Montessori works because that’s how the brain works

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Montessori – the First-Hand Experience of a Father.

We came across a presentation by Mario Valle of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre.  Entitled “Montessori, Why Not?”, it is the first-hand experience of a father, who happens to be a scientist, and provides the perspectives of both a father and a scientist.  Here is a summary.

  • He chose a kindergarten school, two minutes walking distance from home, but his son soon started crying, and didn’t want to go to school after a short stint at the school. “Destroyed my son’s self-esteem”, and “not respecting his needs as a child” are the words he uses to describe the traditional kindergarten school.
  • He decided to try a Montessori school 10 km from home.  This decision was an act of faith on his part, he says, as in the beginning, Montessori, to him, was small chairs and coloured beads!  His wife was a traditional school teacher, where the Montessori method “betrayed” her training.
  • In his words, he felt “the decision was right, because almost immediately he [his child] flourished!  We regained the child we knew”.
  • Almost daily, his son returned home with “Today, I worked with mathematics”, or “Today, I discovered this or that”.  His son was happy to go to school, learned a lot, and regained confidence in himself.
  • While he [Mario Valle] was happy as a father, the scientist in him was seeking answers – he wanted to understand why this school was so different from the public school.  Could it be the teachers?  The cost?  Why are these students so happy, and able to concentrate?  How can coloured pearls teach arithmetic?  How can they work without computers?  Thus began his research.
  • He met people who had absorbed the Montessori spirit and the ideas.  He also met teachers who had Montessori only on their diploma! “Poor children”, he writes [referring to the children in their class].
  • He talks briefly about his research in his presentation (which you should read), but what really convinced him as a scientist was the “perfect match” between the Montessori ideas and the functioning of the brain!  “Montessori works because that is how the brain works” is a very strong argument to choose Montessori.
  • Concentration is something that shocks those who visit a Montessori school for the first time”, he writes.  “They see children completely immersed in what they are doing” – “the child who concentrates is immensely happy”.
  • Montessori provides the child with clear rules to enable work flow.  It provides clear and immediate feedback so the child sees at a glance where he is in his work.  Most importantly, Montessori challenges the child, just above the child’s skills.  If the task is too simple, it becomes boring.  If it is too complex, it generates anxiety.  Montessori establishes the correct balance, creating the happiness.
  • Finally, he goes on to provide his perspectives to the question “will the Montessori school make my child a genius?” with a quote from Maria Montessori: “The primary goal of Montessori education is to prepare the whole child to reach his full potential in all areas of life”.

We urge you to read the full presentation, http://mariovalle.name/montessori/why-not.html, complete with pictures to illustrate the points he makes.  It is quite fascinating.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us – we would love to help you better understand the Montessori method.