Who was Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1890. Against the norms of the time and with much difficulty she became Italy’s first female doctor.
On working in an asylum in Rome she became interested in the development of children with special needs. Her interest continued and after much study in the field of pedagogy she opened the first Casa di Bambini in the slums of Rome.
Throughout her life, which she dedicated to the development of children and the foundation of peace in civilisation, she traveled the world spreading her ideas on the rights of children to education and self development.
What were her educational beliefs?
Maria Montessori contended that the child has an essential need to sensorial input in order to develop to his or her fullest potential.
The essential tool for the child’s development is the activity of his or her hands.
The child has an “absorbent mind” which allows him or her to learn at a remarkable pace without need of formal instruction; the child simply absorbs everything in the environment by experiencing it and being part of it.
The child needs freedom of choice and movement in a prepared environment in order to achieve independence and self fulfilment.
The child can best be assisted by adults who follow the interests and desires of the child in order to develop his or her own natural abilities to the fullest.
Why are they relevant today?
Montessori’s beliefs are as relevant today as they were when she first spoke about the potential of the child.
Her insistence on hands-on materials, that allow the child to learn through his or her senses in a concrete way, has been adopted into many modern educational programmes.
Montessori’s belief that the child should choose his or her own material and be allowed to use it for as long as they wish, uninterrupted, leads to greater concentration and self discipline.
For young adults Montessori believed that they should be involved in the world around them, taking on responsibility for themselves and the community in which they live.
Where can I read more?
Montessori herself wrote many books, and many more have been written about her life and her method.
A good place to start is with the following books:
Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education by Trevor Eissler
Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E.M Standing
Montessori from the Start: the Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen
Montessori: the Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll-Lillard
If you wish to read some of Montessori’s own books:
Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori
Discovery of the Child by Maria MontessorI
Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori