Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori: What You Need To Know!

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As parents, we always strive to give the best to our children. Choosing the right educational pathway has always been a concern for parents around the globe, and if you’ve scanned any child-rearing reading material ever, you might be confused and even overwhelmed at the specifics that are out there. 

One of the most common aspects most parents struggle with wrapping their hands around is who’s winning in the battle of Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori. 

And that’s exactly why, we’ve put together this little guide to help you better understand both of these theories, how they are different from each other, which will help you make an informed decision about which one to opt for.

What is the Maria Montessori Theory?

The Maria Montessori Theory is a non-traditional child-rearing theory that focuses on independence and freedom as a method. It claims that children have specific ways of learning and knowing the world and that they acquire knowledge through their senses in a very precise manner. In addition, people can use their detailed memories from childhood to help them remember more new information as they advance in age.

The founder, Maria Montessori, believed that all children are born as geniuses and only become ‘average’ after being taught what is considered average by society. She believes that traditional child-rearing methods can hinder children from advancing and hitting their finest potential. While most educational settings focus on helping students reach academic success, the Montessori method focuses on creating an environment that fosters a child’s independence, intellectual, physical, and social development. 

Her theory later prompted the creation of schools for young children, where teachers would use Montessori materials to teach abstract concepts such as mathematics, reading, logic, etc. before the students enter public education. 

The goals and purpose of the Montessori theory are to raise children in a way that they are independent and are able to do things all by themselves. Children should be given opportunities to choose what they want to do, which will, in turn, help them develop the confidence, self-esteem, and other qualities that will help them later in life. 

What is the Maria Montessori Theory of Play?

In a Montessori classroom, there is a playful atmosphere. Children are encouraged to play in order to learn. This is based on the theory that the early years of the child's education are very important and that most of their experiences come from sensory-motor activities. This means they must use their senses and move around with purpose in order to learn most effectively.

In a Montessori setup, children work independently so they can truly absorb what they have learned without an adult constantly telling them what to do. 

The idea of play-work balance is what contributes most to the Montessori philosophy of education. It can be difficult at times for teachers and parents to understand that children should have some time each day where they are working independently in their areas, while also having plenty of time playing just for fun.

In order to get a better understanding of this philosophy, let's take a closer look at these seemingly contradictory terms ‘play’ and ‘work.’ While a child plays, he is exploring his world through all her senses such as sight, and sound, touch, etc. This exploration teaches the child about cause and effect, material properties, spatial awareness and so much more!

If a child is simply being told what to do by an adult every minute of the day, they aren't learning as effectively because the play has been replaced with work. The child might be developing some basic skills but these are then enhanced when she is allowed time for play.

Through self-directed play, children learn how materials react, and how to move objects from one place to another without them falling apart or collapsing, they develop manual dexterity and coordination, problem-solving skills are strengthened and social skills are improved.

Play can help children to integrate information by using sensory exercises that link new material to old. 

What is the Maria Montessori Theory of Sensory Play?

The Maria Montessori theory of sensory play is a developmental and educational approach to children between the ages of 0-3. It is during this time that children are able to focus on their sensory experiences and learn about themselves and their environment through those experiences. 

At this stage, the main goal is for teachers and caregivers and parents should be to create an environment that will allow them to develop these senses as fully as possible, knowing that each child will do so at his or her own pace. In addition, they should also focus on providing opportunities for sensory exploration gives young children the opportunity to exercise motor skills developed during their life in the womb. This will help broaden the child’s senses and help him become more perceptive and aware. 

Sensory play typically involves elements such as sand trays, playdough, water tables, water beads, etc. 

The sensory areas are an important part of the classroom or home daycare setting. They provide opportunities for children to explore materials that appeal to their senses while exercising motor skills developed during life in the womb. Depending on the child's interest level and concentration span, these activities can be done daily, but with caution, so as to not over-stimulate the child.

What are the Key Elements of the Montessori Method?

The Montessori Method is a theory of childhood education based around the idea that all children are naturally curious beings who are motivated to learn through their own initiative. They must be taught how to learn, not what to learn. Parents and teachers essentially play the role of a guide and offer children the liberty to explore at their own pace and in their own unique way. 

This requires an environment in which they can direct their own learning while at the same time developing social skills and practical life skills that will prepare them to succeed in school and beyond. 

The Montessori Method of education has certain key elements. 

  • The creation of a healthy, comfortable, and loving environment that is free of distractions and provides children everything necessary for learning. This prepares them to work independently on activities while also promoting continuous assessment by the teacher who views each child individually and seeks out their specific needs through observation. 
  • The use of Montessori-approved materials that are designed to help growing children get a more hands-on approach to learning. 
  • Uninterrupted time for children to explore and ‘work’ at their own pace, without any adult direction. 
  • Trained Montessori teachers that are highly qualified and experienced, to help observe every child’s unique interests and abilities. 

