(In the above photo, a student carefully paints a map of the world. I have chosen to present this work with two paint brushes. First, a very thin paint brush is used to paint just the outline of a continent. Then a wider brush is used to fill in the centre of the continent. In this way a child who is reluctant to write may hone the fine motor skills required for writing while using the two paintbrushes.)
Dr. Montessori discovered that children progress at their own rate and each child has an individual internal map which directs his or her own capacity and speed of learning.
(A young girl works with the second box of the colour tablets. She matched and "unmatched" them for about 25 minutes.)
Often a child will work with an activity for an extended period of time displaying a deep desire to master and complete the cycle of activity at her own pace. She is allowed to do so because Dr. Montessori recognized the child is perfecting herself and gaining mastery over her movements. She believed that a child should be guided by a teacher, but should be allowed to choose for herself which materials to work with and when. This discourages competition because curiosity leads the child to her work.
(One of the five year olds learns how to knit with the guidance of a teacher.)
In a Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to perform the activities, but they are not forced. This way they learn at their own rate and also - remarkably - faster.
Montessori, M. (1988). The absorbent mind. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.