Maria Montessori believed that children and adults learn differently. Children are able to absorb information and the details of the culture they live in. Think of the way they learn to speak their native language. Think of the way they learn songs and move to music and imitate the tone of someone’s voice.
She believed that children have a different approach to work. Grown-ups would scrub a table because it was dirty. Children scrub a table for the experience of scrubbing a table: putting the soap on in bubbly swirls, taking the soap off with a sponge, squeezing the sponge, drying the table, emptying the soapy water, hanging the wet towels, putting everything away ready for the next person. And then doing it again.
When children are able to follow their curiosity and choose their own work, they happily repeat activities and become more and more skillful. They can focus their attention and energy on everything from pouring into a funnel to buttoning a sweater; from sorting colors to counting beads for units, tens, hundreds and thousands. The experience of concentration makes learning a pleasure. When children are pleased and satisfied with their work, they are adaptable and cooperative.
To support “the utilization of the inner powers of the child for his own instruction”, Montessori described a Prepared Environment where children can choose activities and materials that develop their intellectual and physical skills, and allow them to grow as a friend and member of the class community.