The Montessori Adolescent: A Brief Overview

This guest post is by Lisa Reinhardt, a PCI Certified Parent Coach®, who runs TheParentJourney.net a resource for everything to do with parenting from coaching to blogging.   She is mom to two young ones, blogs about everything to do with parenting, and is a Montessori advocate and educator. 

I would like to share a little bit about the Montessori method of education and how it applies to teenagers.  Children can start their experience with Montessori as early as birth, start attending a “school” setting as early as 18 months and continue with it until they graduation from high school.  Montessori schools typically do not accept children past the age of 4.   A growing number of Montessori schools offer a Toddler Community for children 18 months until they transition into Children’s House at about age 3.  In Children’s House the children are 3-6 years old.  Lower Elementary is for 6-9 year olds, and Upper Elementary is for 9-12 year olds.   The Adolescent Community begins at age 12 or 7th grade.

A few general Montessori facts:

  • The Montessori Method was developed from Maria Montessori’s (the first Italian female medical doctor) observations of children at the turn of the nineteenth century: what gave them joy, peace, and knowledge.
  • Each “level” has aims of increasing the level of independence to ultimately a sense of interdependence (with family, friends, society, and various communities)
  • There are “threads” that are started in the Toddler Community that are continued all the way up to the Adolescent Community: Care of Self, Care of Others (Grace and Courtesy), and Care of Environment.
  • The children are shown how to work with the materials in small groups (3-5) or individually and then choose this work independently.
  • Montessori Lessons are connected to the world in a concrete way.  For example a 2 year old will start learning to pour water by pouring water from pitcher to pitcher (small pitchers for small fingers). A four year old will learn math by using concrete and scientifically designed materials to get the experience of quantity and the four basic operations.  An elementary child will do research on a subject of their choosing, design a field trip with a small group of kids (including mapping out transportation) and meet with an expert on the topic they have researched.  Then present this research to others.
  • All Montessori classrooms are designed with the child in mind: appropriately sized furniture, attractive materials, and independent access to facilities like sinks and toilets.  Each classroom will look different depending upon the age group.

 

For the 12-18 year olds, Montessori had something called the “Erdkinder” (Children of the Earth) in mind.  It involved deep academic studies and exposure to creative expression (art, music and writing).  Some of the distinguishing aspects of the Erdkinder are:

  • strong facilitation of the connection of the teenager to the outside world in some form of service. The teacher has the task of also helping the teenager be aware of how important his or her individual contribution is.
  • teenagers studying the structure of all kinds of societies, not just their own and not just current ones. Also, history and economic geography to develop an understanding of how the different parts fit together.
  • the group exploring economic independence.  Sometimes there is a farm attached to the school and the kids will sell products from their work on the farm and run their own shop.  Otherwise, they will devise other ways to get a hands-on economic experience.
  • plenty of time and space for quiet.  The steady calming environment handed to us by nature is the most ideal and many Montessori adolescent communities have a well-developed outdoor environment or a farm they partner with out in the country.
  • that, in addition to the outdoor environment, the teenagers would be outside working the land, living there for periods (weeks at a time or in a boarding school), or going on long trips into a natural area.  This connection to nature is fundamental.

 

Resources:

 From Childhood to Adolescence Maria Montessori 

This guest post is by Lisa Reinhardt, a PCI Certified Parent Coach®, who runs TheParentJourney.net a resource for everything to do with parenting from coaching to blogging.   She is mom to two young ones, blogs about everything to do with parenting, and is a Montessori advocate and educator.

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