Montessori is an educational approach based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, a philosophy that believes in respecting the whole child. In 1896, Dr. Maria Montessori was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. While working with mentally and physically challenged children, Montessori developed learning materials which proved very successful with these handicapped children. Later Montessori was asked to direct a preschool for socially disadvantaged children, and again her learning materials proved very successful. Her Casa dei Bambini or Children’s House became world famous and eventually Montessori gave up her medical practice. Dr. Maria Montessori spent the rest of her life training teachers in the use of her methods and working for the rights of children.
In short, Montessori rejected the idea that teachers are of all knowledge. Instead she believed that teachers act as facilitators between children and the prepared environment. The prepared environment contains specially designed materials that are self – correcting, encourage learning through the senses and introduce abstract concepts to children in a concrete manner. Montessori also believed that children should have a freedom to explore and make their own choices in the prepared environment. In choosing work that interests the child, he or she will be drawn to exercises which serve immediate satisfaction to their development. The child is learning without any conscious effort. Montessori referred to this intelligence as an “absorbent mind”. “A young child, for example, may climb the stairs twenty times a day, not because he has to get to the second floor, but because the act of climbing is, at that point, essential to his maturation.” Finally, Montessori believed the prepared environment should maintain order. All furniture and work should be child sized and should all have a particular place to go. In the prepared environment the child has free choice of activities, freedom to move about the room, ability to examine activities through the senses, continue a work over and over, and, freedom to work at his own pace, helping the child develop concentration and self – discipline.
To learn more about Maria Montessori, please visit American Montessori Society’s website at http://www.amshq.org/montessori.htm.