MARIA MONTESSORI, M.D.
Maria Montessori, M.D., (1870-1952) was a leader in the field of early childhood education. Her outstanding success first at Rome’s Orthophrenic School and later in 1907 at the first “Children’s House” was attributed primarily to her methods and materials.
Dr. Montessori discovered that children have an inherent drive for independence and that their physical, mental and emotional development is linked to purposeful movement. She observed that even very young children have exceptional powers of concentration. Most importantly, she noted that children learn in a manner that is unique to each age – the very young child unconsciously absorbs his environment. She concluded that adults do not teach children – children teach themselves.
A Montessori classroom is a multi-age setting in which children learn from each other and because of each other. Younger children are excited to “see what is coming” as they observe older children work. Older children reinforce their knowledge as they share it with younger children. Everyone learns to take responsibility for themselves, the group and the environment.
Montessori staff prepares a beautiful, rich and ordered environment so that each child will feel safe, secure, challenged and respected. When the child first becomes intensely absorbed in his work, he has taken the initial step toward genuine self-discipline. In the words of Dr. Montessori, “A child who can control himself is free to learn.” Our job, as educators, is to assist this process.
The Montessori teacher is often described as the spark that links each child to the environment. She guides the child through the curriculum, based upon observations of each child’s interests and periods of readiness. The Montessori Method of education is oriented toward the experience of learning so that children learn how to learn. In this way, Dr. Montessori described her approach as a “help to life” rather than an educational system in the conventional sense.
A child who is observant, organized, excited, self-disciplined and task-oriented discovers the feeling of self-confidence which accompanies a job well done. Such a child becomes a life-long learner.