Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. During this early period, Montessori educators help the unfolding of the child’s inborn psychic powers, or mind, by preparing and arranging cultural activity in a special environment made for the child. Dr. Montessori explained that the learning process in small children involves what she calls the absorbent mind and sensitive periods. Based on respect for the children and the inner powers they are endowed with to guide them, Dr. Montessori explained that the child has the power to teach himself with an enormous capacity to “absorb” culture.
Programs that are considered to be authentic Montessori programs include multi-age groupings that foster peer learning, guided choice of work activity, and have uninterrupted blocks of work time. A full host of specially designed Montessori learning materials are meticulously arranged to create an aesthetically pleasing environment as they are used.
The environment, teachers, and children create what’s known as a learning triangle. Specially prepared by the teacher, the classroom is set to encourage freedom within limits, independence, and a sense of order. Through individual choice, the children make use of what the environment offers to develop themselves, interacting with the teacher when guidance is needed.
Multi-age groupings are one of the hallmarks of the Montessori Method, as older children reinforce their learning by teaching the mastered concepts while the younger children also learn from them. This arrangement can also be found in the real world, where individuals socialize and work with people of all dispositions and ages.