Montessori education is all about doing. Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, this educational philosophy centers around teaching children independence, having freedom to do what they like within certain given limits, and pacing at a child’s individual development speed. You’ll usually find this type of education available for younger kids, preschool to elementary age, working more toward abstract ideas as the students get older.
There are often different stations around the classroom (a pouring station, where kids pour sand or water into containers, for example). Classrooms are multi-age, allowing kids to learn from more than just their age cohort. Younger students learn from older students, and older students reinforce what they have learned by teaching the younger ones. This teaches kids in a way that they will encounter in the workplace when they are adults.
There are long-ish, uninterrupted blocks of time for kids to work on their choice of activity, given a list of options. There are also specially designed learning materials that kids learn from using, rather than from being directed what to know. Playing around with various materials can teach kids much more than being talked to about them.
The Montessori teachers won’t be standing in the front of the classroom, lecturing from a blackboard to a group of students sitting at desks. They are more likely to be on the floor with a child, building with blocks or looking at leaves under a magnifying glass.
I was lucky enough to go to a Montessori school for a little while when I was quite young (sub-three age). I don’t remember it well, but my mom tells me it was a really nice place and that my sister and I did well there. If I hadn’t been able to homeschool, I definitely would have wanted my kids to learn in the Montessori type of environment.
Visit the American Montessori Society for more info, or check out a book about Montessori education, or Maria Montessori herself. Dr. Montessori’s own handbook is available for free on Kindle. You can even provide Montessori toys and learning materials for your own kids.