Dr Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. Shortly afterwards, she was chosen to represent Italy at two different women conferences in Berlin in 1896 and in London in 1900.
With her medical practice and her clinical observations led her to analyse how learners learn, and she concluded that they build themselves from what they find in their environment. Shifting her focus from the body to mind, she returned to the university in 1901, this time to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she was made Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rome. From there she founded the first Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House.Learners teach themselves.
This simple but profound truth inspired Montessori’s lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching, and educator training all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the learner.Dr Maria Montessori made her first visit to the United States in 1913, the same year that Alexander Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington DC, home. Among her other strong American supporters were Thomas Edison and Helen Keller.In 1915, she attracted world attention with her glass house schoolroomexhibit at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. She also conducted an educator- training course and addressed the annual convention of the National Education Association and the International Kindergarten Union.
The Spanish government invited her to open a research institute in 1917. In 1919, she began a series of educator training courses in London. In 1922, she was appointed a government inspector of schools in her native Italy. She then opened the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands in1938 and founded a series of educator training courses in India in 1939. Later she founded the Montessori Centre in London in 1947.
She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. What ultimately became the Montessori Method of education developed there, based upon Montessori scientific observations of these learners almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating the learning materials. In her Montessori equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed a learner to learn naturally, by themselves, unassisted by adults.
Dr Montessori died in Noordwijk, Holland in 1952, but her work lives on throughout the world. There are Montessori schools in more than 60 countries on six continents around the globe. Today educationalists and philosophers often find inspiration in the life and work of Dr Maria Montessori.There have been many Montessori supporters throughout history who have attended Montessori schools or who have sent their children to Montessori schools. A few being Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, Ann Frank, Thomas Edison, Leo Tolstoy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Friedrich Hundertwasser, Jacqueline Kennedy, Prince William and Prince Harry, Cher, Bono, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Why do parents choose Montessori?
There are many reasons parents might choose Montessori, including:
Children develop independence, leadership skills, and self-esteem
Learning happens naturally and at the childs own pace
Teachers act as guides for the children, as opposed to strict authority figures
Children can work in small groups
Special needs children tend to do well in a Montessori setting because they receive special, individually-tailored attention
Students are able to study materials in a way that works with their individual style of learning. For instance, a student may be asked if he is ready for a particular task or lesson at hand. Children can also choose what kind of work they would like to do.
Montessori is a great method for establishing independence and well-roundedness.
The Teachers Role As mentioned earlier, the teacher is not so much a strict authority figure in a Montessori school as aguidefor the childs learning and understanding. Teachers allow children to make their own choices and encourage them to be responsible and independent by preparing their own snacks, pouring themselves milk, and looking after their belongings.
Academics in Montessori
In a Montessori classroom, a strong emphasis is put on the academics. If your child is in a Montessori program you can expect them to:
Learn at their own pace: In the classroom, toys and learning materials are arranged such so that a child can see all the possible options and select a task according to his interests. As a result, each child learns at his own pace.
Develop independence:Aside from cultivating creative problem-solving skills, a child in a Montessori program will also develop skills to help them practically and academically. Students learn how to look after themselves by having to go through routine activities such as cleaning up, putting on their own coats, and going to the bathroom without assistance.
Gain sensory awareness:Instead of simply intellectually knowing something, a child in a Montessori program will also feel, smell, taste, hear, or touch what they are learning about.
Develop language abilities:Children will learn how to express their thoughts and feelings with their words, and are given the tools to understand written language and grammar through activities which teach them to recognize letters.
Understand math concepts:Mathematics and geometry are also taught with the hands-on method. Rather than memorizing numbers, a student may be given tangible objects or manipulatives that represent different numerical values.
Appreciate cultures:Finally, students are also taught to understand and appreciate different elements of culture and aspects of other places, such as studying places where different animals live, or cultural subjects such as the science, art, music, and history.
It prepares your child for primary school with advanced learning skills by providing the bridging skills needed for school readiness and to excel in that next environment.
It establishes a sound foundation of early life skills which are necessary to be suitably equipped for modern day life. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life, academically socially and emotionally. They score well above average showing responsibility, enthusiasm for learning and adapting to new situations – all of which are crucial outcomes if a child is to be appropriately equipped for coping with the challenges of fast paced modern day life.
Practical life skills are learnt in a nurturing environment. Think of all the simple routine tasks which adults perform each day, such as getting dressed and washed, preparing food, setting and clearing a table at meal times, washing up and generally cleaning and tidying the house. These are all practical life skills. The crucial difference between the view of the adult and that of the child is that, whereas the adult is interested in the end result, a child is fascinated by the activity itself. Children are keenly interested in these activities and want to learn them- this is the childs way of adapting to the world around and constructing reality. A Montessori education includes specifically formulated activities which impart practical life skills in a nurturing environment.
Scientifically designed specific materials are used to facilitate learning and develop muscular co-ordination. Materials are child sized yet functional. The materials help develop the childs muscular co-ordination and some prepare their muscles for later specific tasks such as writing. Exercises are therefore activity based to suit the needs of children in the 18 months to 5 year age group. In particular Montessori emphasises learning through all five senses and not only through the more traditional approaches of listening, watching and reading.
Each child is allowed to develop at their own pace which promotes independence and self-reliance. In pursuit of this end, learning materials and exercises contain a control of error so that children may correct their own mistakes and guide themselves towards successful and independent completion of tasks. This own pace approach permits children to attain levels far ahead of their age if they choose, or have the ability to do so. Underpinning this approach, the Montessori teacher acts as a facilitator and guides the child ensuring however that the childs sense of independence and self-reliance are developed and nurtured.
Spontaneity and individuality are encouraged. In terms of this teaching method learning is seen as an exciting process of discovery for the child leading to the development of concentration, motivation, self discipline and a love of work. A Montessori education apart from establishing a robust foundation for future academic learning will provide a nurturing environment in which your child is free to develop his/her own identity.
Vocabulary development is enhanced. Your child is taught the specific language for the new experiences that he/she acquires within the Montessori environment and consequently vocabulary development is enhanced.
Social and emotional development is fostered. A typical Montessori classroom is orderly, clean and inviting. Children take an active part in caring for their school and each other and therefore learn to respect their environment, their peers and adultsa. The holistic Montessori approach aims to prepare children to impact their environment positively throughout life as valuable members of society.
“The first duty of an education is to stir up life, but leave it free to develop”