Well, that's a good question. And it's one that I didn't really have a well formed answer for. I have had several friends that went to Montessori schools when they were younger and they loved them. They said they had a great time and learned a lot. I was told it was just a different way for kids to learn how to do things. They are allowed to learn on their own time and in their own way.
Well, I've been trying to do that with many things in my life and haven't had much luck. So that wasn't what sold me on Montessori. What sold me were the people themselves that I knew had attended Montessori schools. These people were great students and all did well in school and went on to do well in life. That's what I hope for Bean, too.
So in order to have a good answer to the question of "what is a Montessori", I started doing more research.
I found the Wikipedia page on The Montessori Method. I will say that after reading the first half of this page, I wondered what kind of new age, frou frou place had I signed Bean up for. But then I came across this paragraph and it says exactly what I know to be true of my friends that went to Montessori daycare.
From a 2006 study:
On several dimensions, children at a public inner city Montessori school had superior outcomes relative to a sample of Montessori applicants who, because of a random lottery, attended other schools. By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in positive interaction on the playground more, and showed advanced social cognition and executive control more. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.
[If my brother-in-law reads that paragraph, he's gonna tell me I'm just trying to grow another Democrat. I can hear it now.]
I also found this explanation on MontessoriMom.com and it explains that the teaching method focuses on developing a child's independence. That's something that Bean is pretty good at demonstrating already but hopefully she will learn how to better assert her independence. We can only hope.
...It is also an approach to education that takes to heart the needs, talents, gifts, and special individuality of each child. It is a process that helps children learn in their own way at their own pace. The main concept of Montessori is to promote the joy of learning. This joy of learning develops a well adjusted person who has a purpose and direction in his or her life. Children, who experience the joy of learning, are happy, confident, fulfilled children. In essence, Montessori helps bring forth the giftedness of each child.
Another important skill it teaches is self-reliance and independence. It helps a child to become independent by teaching him or her life skills, which is called practical life. Montessori children learn to dress themselves, help cook, put their toys and clothes away and take an active part of their household, neighborhood and school.
Montessori works in a methodical way. Each step in the process leads to the next level of learning. When a child plays, he or she is learning concepts for abstract learning. Repetition of activities is an integral part of this learning process.
For young children Montessori is a hands on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities.
I am excited that Bean has a chance to spread her wings and learn new activities. Well, I'm nervous and excited. I think this will start her off on a lifetime of learning and not just learning but loving to learn new things. Being interested in learning and exploring. But even if it doesn't live up to all these lofty ideas I have in my head, I know for sure, 100% for sure, that she will definitely love snack time and playing on their little playground. Some things in life you just "know".