The Montessori Method
Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Italy and moved to Rome with her parents at age five . Her mother was well educated and encouraged her daughter to explore her natural inclinations. Maria went to the University of Rome, enrolling in the College of Medicine. The school thought she was a male since they had misspelled her name to “Mario” so they accepted her.
In a male dominated society, women had many restrictions, but regardless of the obstacles Maria pursued her degree. Eventually she achieved respect, graduating as the first woman in Italy to be certified as a Medical doctor. She specialized in surgery and the disease of women and children.
Dr. Montessori noticed that disabled children could be helped by stimulation that let them exercise their senses and occupy their minds. She started studying works by various doctors who used this method. Eventually she returned to school to study Education. Philosophy and Psychology.
Maria Montessori was offered a challenging job working with children from the slums of Rome. The children were neglected and had behavioral problems. Montessori took their destructive energy and turned it into something productive leaving the children with a sense of accomplishment. She also encouraged parents to recognize their children. Maria Montessori tried to understand the child’s needs by observing a child’s actions closely. This formed the basis for the Montessori method.
She changed the pre- school environment providing child size furniture and floor mats, letting the child feel happy and motivated to learn.
Some of the themes in Montessori include: Mental concentration stemming from the child’s own interest, learning by repetition , love of order, freedom of choice: letting the child choose their own material; work over play: children choose educational material over toys; dealing with disruptive behavior without reward or punishment ; children’s inner peace; personal dignity; learning writing by tracing the form of letters, reading after the skill of writing; self discipline through liberty, order, respect and cosmic discipline.
Maria Montessori started giving seminars in Europe and the U.S. About one hundred schools were started in the U.S. but when World War II broke out people lost interest. She left America traveling to England, started a school and training College in Spain, gave a course in Italy , moved to Holland and later India where she opened schools and training centers.
Finally she devoted herself to visiting the training centers throughout the world. After being honored with many prestigious awards; including being nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Price, she passed away in Holland in 1952, leaving us with a great Philosophy for teaching our children.