The Montessori method of teaching young children was developed by Italian educator and physician, Dr. Maria Montessori. One of the most influential pioneers in early childhood education, her ideas have become known and recognized throughout the world and have significantly influenced mainstream education.
Put simply, the Montessori method is an educational philosophy based on the belief that all children possess an innate desire to learn, explore their world, and be independent – from a very young age. With emphasis placed on a deep respect for the child and their vast inner potential, the teachers take on a more observational role and follow the principle, “help the child to help himself.”
Children learn best by doing things for themselves. In a Montessori environment, the children are given the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge and skills through their own interests and hands-on experience. This measure of freedom allows each child to develop good working habits, social interaction, self-discipline and self-esteem, initiative, and powers of deliberation. Children are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and trust their own ability to think and solve problems independently. With the capacity to choose and complete one’s own work comes a deeper sense of self-worth.
Just as in a family, the ages are mixed together in one class. Being looked up to as role models by younger children and having the opportunity to show what they have already learned is an opportunity all children eagerly await to experience, which has powerful benefits for both the younger and older children.
When you visit a Montessori classroom, you will notice that everyone is busy and interested in what they are doing. One child is experimenting with magnets, others are working together on a puzzle, and several children are cooking up delicious treats in the play kitchen . The Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adults in charge; it is, instead, a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of independence and a sense of personal empowerment. This is a children’s community. They move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest. All children are responsible for the care of their own child-sized environment. When they are hungry, they prepare their own snack. They use the bathroom with little to no assistance. When something spills, they help each other carefully clean up.
- Mixed-age classrooms
- Lengthy, uninterrupted blocks of work time
- Special self-correcting educational materials developed by Dr. Maria Montessori herself that are placed on low, open shelves. Students learn concepts from working with these materials rather than by direct instruction
- Beauty, harmony, order and cleanliness
Founder of Montessori Education
Born in Italy, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School. In 1907, she opened the first Montessori school, called the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House). The school was located in the worst slum district of Rome and the class consisted of fifty children between two and five years of age. Using the classroom as her laboratory for observing children, she devised a method of education based on the central ideas of freedom for the child within a carefully planned and structured environment.
The great pioneering achievement of Dr. Montessori was to recognize the crucial importance of a child’s first six years of development. It is during this time that a child’s powers of absorption are highest, and lifelong attitudes and patterns of learning are firmly formed. Dr. Montessori traveled the world, establishing schools and lecturing about her discoveries. Her books have been translated in more than 20 languages and the Montessori method has become part of every good teacher-training course.
Today, nearly 100 years later, her revolutionary concepts bring a sense of joy, freedom, and achievement to classrooms throughout the world. Her schools continue to thrive and expand – a tribute to her inspirational insight – which has helped change the course of early childhood education.