The Art of Joyful Learning
How Guidepost Montessori cultivates an environment where joy and learning intertwine.
At all of Guidepost Montessori's 120+ schools, we share an unwavering goal: to nurture a profound and lasting love of learning within each child, one that transcends the boundaries of the classroom and enriches each child’s life far beyond the school walls. At Guidepost, we recognize that fostering a sense of joy in education is key to nurturing lifelong learners. Our approach is rooted in the belief that when children experience the thrill of discovery and the joy of mastery, they embark on a journey of intellectual curiosity that will accompany them throughout the rest of their lives. In this article, we explore how Guidepost Montessori cultivates an environment where joy and learning intertwine.
Capitalizing on Deep Developmental Interests
At Guidepost Montessori, joyful learning starts with understanding the child—both the unique child right in front of us, and the universal features of development that are true for children everywhere. By understanding the child’s needs and interests and designing an environment tailored to them, we’re able to cultivate authentic motivation in the learning process.
Toddlers, for example, are provided with the tools they need to build independence—to put on their own clothes, to use the bathroom independently, to prepare a meal—because gaining mastery over their bodies and their world is deeply meaningful to children of this age.
Preschoolers work with hands-on materials that help them make sense of the world—from the sounds that make up words, to the plant and animal life they encounter daily, to the mathematic and geometric relationships of the objects in their environments—because working with their hands to understand the world is deeply fascinating to them.
Each material, lesson, and feature of the Guidepost classroom, from infancy to adolescence, is designed to captivate the child by harnessing her natural interests. When learning is planned thoughtfully in this way, the result is an education that doesn’t need to be imposed on the child, because it is aligned with her deep developmental needs. And the result of that? An education that cultivates lifelong joy in learning, doing, and achieving.
Empowering Ownership Over One’s Learning
A key feature of the Montessori approach that enables Guidepost to foster joy in learning, is the freedom it gives children to follow their own unique path. Though there is a highly structured sequence of materials that help children develop crucial skills and gain core knowledge across all areas of development, each child is empowered to follow their own path through the curriculum.
A preschooler in a Guidepost Children’s House, for example, is given clear, small lessons on a variety of materials that his guide thinks he will be interested in. On any given day, then, the child can choose which material to focus on during the three-hour work cycle and to concentrate for as long as he likes. If he is captivated with language, he can focus for as long as he needs to fully understand, to make progress, and to achieve mastery.
When given this kind of freedom, the child who has mastered counting to ten does not need to be bored while a teacher offers a whole-group lesson on the topic; he can launch himself forward and start to learn to count to 100 instead. Similarly, the child who has not yet learned that there are numbers or what they represent, does not need to sit through a whole-group lesson that makes him feel overwhelmed and stressed; he can start at the foundation and learn at his own pace.
This freedom allows each child to develop a profound sense of ownership over his own learning. That ownership, and the confidence that comes with it, is a key part of what enables the child to experience a fulfilling sense of joy in everything he learns.
Nurturing a Supportive, Mixed-Age Community
A Montessori environment intentionally groups children of various ages together in one classroom. A Guidepost Children’s House, for example, can have children ranging from as young as 2.5 all the way to 6 years old.
A mixed-age community where every child can work at their own pace reinforces the idea that learning is an effortful process that is worth the effort. It’s a process that starts with gaining understanding and building basic skills, and that culminates with exciting achievements that open up new possibilities. A 3.5-year-old, who is taking her first step toward learning the connection between the sounds she hears in words and the symbols she sees on a page, can really see that in a few short years she’ll be like the 6-year-old at the table across from her who’s reading a book. And she’s incredibly motivated and inspired by the prospect!
In a Guidepost mixed-age environment, children learn to celebrate one another’s achievements because they can see what it takes and that it’s possible for them too. They come to recognize that learning isn’t about comparing themselves to their peers or impressing their teachers, but about increasing their own understanding so they achieve great things. What’s more, the older children in the community love to re-live and solidify their learning process by mentoring and supporting the younger students as they start down the same path.
The result for every child in the class, no matter their age, is a feeling of benevolence, and a shared sense of mission as they each embark on the ambitious adventure of learning.
The joy of learning that is naturally intertwined with the Montessori approach is also fostered intentionally in many other ways. Guides work to cultivate curiosity and a sense of wonder in their students by planning trips to local parks, adopting pets into their classrooms, sharing in the marvels of nature by watching a butterfly life cycle up close, and so much more. At Guidepost, children also get to experience the joy of engaging in imaginative play, artistic expression, and music throughout the day and across the school year.
At Guidepost, we believe joy is crucial—for a child’s development, for learning and academic growth, and for life as a whole. As our students embark on their educational journeys, we make it our mission to help them carry a flame of curiosity and a genuine passion for learning that will continue to burn brightly throughout their lives.
"Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire "to make him learn things," but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called the intelligence. If to this end we must consecrate ourselves as did the vestals of old, it will be a work worthy of so great a result." - Maria Montessori, Spontaneous Activity in Education