About Montessori

 

Maria Montessori and Her Method

Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the province of Ancona, Italy on August 31, 1870, she was raised in a vibrant intellectual household, and became one of Italy’s first female physicians when she graduated from medical school in 1896. Shortly afterwards, she was chosen to represent Italy at two different women's conferences, in Berlin in 1896 and in London in 1900.

In her medical practice, her clinical observations led her to analyze how children learn, and she concluded that they build themselves from what they find in their environment. Fascinated by the development of children’s minds, she returned to university in 1901, this time to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she became a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.

Her desire to help children was so strong, however, that in 1906 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of 60 young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded, on January 6, 1907, the first Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's House." What ultimately became the Montessori method of education developed there, based upon Montessori's scientific observations of these children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials.

 

It is not true that I invented what is called the Montessori Method. I have studied the child, I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it, and that is what is called the Montessori Method.

- Maria Montessori

 

Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do "naturally," by themselves, unassisted by adults.

 

Before elaborating any system of education, we must... create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts. All that is needed is to remove the obstacles. And this should be the basis of, and point of departure for, all future education.

The first thing to be done, therefore, is to discover the true nature of a child and then assist him in his normal development.

- Maria Montessori

 

Children teach themselves. This simple but profound truth inspired Montessori's lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching, and teacher training--all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the child.

 

When a child is given a little leeway, he will at once shout, “I want to do it!” But in our schools, which have an environment adapted to children’s needs, they say, “Help me to do it alone.” And these words reveal their inner needs.

- Maria Montessori

 

Maria Montessori made her first visit to the United States in 1913, the same year that Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington, DC, home. Among her other strong American supporters were Thomas Edison and Helen Keller.

Montessori was a dedicated campaigner for women’s rights, and her experience during Europe during the 1930s led her to add peace education to the Montessori curriculum. “Education,” she said, was “the best weapon for peace.”

In 1940, when hostilities broke out between Italy and Great Britain, she travelled to India with her son, Mario Montessori, but they were interned as enemy aliens. In exile, Montessori was still permitted to conduct teacher training courses. Later, she returned to Europe, founded the Montessori Center in London (1947), and eventually settled in Amsterdam. She died in Noordwijk, Holland, on May 6, 1952.

Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times--in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

 

Today,... those things which occupy us in the field of education are the interests of humanity at large and of civilization, and before such great forces we can recognize only one country—the entire world.  

- Maria Montessori

 

For more on Montessori history, visit:
http://amshq.org/Montessori-Education/History-of-Montessori-Education

For more on the Montessori Method, visit:
http://amshq.org/Montessori-Education/Introduction-to-Montessori