On January 6, Prince George started Westacre Montessori School Nursery in Norfolk. The nursery is for children who are two to five years old, and it is situated at the end of a private road near Anmer Hall, where the Cambridges spend most of their time. According to Kensington Palace, the nursery was looking forward to welcoming the young prince and was determined to give him “the same special experience as all of our children”. Exactly what, however, is an experience in a Montessori school like?
The Montessori approach was developed in the early 20th century by Dr Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor who worked with underprivileged children and came to understand the importance of engaging activities and the children’s individualism. According to Dr Montessori, children are at their best when given the right environment for self-learning: they will gain self confidence and joy by activating themselves and focusing on tasks that present just enough challenge for them. Motivation remains on a high level when the activities and ideas come from the child and the adult steps aside, and learning is at its best.
In practice, the Montessori method means child-led learning where the adults guide and observe rather than teach the children. Prince George will be treated as an individual, very much like all the other children in his nursery, and the teachers will encourage him to find his own way of learning. The idea is to take advantage of the child’s potential by creating an environment full of possibilities and stimuli. Contrary to other schools, a Montessori school will not have tests as proof of the children’s learning, because they believe each child has a different way of learning and thus learning cannot be measured by a test score.
Prince George, at the tender age of two, will gain independence by practicing simple skills such as getting dressed, using a knife and a fork or cleaning the table. He will be encouraged to extend his vocabulary through stories, poems and discussions with other children as well as the teachers. He will also be improving his motor skills by playing with Montessori developed toys or choosing other interesting activities. The Montessori approach emphasises the importance of infant and toddler education, because the children are at an age where they absorb everything from their environment. As Prince George grows and develops, the activities and aims for learning change to match his skills and interests.