Montessori method

“The child, with their enormous physical and intellectual potential, is a miracle in front of us. This fact should be transmitted to all parents, educators and others interested in children, because education from the beginning of life could really change the present and future of society.” María Montessori

The basic principles of the Montessori method are:

  • The Child’s Absorbent Mind: Children’s minds have a wonderful and unique ability: the ability to acquire knowledge absorbing everything happening around them. They learn everything unconsciously, endlessly, just by living, and gradually go from this unconsciousness to consciousness.
  • Sensitive Periods: Sensitive periods are periods in which children can acquire a skill and strengthen learning easily. These are specific sensitivities at given ages allowing children to interact with the external world and absorb everything from it.
  • The Prepared Environment: This means an environment that is carefully organised for the child, designed to encourage self-learning, growth, and self-correction. It will help develop the children’s social, emotional and intellectual aspects, as well as tending to their needs for order and security. The features of the Prepared Environment allow the development of the child without constant assistance and supervision by an adult.
    The design of these environments is based on the principles of simplicity, beauty and order. Spaces are bright and warm, including language, plants, art, music and books. The room is organised in work areas, fitted with tables adapted to the size of children and large areas for working on the ground. Shelves with materials belonging to each development area surround each of these sections. The materials are organised systematically and graded according to their difficulty.
  • The Montessori Guide: The role of the adult in the Montessori philosophy is to guide the children and to allow them to get to know their environment respectfully and lovingly, being a conscious observer and constantly learning and growing personally.
    The true teacher is at the service of the learner and, therefore, must cultivate humility, walk with the children, learn from them and createa joint community.
Montessori method (more info)

Maria Montessori (31st August, 1870 – 6th May, 1952), Italian educator, scientist, doctor, psychiatrist, philosopher, psychologist, devoted catholic, feminist and humanist.

She was an Italian woman from the 19th century. She belonged to a wealthy social class and could not aspire to any higher aim than being a school teacher, which was no small achievement.

In this social context, the figure of Maria Montessori arose, a young lady who had studied Engineering and Biology and dreamed of becoming a doctor. After many attempts, Maria was accepted to study Medicine, earning her PhD with outstanding academic results. Thus, she became the first female doctor in Italy,where women were not allowed to study Medicine at University.

She specialised in Psychiatry. It was not long before she felt a special interest in children with some type of “mental deficiency”, “troubled children” removed from society, since they were considered impossible to educate and a huge economic expense.

Soon, Maria noticed that these children had the possibility to develop their intellectual capacities, even though these were lessened.

In few months, she taught these children how to read and write. They even passed the exams given to children without those impairments.

After this surprising achievement, Montessori came to the conclusion that healthy children were underdeveloped.

Thus, she felt that applying her new method with children, she could exponentially multiply their education development. Integrating children with certain deficiencies and normal children could be an option,allowing a natural coexistence of both in the same education atmosphere.

She needed to study these ideas in more depth in order to understand human behaviour, so she went back to University for further training.

She based her works on the essays by two French research doctors whose ideas she respected: Jean Itard and Édouard Séguin.

Itard may be remembered for the famous caseof the “wild child” of Aveyron. She owes to him her contributions in the field of a new pedagogy based on the observation of the child and the non-imposition of the teachings by the teacher.

Séguin, who also studied with Itard and who is considered the father of “Special Education”, focused his work on a pedagogical method based on motor development and sensory stimulation.
In 1906, he decided to take charge of 60 minors whose parents worked during the daytime.

Thus, he founded the Children’s House, where he developed what would be known as the Montessori method of teaching. All his theories were based on what he saw the children do on their own, without adult supervision. The premise that children are their own teachers, and that they need freedom and a multitude of options to choose from in order to learn, inspired Maria Montessori in all her battles towards reforming the methodology and psychology of education.

Interesting links:

Recommended readings:

  • Pitamic, Maja: Teach Me To Do It Myself.
  • Montessori, Maria: The Absorbent Mind.
  • Montanaro, Silvana: Understanding the Human Being.
  • Wild, Rebecca: Education for Being.
  • Montessori, Maria: Education for a New World.
  • Montessori, Maria: The Child.
  • Montessori, Maria: The Montessori Method: scientific pedagogy as applied to the education of children from seven to eleven years.
  • Montessori, Maria:The Child in the Family.
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