History of Montessori Education
(Copied from Chaminade University)
A Brief History of the Montessori Philosophy Maria Montessori, who lived from 1870 to 1952, was a brilliant and original educator, scientist, healer, humanitarian and philosopher. Soon after graduating from medical school in Rome and stimulated by her further studies in psychology. she worked with children with mental and physical challenges. She based her teaching methods on principles of two prominent French physicians whose research she admired, Itard and Seguin. Remarkably, the children progressed so quickly that Montessori signed them up for ordinary school exams, which they passed without difficulty.
Montessori then turned her thoughts to the education of the ordinary child. She returned to University to further her academic work in educational philosophy, psychology and anthropology. In 1907 she organized schools in Rome. She found after careful and lengthy observation of children, that given the opportunities and thoughtfully developed materials, they could thrive and quickly absorb complex skills and sophisticated knowledge. Children under her guidance also developed self discipline. For two decades, Montessori observed children and then tied her observations into the theories she wrote about.
Montessori Schools were introduced to North America in 1912 and now there are over 2,500 schools in North America. Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide. Montessori developed many of the materials that we see in the early childhood settings of today, for example; child sized furniture and learning toys (virtually unavailable until the 1960’s). A Young Child’s Special Mind The most basic principle in Montessori’s theory of education is that the learning capacity of a young child is fundamentally different from that of an adult. Montessori frequently compared the young child’s mind to asponge. It literally absorbs information from the environment. Since the child retains this ability until they are almost seven years old, Dr. Montessori reasoned that a child could handle materials which would demonstrate basic educational information to him/her.
Over 100 years of experience have proved her theory that a child can learn to read, write and calculate the same natural way that the child learns to walk and talk. In the Montessori classroom, the equipment allows the child to do this at his/her own periods of interest and readiness. Sensitive Periods Another observation of Dr. Montessori’s which has been reinforced by modern research, is the importance of sensitive periods for early learning. These are periods of intense fascination for learning a particular characteristic or skill, such as going up and down steps, putting things in order, counting and reading. It is easier for the child to learn a particular skill during the corresponding sensitive period than at any other time in her life. The Montessori classroom takes advantage of this fact by allowing the child freedom to select individual activities that correspond to his/her own periods of interest.
“| do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Author, Nobel Laureate, Montessori Alumnus)