Trevor Eissler

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Do Montessori Schools Have An Edge?

New research suggests that children who attend Montessori schools may have an edge over other children in terms of both academic and social development.
But an early education researcher who spoke to WebMD says the study was far too small to be conclusive. 

Researchers tested 30 5-year-olds and 29 12-year-olds attending a public inner-city Montessori school in Milwaukee, Wis. They also tested a similar number of 5- and 12-year-olds who attended non-Montessori Milwaukee schools.

The 5-year-old Montessori students were found to have better reading and math skills than their peers who attended traditional schools and they scored higher on tests measuring social development, researchers reported.

The 12-year-old Montessori and non-Montessori students had similar reading and math scores, but the Montessori children tended to score higher on tests measuring social and behavioral development, researcher Angeline Lillard, Ph.D., tells WebMD.

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Maria Montessori & 10 Famous Graduates From Her Schools

Maria Montessori stands in many ways as the mother of alternative education. The Italian physician and teacher invented a new kind of school, one with self-directed learning, classrooms with mixed age groups, and no grades. Now, on what would have been her 142 birthday, thousands of schools bear her name. These Montessori schools have some very famous alumni, many of which credit the free-flowing classes with teaching them to think differently and allowing them to change the world. Here are 10 of the most prominent. – Chris Gaylord

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Montessori Builds Innovators

There are strident disagreements these days over every aspect of American educational policy, except for one. Everyone thinks it would be great if we could better teach students how to innovate.

So shouldn’t we be paying a great deal of attention to the educational method that produced, among others, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Jeff Bezos, Jimmy Wales, Peter Drucker, Julia Child, David Blaine, and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs? They were all students in Montessori schools. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Sims, there’s a “Montessori Mafia” among the creative elite. So maybe there’s something to the method Italian physician Maria Montessori came up with around the turn of the 20th century.

The cornerstones of this method, according to Wales’s brainchild Wikipedia, are:

  • mixed-age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½-or-3 to 6 by far the most common,
  • student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options,
  • uninterrupted blocks of work time,
  • a Constructivist or “discovery” model, in which students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction, and
  • specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators

That list rings true to me. I was a Montessori student in northwestern Indiana from a very early age through third grade, which was as high as the school went at that time. The teachers were an earnest group of the biggest hippies that could be found in small-town Hoosierland in the 1970s, and they gave us a lot of room to explore stuff that we found interesting.

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Research Shows Benefits Of Montessori Education

For over 100 years, Montessori schools around the world have used the methods and materials developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in Rome in 1906.

It’s exciting to have modern research confirm what we hae seen in our Montessori classrooms for the last century:  Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills.

Dr. Angelina Lillard tested children who attended a Montessori school, and other children who did not,  for their cognitive and academic skills, and for their social and behavioral skills.

“We found significant advantages for the Montessori students in these tests for both age groups,” Lillard said. “Particularly remarkable are the positive social effects of Montessori education. Typically the home environment overwhelms all other influences in that area.”

Among the 5-year-olds, Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children. They also tested better on “executive function,” the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.

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Research Shows Benefits Of Montessori Education

A method of schooling that focuses on personal development rather than exams produces more mature, creative and socially adept children, scientists have found.

Psychologists in the US found that across a range of abilities, children at Montessori schools out-performed those given a traditional education.

Five-year-old Montessori pupils were better prepared for reading and maths, and 12-year-olds wrote “significantly more creative” essays using more sophisticated sentence structures.

Some of the biggest differences were seen in social skills and behaviour.

Montessori children displayed a greater sense of “justice and fairness”, interacted in an “emotionally positive” way, and were less likely to engage in “rough play” during break times.

The schooling system was invented in the early 1900s by Maria Montessori to educate poor children in her native Italy.

There are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the US, and around 600 in the UK, where they are privately funded.

The method discourages traditional competitive measurements of achievement, such as grades and tests, and instead focuses on the individual progress and development of each child.

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What Are The Real Benefits of Sending a Child to Montessori?

Parents often ask: What are the real benefits of sending a child to a Montessori school? They seek assurance that it will prepare them to survive in the ‘real world,’ by which they really question: Will Montessori prepare their children to succeed in a conventional school?

My favorite answer to this question is a simple No!

No, Montessori is not designed to prepare children to think, act, and learn the way most children do in most traditional classrooms!

Will Montessori children succeed in a traditional classroom? The odds are that they will do just fine.

But, is Montessori designed to prepare children for the sort of classroom experience that they are likely to find if they transfer from Montessori to a traditional school program before they go off the college? The answer is, of course, no. If Montessori were de-signed to prepare children for the next rung on the conventional schooling ladder, then Montessori would be like other traditional schools, and that is precisely what Montessori schools were designed to challenge and replace!

Now, is Montessori designed to prepare children for the ‘real world’? 

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Benefits of Montessori

Montessori education offers our children opportunities to develop their potential as they step out into the world as engaged, competent, responsible, and respectful citizens with an understanding and appreciation that learning is for life.

  • Each child is valued as a unique individual. Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are also free to learn at their own pace, each advancing through the curriculum as he is ready, guided by the teacher and an individualized learning plan.
  • Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence. Classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the individual’s emerging “self-regulation” (ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), toddlers through adolescents.
  • Students are part of a close, caring community. The multi-age classroom—typically spanning 3 years—re-creates a family structure. Older students enjoy stature as mentors and role models; younger children feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. Teachers model respect, loving kindness, and a belief in peaceful conflict resolution.

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Sergey Brin Talks About His Montessori Education

At the Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age conference at Google, Sergey Brin talked about his Montessori education, and how he learned to program a computer. The video ends with some views of the Google campus. Note that the camera angle is rough.

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Google Founders Talk Montessori

Larry Page and Sergey Brin discuss their experience as Montessori students.

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