“Within the child lies the fate of the future.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was born in Italy in 1870, and in 1896, became the first female doctor in Italy. Dr. Montessori based her work on the direct observation of children. She accepted no preconceived opinions or theories about their abilities, nor did she attempt to manipulate their behavior by reward or punishments toward any end. She constantly experimented and developed materials based on the interests, needs and developing abilities of children. As a scientist, Dr. Montessori was among the earliest professionals to recognize the importance of honoring the child’s developmental stages as the true building blocks for education throughout the student’s life.
When Maria Montessori came to America in 1913, she was warmly received as a respected leader in the education of young children. Some of the people who heard her lectures and provided hospitality and encouragement were Samuel McClure of McClure’s Magazine, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, Publisher William Morrow, Harvard professors of education, and throngs of enthusiasts who wanted to see her vision of education thrive. By 1914, there were 100 Montessori schools in America.
The materials, procedures and lessons developed by Dr. Montessori in the early 1900s have withstood the test of time. The skills these materials develop, and their progression from the simple to the complex, meets the needs of children today just as they did in 1907 at Rome’s first Children’s House. We embrace sensorial educational materials, multi-grade levels in one classroom, individualization of instruction, and a focus on the whole child — all attributes emulated by Maria Montessori 100 years ago. It is estimated that the Montessori Method is used in 4,500 schools in the United States, both private and public, and there are 20,000 Montessori schools internationally.
In the Montessori view, the drive to become independent propels human development. Montessori education aims to provide children, from birth to maturity, with learning environments designed to support the development of social, intellectual, and ethical independence. This curriculum provides infants and young children with everyday social skills and accomplishments, trains sensory perception and movement systematically, and provides a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy. It also engages older children in all areas of educational knowledge, including language, mathematics, science, history, geography, creative arts, and physical education.
Montessori learning environments are prepared with the basic principle that children learn best when they learn through their own freely chosen activity. As much freedom and independence as possible is given for their age and stage; a level of freedom matched to their ability to regulate and discipline themselves. When their activity is freely chosen and purposeful, children focus their attention on the activity in order to repeat and perfect what they are doing. As they work, they build their powers of concentration and judgment.
Montessori environments are prepared for multi-age groupings of children. In multi-age groupings, children are able to work through the curriculum at their own pace without being limited to one year of the curriculum only. These groupings provide key learning and development opportunities by:
- encouraging children to aspire to the achievements of older peers; new students enter an established and mature environment with effective role models of both work and social interaction.
- enabling older students to learn to treat younger ones with care and respect, providing them opportunities to reinforce their own learning and understanding through peer teaching.