Despite the fact that Maria Montessori was a devout Catholic, the method itself is neutral and does not specifically address religion. Of course, some schools have affiliated themselves with various religions so you will find a range of Montessori schools including Catholic, Hindu, Jewish and Protestant.
When our family initially approach Montessori, our interests were purely academic, meaning that we saw it as a better way to teach our children traditional subjects such as reading and mathematics. Over time we have found many ways to apply this method to other areas of our lives. I have come to find that it isn't necessary to compartmentalize our faith from our education. In fact, I have found numerous ways in which the Montessori Method has enforced our Christan beliefs.
Love for Others
One of the critical aspects of our faith is that we love others as Christ loves us. As the world becomes globalized it seems as though our American vision focuses more and more on the individual to the point of ignoring others outside of our borders. Montessori's focus on geography and culture from a young age are phenomenal for developing global awareness. As we learn about other lands and their people, we are cultivating hearts for the needs of all mankind. I am also hopeful that a deep awareness for how others live will help my children develop gratitude for the vast blessings they have been given.
Sense of Community
In a true Montessori environment children are able to work collaboratively. The environment is theirs and they must work together to ensure it is a place of order. Montessori also provides tools for conflict resolution. Too often the American culture teaches that each man is an island. This is firmly in opposition to God's view of the church community. He calls us to function as one body, serving each other and looking out for the needs of others as our own. As a Montessori home schooler, this is the one of the more difficult aspects to replicate. I have seen some community develop between siblings and my hope is that I can form a local co-op in the near future. My children do attend a Montessori summer program so they can gain some exposure.
An Awe for Creation
Montessori focuses on the beauty of the natural world around us. Children are taught a healthy, deep respect for plants, animals and the stars. When we observe the beauty of a butterfly or the pleasant aroma of a rose we can't help but be in awe of everything round us. This awe of creation points firmly to the awesomeness of the creator Himself.
Development of Self Control and Internal Motivation
Children learn self control and self discipline through activities like the silence game. The absence of excessive rewards also help develop an internal motivation. These characteristics are essential for living out the Christian lifestyle. Individuals who cannot take control of their thoughts and actions cannot fully serve the needs of others. Also, if we are going to do good works for the Lord, we must be able to motivate ourselves internally out of love and not rely on external guilt and obligation to drive us.
Love of Learning
The Christian journey should be one of learning until our time here ends. I want my children to approach our Lord with a sense of wonder and joy, always engaged in a life-long process of learning. One of the best aspects of the Montessori Method is that is strives to fan the initial spark in each child into a passionate flame. Essentially, children are taught how to learn.
Sense of Self and Solid Reasoning Skills
Through self directed learning, Montessori allows each child to develop a sense of who they are. This process also allows them to form solid reasoning skills. As desperate as I am for my children to love Jesus Christ in the way my husband and I do, I want their love to be genuine. They will not be able to fool God with platitudes. We try to set a foundation for our faith at home but ultimately it is up to my children to seek in earnest and find their way. I know this will only happen if they know who they are, have the confidence to ask the hard questions and the reasoning skills to process the answer. In other words, I want to teach them how to think, not what to think. The Bible teaches that all who seek will find and that gives me peace enough.
So there are a few ways that the Montessori Method has enriched our Christian faith. How has Montessori affected your family's core beliefs and values?