there is no comparison happening. The child has an opportunity to find out what she is good at and feel good about herself.
From the educational aspect, if you look at the broad picture, we are trying to interlink subjects. That is the focus of Montessori. Parents may feel that in a Montessori environment, the child is not learning much – ‘in another school, the child is writing at the age of three, and my son is not, even though he is already four!’ But eventually what they find is that at four and a half the child will write and have the satisfaction and joy of writing on his own. This love for work is the added benefit. We grow interested and motivated children, even if skills come a little later. A six year old child in a Montessori environment will be doing much more than a six year old elsewhere, because she can think for herself.
What changes do you see in children from the time they enroll in a Montessori programme to when they leave?
It’s amazing – at first we have a two and half year old who comes into class crying with no sense of self. By the time she is four she is looking after the environment. She looks after the class. She has learnt how to manage the four hours spent in school on her own. We show her a set of materials and she is left free to work on it on her own. She has learnt the difficult aspect of time management that management courses teach you later! She has become a very rooted individual at the end of it because she has been nurtured. The child is given the opportunity to concentrate and, believe me, children at this age have a tremendous capacity for concentration!