To answer “Why Jewish Montessori?”, let’s first explore “Why Montessori?”
We all want our children to be happy in school and excited about learning. We also hope that our children learn how to learn and think, vital skills they will need throughout their lives.
The world is changing rapidly and they will be entering a world doing jobs that don’t even exist yet. As Tom Friedman recently wrote in the New York Times, the job market “will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job.”
While cultures and technologies change, the way humans come into this world and grow up in predictable stages remains constant. Montessori education specializes in guiding children through these stages of growth and helping them learn in interactive and integrative ways that unleash each child’s greatest potential.
Children find learning in a Montessori environment comfortable, enjoyable and engaging. The materials are designed to be motivating and compatible with how the brain works at each age. Children are naturally curious and inclined toward self-management: these characteristics are fostered in a Montessori classroom, developing into a work ethic that is notable among Montessori students.
Dr. Maria Montessori viewed education as not just a means of transmitting knowledge but as a way to support the full development of children as individuals and as members of a community. The Montessori classroom is a microcosm of society, made up of mixed ages and depending on empathy and cooperation to function smoothly.
To compare Montessori education with traditional learning, please see Montessori vs Traditional Education.
Judaism is a child-centered tradition. Beyond the numerous Biblical and Talmudic imperatives to educate children, one could view the fundamental Jewish ritual of the Passover seder as deeply child-centered.
The four questions asked by the youngest child present; the text of the four sons; the hiding of the afikoman. The entire evening, narrating the liberation from bondage in Egypt, is an elaborate prepared environment to engage children and inspire them to ask questions about the central historical narrative of the Jewish people.
In classic Jewish fashion, we can answer the question, “Why Jewish Montessori?” with another question, “Shouldn’t a child-centered tradition like Judaism genuinely support and widely promote the child-centered educational approach of Jewish Montessori?”