Maria Montessori

Born in Chiaravalle in the Province of Ancona in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first lady doctor in Italy, having graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896. Through her medical practice, Dr. Montessori came in direct contact with young children and began to study their development. Her intensive study led her to realize that the interaction between the child and his environment led to the construction of the child’s personality.

Her approach to education originated from her own background in the sciences, and her thoroughness of study based on an observation of children from different backgrounds in several countries around the world led her to spot the universality of the laws of human development.

The Montessori Approach

Most people understand the Montessori Approach to be one that applies only to the 3-6 age group. While Montessori schools operating the 3-6 age group are certainly the most common, Dr. Montessori’s work had spanned the entire period of human development from birth to the age of twenty four. These are split into the developmental planes of 0-6, 6-12, 12-18 and 18-24.
Many schools with the word 'Montessori' in their name usually have not a clue about the unique method that was first introduced in India by Dr Maria Montessori as early as 1939.

Dr Montessori created this holistic system of education which has universal applicability. The main premises of Montessori education are:
  • Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who differ from each other.
  • The child possesses an unusual sensitivity and intellectual ability, unlike those of the adult, to absorb and learn from his environment, both in quality and quantity.
  • The first six years of a child are the most important years of a child's growth when unconscious learning gradually emerges to the conscious level.

Method and Goals

The Approach: 
Montessori programs aim to help children reach their full potential in all areas of life. Specially trained teachers, who facilitate, guide and help (but do not impose their own will), allow the child to experience the joy of learning, the time to enjoy the process, and ensure the development of self-esteem. The system simply provides the experiences from which children create their own knowledge. The child and teacher form a relationship based on trust and respect, to foster self-confidence and a willingness to try new things.

Dr Montessori's observations of the kind of things children enjoy and return to repeatedly, aided in her design of several multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials to facilitate learning, that are used at our school.

Positive attitude towards school
Most learning activities are individualized, so that a child engages in a learning task that appeals to him or her and builds a positive attitude toward learning.

Developing self-confidence:
Tasks are designed so that each new step is built upon what the child has already mastered. This removes the negative experience of frequent failure, contributing to the child's healthy emotional development.

A habit of concentration:
The ability to listen attentively to what is said or demonstrated presupposes effective learning. Through a series of absorbing experiences, the child forms habits of extended attention, increasing her ability to concentrate.

An abiding curiosity: 
Opportunities are offered for the child to discover qualities, dimensions and relationships amidst a variety of stimulating learning situations thereby developing curiosity, an essential element in creative learning.

Teach by teaching, not by correcting: 
At no level of learning are papers returned to a child with angry red marks and corrections. Instead, the child's effort and his/her work are respected. There is neither punishment nor reward because Dr Montessori observed that small children expect neither. Their reward is in the happy completion of a job itself and the natural respect that it commands.

Initiative and persistence: 
The child is surrounded with materials and activities geared to his or her inner needs so that he or she becomes accustomed to engaging in activities on her own, resulting in a habit of initiative.

Since her death, an interest in Dr. Montessori's methods have continued to spread throughout the world. Her message to those who emulated her was always to turn one's attention to the child, to "follow the child".  It is because of this basic tenet, and the observation guidelines left by her, that Dr. Montessori's ideas will never become obsolete.

Many people, hearing of the high academic level reached by students in this system of education, miss the point and think that Montessori math manipulatives (as an example) is all there is to the Montessori method. It is easy to acquire materials and to take short courses to learn to use them, but the real value of Montessori takes long and thorough training for the adult.

The potential of the child is not just mental, but is revealed only when the complete "Montessori method" is understood and followed. The child's choice, practical work, care of others and the environment, and above all, the high levels of concentration reached when work is respected and not interrupted, reveal a human being that is superior not only academically, but emotionally and spiritually, a child who cares deeply about other people and the world, and who works to discover a unique and individual way to contribute. This is the essence of real "Montessori" work today.

What Maria Montessori Says:

The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist."

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Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.

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Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world.

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If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.

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