These elements focus on children helping themselves learn by discovering how they naturally gravitate toward certain materials or activities that interest them. They also work independently for most of the day with teachers there to help if needed

Montessori education encourages high standards, excellence, and self -motivation all of which are integral to effective collaboration throughout the world.

Why is Maria Montessori’s Theory Important?

Maria Montessori's theory is of particular importance to the current moment in education. This is because, when children learn in an environment that is open and free, it provides them with the opportunity to investigate their surroundings and experience inquiry-based learning to the fullest. This allows for children to make sense of their world through exploration and discovery rather than passive absorption or memorization of facts and lessons. 

Because Montessori encourages child-driven play and work, teachers must know the general curriculum goals while trusting students to follow their interests and guide them toward understanding these goals on their own terms. In this way, active involvement in one's own learning is promoted and faith in the ability to acquire knowledge as a child is fostered, as opposed to the overarching academic pressure that exists in traditional curricula. 

Montessori's early childhood philosophy reflects what many educators are coming back to through new developments in neuroscience- young brains soak up information like little sponges when they are given tools for exploration and supported in following their own interests and passions.

Montessori's theory is also significant to today's educational culture because it challenges teachers to take a more active role as facilitators rather than instructors by letting students explore what captures their interest through independent work such as math manipulatives and science experiments. 

Classroom spaces are designed with this idea of freedom in mind – painted in bright colors that Montessori believed would help stimulate children's senses and with low shelves that let them reach materials easily on their own. 

How is Maria Montessori’s Theory Used Today?

In the past 100 years, many aspects of Maria Montessori's theories have been used in mainstream educational practices. This can be seen through her emphasis on space and environment as a major key to learning, leading to hands-on active learning for children. 

A number of schools worldwide that use some part of the original Montessori philosophy as outlined by Dr. Maria Montessori herself. While these schools vary from country to country and method to method, almost all still base their curriculum around the specific philosophies emphasized by Montessori- freedom within limits, practical life, sensory exploration and understanding, math concepts, language training through conversation and reading, cultural elements such as music and arts, and most importantly respect for the child. 

All of these components form a complete educational experience that aims to develop children into individuals capable of living independently with responsibility for themselves and their communities.

The traditional Montessori school provides an environment where every activity is purposeful and encourages free choice educational play. This plays a key role in learning because children must be allowed to participate freely in activities they choose. 

It is the child's natural curiosity that drives him to learn, which is why all activities are designed not only to answer questions but also to raise new questions. It is this aspect that makes the Montessori method unique- it does not rely on textbooks and closed educational systems, but instead focuses on developing skills such as concentration, coordination, and practical application through hands-on learning activities designed to engage children actively in the process of their own education. 

What is Charlotte Mason Philosophy?

Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method of teaching, which is known as Charlotte Mason Education, has persisted for centuries and is particularly popular in families that have adopted homeschooling for their children.

Most homeschoolers today that use Charlotte Mason methods and materials believe in the philosophy that mankind's mind is naturally active; we're born wanting to know. A teacher needs only to share a living book with a child and the child will learn by reading it on their own accord. Most Charlotte Mason curriculums use some form of narration from the student as part of their learning process, so they are constantly putting new information into their minds. This is called ‘living books’ or a literature-based approach.

This form of teaching focuses more on high-quality literature and the use of methods like journaling, narration, and of course, spending time outdoors. 

What are the Characteristics of Charlotte Mason Education?

Charlotte Mason education is a student-driven learning style that focuses on experiencing questions to answer, not just absorbing information.

The use of living books (literature packed full of information) encourages students to connect what they read to their own experiences so they can apply the knowledge acquired to their lives. This connection between learning and life helps students retain information better because it will be meaningful to them, which makes doing schoolwork less boring and monotonous.

There are five major characteristics to Charlotte Mason education that set it apart from other more traditional forms of instruction- the use of living books, narration, lack of direct instruction, real books, and comprehension-based learning. Each element plays a critical role in helping students retain the information they are exposed to instead of merely ‘scanning for facts.’

The lack of direct instruction also sets the Charlotte Mason education style apart because it relies on students having acquired foundational knowledge in order to effectively learn new concepts or skills through self-guided discovery (i.e., hands-on work). 

Comprehension-based learning helps students become active participants in their own learning by allowing them to apply what they learn through activities and projects instead of straightforward tests.

What is the Charlotte Mason Approach to Homeschooling?

The Charlotte Mason method is a style of homeschooling based on the ideas of Charlotte Mason, an educator who advocated experiential learning through conversation, narration, and literature. The basic scope of this educational philosophy includes conversational language arts lessons for all ages, nature study, living books instead of textbooks, narration at least once per day to keep records of what has been learned each day, physical activity, art appreciation, music appreciation, grammar, copy work or free writing for composition work (with or without imitation of models), literary analysis using Living Books as Models (involving characters rather than plot), geography, history from primary sources, real books with illustrations, untaught subjects as botany and zoology if nature study is being used, nature walks, conversations with adults about interesting subjects of mutual interest, and other activities that may occur naturally in a child-led learning environment.

