Suzuki & Montessori

Some comments on the commonalities between the Suzuki approach to learning music and the Montessori approach to education.

My sons have both been in Montessori since they were three (they are now 8 and nearly 11, respectively). My elder son started learning the violin from a Suzuki teacher when he was around five, and now learns the piano (again, from a Suzuki teacher). My younger son has been learning the violin for the last two years. Over the years I have been somewhat intrigued by the number of parents who, like me, are both Montessori and Suzuki parents.

It is perhaps indicative that we talk about Montessori parents, and Suzuki parents. It is our children who are in these systems, why do we include the parents? I imagine it’s because both philosophies require the parent to be involved, to understand what’s involved in the approach, and do their part.

Why do these approaches go hand-in-hand? Well, they share a number of similarities.

Both Suzuki and Montessori respect the child, and feel that learning must be approached from where the child is, not where we think they should be.

Both believe in leading by example — not by telling (haranguing) the child to do what the adult thinks best, but by providing an example of the behavior the adult wants the child to copy.

Both provide the child with an orderliness that permits the child to learn. In the Montessori classroom this is expressed in the orderliness of the materials — everything has a place, every task has a sequence. In Suzuki, this is expressed through the set order of music pieces expressly designed to take the student step by step through the techniques necessary to learn the relevant skills.

Both philosophies stress the importance of providing the right environment to nurture the child’s developing character and self-image. Both feel that individuals learn at their own pace, not according to some standard drawn up by educators. In both methods, age does not determine what work the child is doing — they do what is appropriate for their skill level, not their age.

Both Montessori and Suzuki appreciate that repetition is the key to mastery.

Both philosophies believe that education is about bringing out potential, rather than “instructing”. The adult is a director rather than a dictator.

References: 

Thompson, Linda K.: Montessori and Suzuki. The NAMTA Journal, v 15 (2).