Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Although a range of practices exists under the name "Montessori", the Association Montessori International (AMI) cites these elements as essential:
- Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours
- A discovery model, where students learn concepts from working with materials. Teachers create an environment for the child that encourages the child’s own curiosity, with absolute respect for the child to observe natural phenomena.
- Specialized educational materials developed by Dr. Maria Montessori
- Freedom of movement within the classroom
- A trained Montessori teacher