WHO WAS MARIA MONTESSORI?
In this brief overview of Dr. Montessori’s life, one begins to understand how she developed such a thorough, complete, and therefore successful method of education for children based on the intellectual powers and psychological characteristics of the child in each stage of his/her development.
Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870, her studies began in engineering, but later led her to psychology, medicine, and education. She became the first female physician in Italy when she graduated from medical school in 1896. Shortly after, she was chosen to represent Italy at a women’s conferences in Berlin and London.
She partook in world peace conferences as well. In her medical practice, her detailed clinical observations led her to analyze with great precision how children learn. She concluded that they build themselves from interactions with their environment. Shifting her focus from the body to the mind, she returned to the university to study philosophy and psychology in 1901. She was made a professor of anthropology in 1904 at the University of Rome.
Dr. Montessori’s desire to help children was so strong, that in 1906 she gave up her university chair and medical practice to work with young children of working parents in a housing project in San Lorenzo, a poor section of Rome. It was there she founded her first Children’s House and the Montessori Method of education.
This revolutionary method was based on her scientific observations of the childrens’ almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, and their tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of material, every exercise, every method she developed was based on her detailed, accurate observations of what children do naturally and unassisted by adults. This approach renewed their joy of learning. Her powers of observation were so keen, that today’s sophisticated diagnostic tools repeatedly validate her research and work.
Maria Montessori made her first visit to the United States in 1913, the same year Alexander Graham Bell and his wife founded the Montessori Educational Foundation at their Washington, D.C. home. Among her other strong American supporters were Thomas Edison and Helen Keller. Today there are more than a four thousand Montessori schools in the United States.
Recent brain research supports many of the unique qualities that have been a part of Montessori education for over 100 years, including multi-age groupings, peer teaching, individualized curriculum, the use of hands-on materials, and educating for whole child development.
Montessori: A Modern Approach
by PaulaPolk Lillard
The Absorbent Mind
by Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work
by E.M. Standing
Child of the World Catalogue
found at www.michaelolaf.net
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius
by Angeline Lillard, Ph.D
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS OF MONTESSORI
Montessori is just for preschool children.
While the majority of Montessori schools in the United States are preschools, Montessori programs exist at age levels from birth through high school.
Montessori is just for special learners—the gifted or the learning-disabled.
The methods used in Montessori schools are highly effective with both learning-disabled and gifted learners; the reason for their effectiveness, however, is that the learning environments have been designed to ensure success for all children.
Children in Montessori classrooms are relatively unsupervised and can “do whatever they want.”
Montessori is based on the principle of free choice of purposeful activity. If the child is being destructive or is using materials in an aimless way, the teacher will intervene and gently re-direct the child either to more appropriate materials or to a more appropriate use of the material.
Montessori classrooms are too structured.
Although the teacher is careful to make clear the specific purpose of each material and to present activities in a clear, step-by-step order, the child is free to choose from a vast array of activities and to discover new possibilities.
Montessori is against fantasy; therefore, it stifles creativity.
The fact is that the freedom of the prepared environment encourages creative approaches to problem-solving. Fantasy play initiated by the child is a wonderful aspect of the classroom and a joy to observe, creative story telling and play is an extension of the academics that they are developing. In addition art and music activities are integral parts of the Montessori classroom.
Montessori classrooms push children too far too fast.
In a real Montessori Classroom children are not pushed, they are encouraged to explore, question and create. What is happening through this freedom, is developing a love of learning within each and every child. The advanced academics are a bonus; a wonderful, awe-inspiring bonus, but a bonus none-the-less. The “miracle” stories of Montessori children far ahead of traditional expectations for their age level reflect not artificial acceleration but the possibilities open when children are allowed to learn at their own pace in the specially prepared environment.
Harvard Business Review: Montessori Builds Innovators
Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management, says of his Montessori education:
"The teachers gave us a lot of room to explore stuff that we found interesting."
"For me this included the beads Maria and her colleagues came up with to teach us about numbers. No matter how young you are, after you see five beads on a wire next to 25 arranged in a square and 125 in a cube, you have a grasp of 5^2 and 5^3 that doesn't leave you. And after you hold the five-cube in one hand and the ten-cube in another, the power of taking something to the third power becomes very real. One is eight times as heavy as the other!"
"The main thing I learned there is that the world is a really interesting place, and one that should be explored. Can there be any better foundation for an innovator in training?"
Read the full article from the Harvard Business Review at