Collier and Lee Counties Edition

Lighting a Candle for the Next Generation

Enrolling a child in a Montessori school, where students learn to think critically, work collaboratively and act boldly, may be the equivalent of lighting a candle for the next generation. Acquiring such a valuable skill set for the 21st century is perhaps why more than 4,000 Montessori schools dot the American landscape and thousands more can be found on six continents.

Since 1907, the Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, has been a child-centered educational approach with a view of the child as someone that is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment.

Based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood, her revolutionary approach has been time tested with more than 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world. The approach is recognized for valuing the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional and cognitive.

Montessori hallmarks include multiage groupings that foster peer learning and uninterrupted blocks of work time, as well as guided choices of work activity. Younger children learn from older children and older children reinforce their learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered. This arrangement mirrors the real world, where individuals work and socialize with individuals of all ages and dispositions.

The teacher, child and environment create a learning triangle that encourages independence, freedom within limits and a sense of order. Through individual choice, the child makes use of what the environment offers to develop themselves, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.

As students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials to sensitive periods when learning is most naturally absorbed and internalized. Students also learn and master lessons through sensory-motor activities, working with specially designed learning materials that develop cognitive powers through direct experience—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching and moving.

In elementary years, the child continues to organize thinking through work with the Montessori learning materials and an interdisciplinary curriculum while passing from the concrete to the abstract. Thus begins the application of knowledge to real-world experiences.

This organization of information—facts and figures—prepares the child for the world of adolescence, when thought and emotion evolve into understanding more abstract, universal concepts such as equity, freedom and justice; values for the 21st century.

Kathy Khatib is the founder and director of The Garden School of Naples, a Montessori preschool located at 6051 Bayshore Dr., in Naples. The school opens Aug. 15. For information on enrollment, call  239-424-9084, email or visit

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