Montessori

The Founder

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children should be given the room to grow and be creative with minimal intrusion from adults. All children have certain basic rights and if they are left to explore the world around them they are able to grow into the individual they are truly meant to be.

In 1896, Maria Montessori was the first woman to obtain the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Montessori went on to dedicate her life to help women and children of low socio – economic status. One of her most notable successes was that she took a class of 8 year old “mentally retarded” children and had them pass the state’s standard examinations.

Dr. Montessori opened the “Casa de Bambini” on January 6, 1907, or “Children’s House”, in Rome. She did not believe in forcing any child to do something because some book said it was necessary because doing that would mean pushing a child into a stage of development the child was not ready for and infringing on the child’s natural development. She theorized that there are three stages of development; the first is from 0 to 6 years old, the second from 6 to 12 years old and the third from 12 to 18 years old.

Dr. Montessori’s method has been implemented all over the world and has in fact created not only a revolution in education but a social revolution as well. It was a social revolution because in her time it was not practice to let the child explore their environment during instruction. Montessori developed a method that incorporates everything she observed the child to need at their own pace.

References:

Standing, E. M. (1957). Maria Montessori: Her life and Work. New York: New American Library.
The Nienhuis Group: The Montessori Collection. (Catalog) The Nienhuis Montessori U.S.A., Inc.

The Montessori Method

Dr. Montessori found that “discovery” or self-learning” was the key to the learning process. One of her original discoveries was that children between birth and sixth year go through sensitivity periods during which they show an insatiable curiosity for the acquisition of particular knowledge and skills, for example, for language, motor activity, neatness, courtesy, dimension, mathematics, music etc. If a sensitivity period is ignored, it is lost forever so far as optimum results are concerned. This is why it is desirable to begin a child as early as possible in a Montessori environment. In these formative years a child has an amazing learning potential, an absorbent mind which “soaks up knowledge as a sponge soaks up water”, as described by Dr. Montessori.

Observing that children “first” learn through their senses, Dr. Montessori developed sensorial material to help them classify and organize the many impressions their minds hold. The sensorial materials stimulate and develop the curiosity necessary for assimilating basic knowledge later. A child learns to match, grade and differentiate through his senses. Montessori apparatus also provides a child with concrete examples of abstract items, such as the globe, continents, squares, cubes, multiplication, division, etc. A young child has one objective, his self-development. He desperately wants to do for himself, rather than have things done for him by an adult. The Montessori Method assists a child to learn through his own initiative. The objective is not only that a child should learn to read and write, but that he develop a love of order, a methodical approach to his work and thinking, and that he develop a respect for the rights of others in his environment. The objectives and philosophy of a Montessori education are self mastery, self discipline and the joy of learning. This allows each child to develop to his maximum potential and thus make a unique contribution to society. These habits can be transferred beneficially to the classroom situation, and even more importantly, to any life situation.

The Montessori Classroom & the “Prepared Environment”

A Montessori classroom provides what Dr. Montessori referred to as “the prepared environment” for learning. Shelves, tables, chairs and sinks are scaled to child size. What makes a Montessori classroom visually unique are beautiful and unusual teaching materials. The materials are on low shelves easily accessible to children. Each piece of material has a teaching purpose and is presented in a precise manner to the child.

Once a child has been introduced to these materials, he may work with whatever piece of apparatus he wishes, and learns through voluntary repetition of the exercise. A child is not permitted to interfere with the work of another, unless he is invited. The teacher maintains a record of the work of each child.

Why Montessori?

Dr. Montessori also believed that no human being is educated by another person. He must do it himself or it will never be done. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years he spends in the classroom because he is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather “to cultivate his own desire to learn.”

In the Montessori classroom this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his own choice rather than by being forced; and second, by helping him to perfect all his natural tools for learning, so that his ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. The Montessori materials have this dual long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.

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