Dr. Maria Montessori and Her Philosophy Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Ancona, Italy. Her parents moved the family to Rome when she was twelve in order that she could get a better education.Maria Montessori declined the usual profession for women at that time, teaching, in favour of studying what were then considered typically male subjects, i.e., math, engineering and biology.She finally applied for entrance to medical school at the University of Rome and was refused because she was a woman.She persisted until she was finally accepted. Since her father disapproved of her chosen profession, she had to finance herself through school with money from scholarships and tutoring.
In 1896 Maria Montessori became the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School. She then joined the staff of the University in the Psychiatric Clinic where she worked with mentally retarded children in the insane asylums of Rome. This sparked her interest in the field and, after studying the works of two earlier pioneers, Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin, she was asked to set up a school in Rome for mentally challenged children. She worked with these children intensively for two years.
She was so successful in teaching these children to read and write that they were able to pass the examination at a public school along with ?normal? children. This was a startling revelation to Maria Montessori, not only because of the success of her mentally challenged children, but also because she wondered why the training of normal, happy, healthy children in the public schools was so poor that they could be matched in intelligence by her children. She wondered what would happen if these normal children were given the opportunities offered by her method of teaching.
This was a crucial point in Maria Montessori’s career; this is what led her to make the education of children her life’s work.
In order to prepare herself as an educator, she then returned to University to study anthropology, philosophy and psychology. During this same period she did a study on the nervous diseases of children, taught at the Women’s Training College in Rome, practised in local clinics and hospitals, and carried on a private practice of her own. In 1904 she was appointed to the position of Professor of Anthropology at the University.
Three years later she was asked to take over a Day Care Centre in a slum area of Rome which housed immigrant workers. She saw this as her first real opportunity to put her ideas into effect with normal children. There were approximately sixty children between the ages of three and seven years, all of them poor and underprivileged, with illiterate parents.
Dr. Montessori acted as supervisor and hired a girl to do the teaching. The school was a large, bare room with a few toys and some child-sized furniture. The girl she hired was poorly educated and had no training as a teacher, except that Maria Montessori showed her how to present the sensorial apparatus that she had already developed.
Dr. Montessori spent the next few years observing, studying, devising materials, writing and revising her findings. She opened several other schools in Italy to study more children in different settings. The children responded so well to her teachings that her work attracted much publicity and, by 1909, there were Montessori schools all over Italy and Switzerland. In 1909 she also completed her first book, The Montessori Method.
Dr. Montessori was the first to identify, in children from birth to about six years of age, what she refers to as “sensitive periods”. These sensitive periods are now universally recognized in the field of psychology as transitory blocks of time during which children are passionately engaged in particular aspects of the environment to which they direct themselves and which allow them to acquire a certain skill or capacity. During these sensitive periods children learn quickly and with little or no effort on their part. This period belongs in children in their first phase of development, from birth to about six years of age. However, the sensitive periods are limited in time and will pass, never to return, whether or not the function was established. The Montessori environment is designed to meet the needs of these specific sensitive periods so that children are able to reach their full potential in each area of their development.
She also observed that children, in their process of adapting to the world, have an inherent urge to learn and to master the skills required to function in their environment. They absorb everything that surrounds them and use this information in the process of building their personalities. The quality of what they receive is dependent on the quality of the various Xaspects of that environment. Dr. Montessori therefore prepared an enriched environment and specialized materials which meet the needs of children during all phases of their development: intellectually, socially and physically.
In 1912 she made her first visit to the United States and received a tremendous welcome. Her success in the United States was short-lived, due mainly to a critical book published by a professor at Columbia University which was widely read by teaching professionals. In Europe, however, her work flourished and in 1922 she was made Inspector of Schools for the whole of Italy.
The Fascist regime of the time in Italy had control of the public school system and then tried to take control of her schools. She held out as long as she could, but was forced to leave Italy and moved to Barcelona, Spain. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 she moved to the Netherlands, where she remained until her death in 1952, except for a short period in 1939 when she set up a training school in India.
By the time of her death, Maria Montessori had received many honorary degrees and tributes worldwide. In the mid-fifties the Montessori Method experienced resurgence in the United States. By that time the Dewey philosophy of education, which had been so predominant in the first half of the century, was falling out of favour as Americans realized they were getting poor results from the schools.
Evidence was mounting from educational experts and psychologists such as Freud and Piaget that early learning was crucial to later development. These factors led to an enthusiastic revival of the Montessori Method in North America as people sought for better, more productive methods of education. There are now more than a thousand Montessori schools in the United States and Canada.
What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on) forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?
Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.
Are Montessori children successful later in life?
Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.
What is the best age to start a child?
Maria Montessori outlined various periods of “sensitivity”. During these times, a child is more capable of and interested in learning specific concepts. At age 2 ½ to 3 ½ a special sense of order, concentration, coordination, and independence begin to emerge. This time is ideal to begin a child’s learning in Montessori as she is at the perfect period to build a strong foundation for the future learning.
What is the role of the Montessori teacher?
The teacher is called a directress because she facilitates the classroom activity. She is the link that put the child in touch with the prepared environment. The directress should know the general function of the prepared environment, nature and the purpose of every piece of the materials and the age it suited for the child. She carefully plans and helps the children progress from one activity to the next.
The importance of the Early Years, Maria Montessori, emphasized the need for early education. She wrote, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to age six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed”. In the first six years of life, a child has a unique special ability to constantly absorb impressions from the environment, without knowing that it is doing so like a sponge. The child absorbs his environment so closely that it becomes a part of him. Like a camera, they capture every detail in the environment. That is why, the first six years of life is the most important stage in the development of a child. They copy everything they see or hear.
Isn’t Montessori School expensive?
Tuition in Montessori preschools throughout the country is sometimes higher than other preschools because of the extensive materials and curriculum, specially designed environment, and highly trained staff. To give your child the finest possible experience in the most sensitive years is to provide a strong foundation for growth, which will last a lifetime. That is why, here at Kids First MONTESSORI SCHOOL, we try our best to accommodate every family with a low tuition.
How do Montessori children adjust to public schools?
Children who have been in a Montessori environment are generally very flexible and adjust quite easily to the public school situation. They are usually better prepared to be good students and spend their time in productive ways because of their self direction and positive attitude towards learning.
Specific Details of the Montessori method as practiced in Montessori Schools
Protection of the “best” in each child through respect of choice and concentration
The most important discovery that Dr. Montessori has contributed to the field of child development and education is the fostering of the best in each child. She discovered that in an environment where children are allowed to choose their work and to concentrate for as long as needed on that task, that they come out of this period of concentration (or meditation or contemplation) refreshed and full of good will toward others. The teacher must know how to offer work, to link the child to the environment who is the real teacher, and to protect this process. We know now that this natural goodness and compassion are inborn, and do not need to be taught, but to be protected.
There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning and level of work.
Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other – cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community, etc.