The magic of Montessori education began in 1907 when Maria Montessori started the first House of Children in Rome, Italy. Her pedagogy and philosophy were far ahead of the times she lived in, and continued to flow like a powerful river over cities, countries and continents, embracing all. Head Start became a tributary of this river in 1984 and like many others across the world, flows with a purpose—to help build a community of children that grow into strong adults.
What is significant about this pedagogy? It is timeless; though over a century old, it is still relevant and contemporary and makes us feel there is more to unfold with each generation. It follows the natural developmental milestones of the child—not an Indian child, or an Italian or Jamaican child, but as termed by Montessori, the Universal Child.
Head Start has been committed to serving the needs of children according to the spirit of Montessori and believes that this is a pedagogy that has survived over a hundred years because of its clarity, its ability to work at the pace of the child and its potential to include children with different abilities. The method is so perfect that it's hard to change; it is beautifully articulated and is a way of learning that develops every sense and need.
Children are naturally curious. We need not force them to learn; they learn when something spurs their interest. They don’t need rewards or punishments, they don’t need incentives like smilies, stars or points, nor do they need to be punished. In a Montessori House, they engage in activities of their choice and learn to be responsible for what they choose. All materials in the classroom are there because they encourage learning in one way or another. The educator is a guide and a motivator who gives support when required. He or she introduces new challenges and concepts, based on when it is the best moment to do so, not as part of a fixed timetable.
The Montessori classroom is a community which encourages independent learning and progression, cooperation while working in a group of mixed ages and mixed abilities, and finding one’s strengths in the process. It gives children the opportunity to live meaningful, connected, and fulfilled adult lives.