Montessori Curriculum Model

By Grace Freds

This is an early childhood curriculum model which started in Italy by Dr. Maria Montessori. She was originally a medical doctor, and later on became an educator who brought scientific methods of observation, experimentation, and research to the study of children, their development and education. Dr. Maria Montessori was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School. She became interested in education as a doctor treating children. In 1907, she founded the first Montessori School in Rome in Italy. The program served children ages four (4) to seven (7) years old from low-income families.

In 1912, Montessori program was first introduced in United States by Alexander Graham Bell. In the late 1950s, there was a Montessori movement in the United States consisting of private schools serving an almost entirely middle class population. In the 1960s parents in several school districts sought to have Montessori programs offered in public schools for their students who had experienced the method in preschool settings. This was funded by the Federal government. Today, more than 150 American school districts have some type of Montessori program.

Maria believed that many of the problems the children was working with were educational and not medical. Looking into education, she felt that children were not achieving their full potentials because education was not based on science at that time. She abandoned the preconceived ideas about education and began to study children, their development and the process of learning through scientific methods of observation and experimentation. In so doing, she made startling discoveries that children have different and higher qualities than those usually attributed to them. They included the following:


Reynolds (2004) stated that "The Montessori method is an expression of a deeper underlying set of basic beliefs. This method gives us classroom structure that basically allows teachers or educators to meet individual needs of students" The development of the senses precedes intellectual activity, and Montessori educators understand why and how materials should be taught and used. When the senses are finely developed, the child teaches himself. Experience has shown that the child will discard the materials and work without them when the senses are adequately developed.


Montessori believes, or theorizes, that children are very significant. She believes that every child is born with a desire to learn. For that reason, the child acquires a positive attitude as a learner if presented with tasks that suit the child’s need and want.

Montessori believed that the early years of a child are very sensitive period during which time he is particularly receptive to certain stimuli. According to Hainstock, E. (1997), "A particular sensitivity toward something lasts only until a necessary need is fulfilled." These periods are most easily seen in the stages of walking and talking. Observe the children for each particular sensitive period, then utilize the period to help him understand and master his environment. All children develop at a different pace, but the following list, according to her, will help us know when to watch for particular phases of development.


Birth – 3 years - Absorbent mind, Sensory experiences.

1.5 – 3 years - Language development

1.5 – 4 years - Coordination and muscle development, Interest in small objects

2 – 4 years - Refinement of movement, Concern with truth and reality, Aware of order sequence in time and space.

2.5 – 6 years - Sensory refinement

3 – 6 years - Susceptibility to adult influence

3.5 – 4.5 years - Writing

4 – 4.5 years - Tactile Sense

4.5 – 5.5 years - Reading

Hainstock, E. (1997) stated that "One of Montessori’s biggest concerns was the need to better understand the child’s abilities and capabilities. Too many adults fail to think of a young child as an intelligent human being, capable of learning. Montessori’s discovery of the child was a true awakening in the advancement of early education in which she spoke of a child’s mind as the ‘absorbent mind’ because of its great ability to learn and assimilate effortlessly and unconsciously from the world around him." Because of this her belief, she prepared an environment for the underprivileged children with whom she worked. She believed in a prepared environment revealing the child and not molding him. To this sense, education does not need to be imposed on the child. It should rather give a learning environment where he will be free to act and to develop himself along the lines of his own inner direction. These inner directions are his physical, mental and spiritual growth. Young children are very hand-minded. Montessori materials are geared to their need to learn through movement because it is movement that starts the intellect working. For this reason, Montessori classroom is functionally arranged for children, enabling them to work and move and develop freely. The room itself and all the furniture in it are proportional to the children sizes ; their coats are hung on a low hook, and the materials are arranged on shelves that are easily accessible.

Finding out that children’s aesthetic sense was developed in the early years, Montessori stressed the importance of beautifying one’s classroom. Therefore materials are always well made, maintained and neatly arranged on their shelves. The walls are hung with attractive pictures and many books are available to the child. Everything in the classroom has a specific use, and there is nothing there that the child cannot see and touch for this is how they learn and their aesthetics to be enhances.


Montessori curriculum is in line with the State curriculum in these areas:


Below are some of the areas of difference with the State curriculum goal. The State’s emphasis is on teacher-centered classroom. In this case, teaching is the teacher’s responsibility while in Montessori, emphasis is on the child-centered classroom. Even a child teaches another child.


Having studied this program, I agree with it in almost every goal and method except on issues where the class is mixed age groups, with the understanding that the older children will be role models for the younger ones. There will always be the rift between old and young ones which will create unhealthy learning environment.

Again, children being teachers to other children is out of the world for me. Children who came for their potentials to be developed, turning around to become teachers in their own classrooms is unacceptable to me. I understand according to their explanation that teacher who is the adult will always direct, but I believe that teaching should entirely be the teacher’s obligation.

The most attractive of all is children learning through practicing task rather than through listening and having to remember. Naturally, human beings function better intellectually, emotionally, socially, psychologically, and physically when they handle things, that is, hand-centered in the course of a learning process, than through abstract learning. Just like the theories of Piaget (1952) that "curriculum promotes the view that children construct knowledge in an active rather than a passive manner, in the context of interactions with their environment, materials, other children and adults.



Hainstock, E. (1997). Teaching Montessori In The Home, The Pre-school Years: An easy-to-follow authoritative guide for enriching your child’s formative years, New York, Penguin Books, Inc.

Hainstock, E. (1997). Teaching Montessori In The Home, The School Years: An authoritative guide to supplementing your child’s basic math and language skills, New York, Penguin Books, Inc.

Reynolds, S. (2004) Information About Poe Magnet School and Montessori Education, Raleigh. Poe Magnet School.

Shoemaker, C.C.J. (2000). Leadership and Manager of Programs for Young Children. 2nd Edition. New Jersey. Prentice Hall Publishing.


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