About Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori Before Maria Montessori became interested in a life as an educator, she became a doctor of medicine. Born in 1870, she was one of the first female physicians in Italy when she graduated from medical school in 1896. While practicing medicine, she was curious about how children learn from what they find in their environment. In 1901, she returned university to study psychology and philosophy and in 1904 she became professor of anthropology at the University of Rome. In 1906, she left her medical practice and university chair to pursue her desire to help children.

Her method of teaching developed in the early 1900’s after many years of observing both normal and “deficient” children work in a variety of atmospheres. She began to develop materials and exercises based around her ideas. Her method can be broken down in to three parts; philosophy, the program, and the model.

The Montessori Philosophy is focused around the idea of respecting all children and their individuality, their differences. It encourages independence and responsibility and is based on the developmental levels of children. Her method, developed through her findings, is designed to coincide with these natural levels. Because her activities focus in on many different levels, they cannot be taught in the traditional sense. Lessons are given primarily to individual children or in small groups when it is most appropriate for that child. She acknowledged that all children develop in the same sequence, but not necessarily at the same time.

The Program is what makes each Montessori school unique. Many decisions are made by the teacher; she is able to create units and themes, she is also able to set boundaries for which she feels will be most beneficial for her school and the children. Because all personalities are different, so will all Montessori schools.

The Model in the Montessori Method is the actual environment where the children and teacher meet. The environment is made up of the following:

  • Macro-environment: Design of the classroom and how it is setup (shelves, tables, etc)
  • Micro-environment: The materials sequentially placed on the shelves, what is offered in the classroom
  • Interactions: These are interactions between those in the room, including teacher to child, child to child, and child to teacher

It is the role of the teacher to prepare the environment creating materials and an atmosphere that lends itself to auto-education, allowing for independence and multi-sensory education and provide materials that require the child to use and refine his or her senses. Maria often referred to the children at this stage in development as “absorbent minds”. She believed that the children will soak up all that is around them, both positive and negative. Knowing this, the teacher must create a positive environment where the children can take in sensory experiences, building a concrete understanding of the world around them. The environment also needs to be pleasing and appealing for the students, bonding them to it, creating an inner desire to help care for it. This is their house!

“We may say that the adult works to perfect his environment, whereas the child works to perfect himself, using the environment as the means” E.M. Standing