Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870 to middle class, well educated parents. She was the first woman in Italy to receive a degree in Medicine.
As a doctor Maria chose pediatrics and psychiatry as her specialities. During her practice Maria developed a special interest in observing the behavior of young children and through these observations, derived that their young minds needed experience and stimulation in the environment to exercise their senses. Through Dr. Montessori's extensive research about early childhood and education, followed by a degree in pedagogy, evolved 'The Montessori Method'. This method combined elements, ideas and methods of all the disciplines she had by far studied.
The Montessori Method
'Education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and acquired not by listening to words but by experiment upon the environment.'
Learning in a Montessori environment occurs in combination with a child’s natural curiosities, a prepared environment that displays many activities called ‘work’ and a trained Montessori guide (teacher) who recognizes this interest as an indication the child has reached a ‘sensitive period’ where his interests allow learning to occur effortlessly. The child experiences an intrinsic reward – inner satisfaction – for his efforts. Through repetition the child gains proficiency and can progress to more abstract or detailed work. Building on his own successes leads to the “life-long learner” that people hear so often of Montessori students. Conducive to the child’s efforts is the Montessori classroom, which is a calm and tranquil environment that respects the innate dignity of the child. The guide gives lessons for an activity in one of many areas. Children are free to choose work which satisfies and stimulates their interest. The work is designed to succeed with a logical series of steps, which builds inner discipline and success, since many of the materials are self correcting.
Respect is our foundation for learning and becoming contributing members of society. The Montessori approach is based upon principles of freedom and limits within a prepared environment, which has a definite order. This encourages the child to develop at his own speed in a non-competitive atmosphere. Providing positive direction, the Montessori guide and parents realize the importance of allowing a child to develop in his own time and not along a pre-conceived timeline. This is the Montessori meaning of true freedom.
A Montessori education is not accelerated learning at an early age, although academic achievement is often a result. This is due to the fact that Montessori training takes full advantage of a child’s intense desire for knowledge. While it is true many Montessori children discover reading and writing at an early age, rather than an end in itself, it is a by-product of the joy the child discovers in his abilities.
The Montessori approach succeeds because it draws it’s principles from the natural development of the child. The inherent flexibility allows the approach to adapt to the needs of the individual, regardless of the level of ability, learning style or social maturity.