The education itself preferably takes place in the home by loving parents who co-operate with each other so that the whole family works together toward the goal instead of quibbling over chores. Chores are viewed as part of this learning process within the family unit; thus learning to work well in families becomes another subject area. 

How to Apply the Charlotte Mason Approach?

If you feel the Charlotte Mason approach is the right one for your family, you might need to keep a few things in mind before you adopt it. First, go through the techniques that this approach uses and understand its strengths and weaknesses. 

Next, look at how you can bring this approach into your home. Read through valuable resources that help you get a clear picture of the Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy before you finally take the plunge. 

What Do the Charlotte Mason Teaching Techniques Look Like?

Charlotte Mason's techniques are known for incorporating many hands-on learning experiences. Here, your child will learn through short lessons that are easy to understand. There will be a narration practice to help your child learn how to express himself and being exposed to literature, he will develop a love for books and reading. 

There will be dictation exercises that will help him learn grammar and spelling, and will also be exposed to different forms of art. 

Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori: Which One’s Better?

Both Montessori and Charlotte Mason advocate for a holistic approach to the child’s education. They both believe that children should be considered as individuals, not just as another addition to an average classroom population. Both women were staunch advocates of primary education, believing it to be the foundation upon which all other learning is built. However, their views on how this primary education should take place are where they start to diverge.

Charlotte Mason advocated what she referred to as ‘living books’. She believed that children learn best through reading high-quality literature with lots of illustrations or other types of rich media like artwork. Montessori, on the other hand, used primarily abstract objects in her lessons with students. Montessori believed that children learn best through first-hand experience and hands-on play.

Mason advocated fostering a lifelong love of reading by allowing children to make their own choices about what they read. She recommended allowing them to spend as much time as they needed with those books; not forcing them into speed-reading but instead encouraging natural progression at each child’s own pace. In contrast, Montessori planned out her lessons in great detail so that children would have specific learning objectives for every subject taught throughout the year. This is true whether it was mathematics, geography, or history being learned. In addition, Montessori used mostly pre-made lesson plans from her training as a teacher. 

To some extent, she believed that learning should be guided by the lesson plan and not the student’s interests. Charlotte Mason, on the other hand, encouraged students to pursue their own individual interests and passions as part of their education. This led to children’s desire to study subjects like biology and history on topics such as snakes and ancient Egypt. It also meant that many of them became interested in things like marine biology or archaeology which they would go on to explore later in life.

Montessori was focused more on teaching children how to learn and create. She believed that giving them a strong foundation and letting them figure out what they wanted to learn on their own was the best way to instill a love of learning in her students. Mason, on the other hand, was more focused on teaching children how to read well so that they would be able to access educational material independent of an instructor.

Much like Charlotte Mason’s belief in living books vs Montessori’s use of abstract objects for learning, both women encouraged hands-on learning but with different emphases. Montessori believed that it was important for children to first have a proper understanding of mathematics before going into science or history whereas Charlotte Mason felt that getting a good grasp of subjects should come first

How is the Charlotte Mason Approach Different From the Montessori Method?

A key element to the Montessori philosophy is giving students choices about their learning activities within an environment designed to support independence and freedom of movement. For instance, students are given choice over which activities they will work on, when they will do certain activities, how long they will spend working on any particular activity, etc

One reason for this approach is to teach children responsibility for themselves and for their own learning while also giving them opportunities to build independence and social skills.

Within a Montessori classroom, there are designated areas for specific types of learning materials such as math materials, science materials, literature, and storytelling material which cannot be used in any other area of the room. Children spend periods of time rotating through all these different learning centers around the room rather than always being in one center during an entire class period.

The Charlotte Mason approach, on the other hand, has a different educational philosophy from Montessori, although it does share some similarities. 

Unlike the approach taken by Montessori where children are allowed to choose activities themselves within specific learning centers, Charlotte Mason believed that children learn best when they only have access to a few specific types of materials at any given time. For instance, children would work with math materials one day, and then the next day they might use science materials.

The key difference between the two philosophies is that instead of giving children choices within an environment where they are encouraged to be independent, Charlotte Mason believed that children learn best when surrounded by a set curriculum in a teacher-guided environment. In other words, she believed that students' education should be planned out ahead of time by teachers and parents rather than students having a choice over what activities they will do each day.

Another key element of the Charlotte Mason approach is involving students as much as possible in real-life experiences related to their learning. This approach can be very practical for parents to incorporate into their home environment because the learning activities suggested by the philosophy are often simple and quite easy to set up. 

Each of these methods has its own ideas and approaches, but in the very essence, they are aimed at helping children find the right environment to grow and nurture. Depending on your family’s setup and ideologies, you might find yourself attracted to any of these two educational philosophies. 

When deciding between Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori go with what method fits your family best!