The Montessori method does not espouse any specific religious beliefs. See Miriam Cotek in her recent post. That being said, as Maria Montessori stated,
“The consciousness of knowing how to make oneself useful, how to help mankind in many ways, fills the soul with noble confidence, almost religious dignity.”
Based on education that follows the child, Dr. Montessori examined and researched the tendencies of the child. She saw the child as a Spiritual Child – with both, body and soul, and she nourished them both. Montessori education is not a religious education per se. However, each school has it own culture. There are Christian Montessori Schools, Muslim, Hindu and more around the world. Our school is Jewish in faith, practice, traditions and culture. We nourish both the Body and Soul. We follow the child in the same way – חנוך לנער על פי דרכו Educate the child at his own pace (Proverbs).
If one studies the core values of both Montessori and of Judaism, there are certainly some connections to highlight. Examples include values such as, care for the environment, self-sufficiency, independence, and justice. Care for the animals, respect for adults and parents, preserving the right of the child to question and choose. The growth of Jewish Montessori schools in North America and around the world is a true gift for our children.
As a religion, Judaism puts a strong emphasis on independent thought and curiosity while also being part of a larger community. The Montessori method similarly calls for individual/child-directed work while allowing room for group activities. Students are encouraged to ask questions, to challenge and discover, and at the same time, to look to classmates for mentors, role models, and a sense of community.
At Alef Bet, we find the importance of both Jewish and Montessori values to be paramount. Our students experience Jewish learning through the full practice of Montessori methodology. This includes singing the prayers during routine morning meetings that are lead by students and by baking challah on Shabbat (using skills such as measuring, keeping time, and more). We celebrate with enthusiasm our holidays, be it Rosh Hashana, Sukkot, Passover, Purim or Shavuot. We sing the anthem and Hatikva, with outmost intention to be a “free people in the land of Israel.” Our children feel the presence and protection of G-d in every aspects of our life – when they say Brachot, Shma or when they wash their hands, as a couple of examples.
Living in our world, knowing that Hashem loves you, and will be there to protect you – is the greatest gift we can give a child.