Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a "blank slate" waiting to be written upon. Her main contributions to the work of those of us raising and educating children are in these areas:
- Preparing the most natural and life supporting environment for the child.
- Observing the child living freely in this environment.
- Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his greatest potential -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Montessori is a personalized teaching approach that recognizes that children learn with a unique style and pace. It is a child-centered holistic approach acknowledging that child development and education involves many aspects: physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and moral. This means that the children's daily activities are based on their own needs, strengths, and developmental stages.
The structure in a Montessori classroom allows freedom of movement and free choice of activities. This encourages the development of independence, initiative and decision making. Children interact socially throughout the school day, which fosters the development of positive social skills. Older children serve as models, which can decrease negative or maladaptive behavior.
The Montessori learning environment changes and grows with the developmental needs of children. The learning materials offer concrete, multi-sensorial experiences that actively engage children, correcting, giving immediate feedback, and increasing their opportunities for self directed work. The materials contain many aims, or goals, and can often be explored at different levels. The classroom director assesses children's developmental progress, learning styles and interests through observation. The Montessori environment allows children with quite different developmental needs to learn side-by-side with the same materials.
Key Concepts and Practices
Teachers educated in the Montessori philosophy and methodology appropriate to the age level they are teaching, who have the ability and dedication to put the key concepts into practice.
- A partnership with the family. The family is considered an integral part of the individual's total development.
- A multi-aged, multi-graded, heterogeneous group of students.
- A diverse set of Montessori materials, activities, and experiences, which are designed to foster physical, intellectual, creative and social independence.
- A schedule that allows large blocks of uninterrupted time to problem solve, see the interdisciplinary connections of knowledge, and create new ideas.
- A classroom atmosphere that encourages social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching, and emotional development.
Even so those who teach little children too often have the idea that they are educating babies and seek to place themselves on the child's level of approaching him with games, and often with foolish stories. Instead of all this, we must know how to call the man which lies dormant within the soul of the child. I felt this intuitively, and believed that not the didactic material, but my voice which called to them, awakened the children, and encouraged them to use the didactic material, and through it, to educate themselves. -- Maria Montessori