What is Montessori?

Dr Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born in 1870 and was the first Italian woman to become a doctor of medicine. Her work in hospitals, particularly with children suffering from nervous disorders, led her to a study of the development milestones in the lives of these children. She concluded that their problems were educational rather than medical and from her findings grew the concept of educating the “whole child”. She established the first Montessori School in Rome in 1907, using a much broader curriculum than had previously been considered. Knowledge of Dr Montessori’s reputation as an innovative educator spread throughout the world and Montessori Societies were formed in Britain and America. Her methods were based on her belief that education should be specifically tailored to the needs of a particular child or group of children. From this flowed her concept of “vertical grouping”, or bringing children of three years age difference together in one classroom. Dr Montessori was a unique, forward-thinking person who had an enormous impact on the way children were perceived. She expanded the boundaries of education, breaking away from the restrictions of learning by rote. Her legacy lives on in Montessori schools around the world.


Dr Montessori studied not only the physical development of children, but also their intellectual and social development. She conceived and evolved the method of educating the “whole child”. Concepts are taught that are appropriate to the level of the child, with the emphasis being on providing individual and small group-tuition. Children learn through practising tasks rather than simply listening and having to remember. The Montessori Methodology emphasises practical applied learning incorporating the use of thoroughly researched and carefully designed materials. Multi-aged class structures ensure that strong relationships develop between staff, students and their families as children remain with the same teacher for a 2-3 year period. This structure fosters the development of a sense of community and responsibility. Students are encouraged to value difference, uniqueness and respect for the environment. Our application of the Montessori Philosophy encourages active rather than passive learning. We empower our students to initiate their own activities helping them develop self-reliance, independence, and a sense of ownership of their work. We also place great importance on co-operative learning. The classroom culture is caring and non-competitive. All school members are committed to treating others positively and with dignity.

Modern Day Applications

At The Hills Montessori School, Dr Maria Montessori’s philosophy of educating the “whole child” is at the heart of everything we do. The Montessori Philosophy and Methodology guide the implementation of current curriculum initiatives, ensuring that students acquire necessary contemporary knowledge and skills in a relevant, child-centred manner. The result is a curriculum with all areas of learning interrelated, and supported by up-to-date information technology resources.

Montessori Snapshot

Learning Programs

  • Individual and/or small group academic tuitionDSC_7637
  • Students work at their own individual level and at their own pace
  • A ‘hands-on’, practical and applied curriculum
  • Students use scientifically designed, sequential Montessori materials to assist them with their learning
  •  Students select work activities from the ‘Prepared Environment’ which is planned and organised by the teacher
  • Children are encouraged to be self-motivated and plan their time, developing time management skills
  • The Practical Life curriculum teaches life skills to increase independence
  • Intrinsic rewards are promoted rather than external rewards
  • Strong focus on formal spelling, grammar, maths, pure sciences
  • Core sequential curriculum which incorporates contemporary educational initiatives
  • Curriculum designed to match stages of growth, psychological phase and sensitive times for learning
  • Adults are aware of developmental stages of children and this is reflected in interactions and program planning
  • Curriculum activities are adaptive, dynamic, and responsive so students are challenged to apply their knowledge, to solve problems and think creatively
  • Teaching presentations and materials gradually move understanding of concepts from the concrete to the abstract
  • Both diagnostic and authentic assessment tools are used to gauge learning and inform teaching practice
  • Student self-assessment and reflection is encouraged
  • The Montessori curriculum is organised into a spiral of integrated studies rather than compartmentalised separate subjects.
  • Reporting processes are compatible with Montessori philosophy and include parent and student conferences, meaningful written reports, student self-assessment and portfolios.

Classroom Environment

  • Small class sizes and larger rooms
  • Classes have a 3 year age range and children typically stay with a teacher for 3 years
  • Students have a morning snack / break time when they are hungry and enjoy a bush setting and adventure play for the one hour lunch period
  • Rooms are not cluttered and everything is sized to the age of the children
  • The environment is prepared by the teacher to provide students with stimulating activities, and expectations increase as students get older
  • The student is an active participant in their learning
  • A 3 hour morning work cycle exists
  • An atmosphere of respect, calm and safety pervades each environment
  • Students can work where they are comfortable, move around and talk at will while not disturbing others
  • The teacher works in collaboration with the students
  • There is freedom within limits and students are allowed time, freedom of movement and choice within the appropriate socially accepted behaviour of the community

School Culture and Environment

  • People are treated with respect and dignity, and this is modelled throughout school
  • Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and behaviour
  • A strong emphasis throughout the school on collaboration, consultation, co-operation and building cooperative communities within the classroom
  • Staff are positive with children and use quiet voices and avoid raising their voices
  • A love of learning is fostered
  • A strong emphasis is placed on respecting others, school equipment and the environment
  • Importance is placed on valuing difference in others and cultural diversity
  • A negotiation approach is used to deal with inappropriate behaviour
  • A ‘wholistic approach’ is used which encompasses the academic, social, physical, emotional and spiritual development of each child
  • Values of self-respect, kindness, peacefulness, compassion, empathy, honour, individual responsibility and courage are modelled and practiced consciously by all

Well Known Montessorians

For more than 40 years The Hills Montessori School has been educating children and supporting and encouraging them to become self-motivated learners who will act responsibly and embrace the future with confidence and a positive outlook. Many people worldwide have benefitted from a Montessori education. Discover some well-known Montessorians here.