“Maria Montessori was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome’s school of medicine. Dr. Maria Montessori gained recognition for her work in math and the established sciences. She also pursued study in the newer disciplines of the day: anthropology and psychiatry. These two areas of interest would be of great value to her in her work as a scientist. Her approach to education was based on her scientific observations as well as her belief that the education of children was the means to create a better society. She observed children around the world and found that the laws of development were universal and inherent in children of all races and cultures. The Montessori approach to education from birth to maturity continues to be respected and practiced internationally today.
Montessori education sees the child as a unique human being in the process of self-formation, one who often has quite accurate instincts about what it is that he or she needs to do next in order to grow and to learn. Montessori schools facilitate this discovery through specially prepared environments that support a child’s intellectual and spiritual growth. In Montessori classrooms, children are grouped according to developmental planes, with an age range of approximately three / six years in each level. Children work for uninterrupted blocks of time on the work of their own choosing, from a variety of meaningful activities, often involving specially developed manipulative materials that help children grasp abstract concepts concretely. Children are free to move about the classroom as they need, and are given both great freedom and great responsibility.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children are in the process of self-construction, and will naturally seek out new ideas through curiosity and an innate drive to learn. She saw her educational method as a model for peace in society; and the skills of cooperation, respect and self-control that students develop in a Montessori environment are the ones that lead to a happy and fulfilling life. Yet it was her gift to children—her gift of truly seeing, understanding, and respecting children—that led to her greatest accomplishment: the development of a unique approach to the education of children. Her approach remains as powerful, inventive and child-responsive today as it was in 1907 when she opened her first school. We stay true to Maria Montessori’s vision by maintaining the standards of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which she founded.
Within the child lies the fate of the future.
Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori had no internet but she did have excellent training in observational skills through her training to become a medical doctor before the age of diagnostic equipment. After her medical studies, she also studied anthropology. This combination of studies, combined with her inquisitive mind, gave her the possibility of looking at child development – not from the point of view of an educator, but from the point of view of wonderment, of questioning what best supports normal human development. She did not begin her work with a selection of developmental theories; she began by observing children, children given a space in which to spend time, children given a certain level of freedom. She then sat and observed, spoke with the adults with whom she was collaborating, and refined her “experiment.” She eliminated toys and experiences that, in general, did not apply to all children – or activities that did not capture the children’s interest. Over a number of years, she continued to observe, refine, and discuss her findings, creating what we have today known as the Montessori Method. Human development is a long process, a process which cannot be managed but a process which does need understanding and support. We cannot force it – we can only recognize it and offer our best efforts to both understand and accept it. From our Montessori point of view, it is THE normal progression of life. For this reason Montessori called her approach “psycho-pedagogy” not an educational method.
1896: Maria graduates to great public acclaim from the University of Rome School of Medicine. She is the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. Maria also studied anthropology, biology and psychiatry. As an early feminist she represents Italy at the 1896 Women’s Conference in Berlin where, among other things, she is a strong advocate for equal pay.
1896-1907: Dr. Montessori’s work brings her into close contact with children. During this period, the Italian Minister of Education appoints her as the Director of the Scuola Ortofrenica. This institution was dedicated to the care and education of youngsters that were considered “cognitively challenged”. Through the development of her Montessori method, many of these 8-year-old students are able to pass standard testing with above-average scores.
1907: Dr. Montessori opens Casa dei Bambini or “Children’s House,” for children ages 3 to 6 years in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Lorenzo, Italy.
1913: Dr. Montessori makes her first visit to the United States.; Montessori Educational Association is founded by Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Mabel.
1915: Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco: Dr. Montessori receives international attention with her “glass house” schoolroom exhibit. During this visit, Dr. Montessori leads a teacher training course while in the states.
1922: Italian government asks Dr. Montessori to return to become a government inspector of schools.
1929: Dr. Montessori founds the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with her son, Mario, to ensure preservation of her educational principles.
1939: Dr. Montessori and her son travel to India to give a series of teacher training courses. Both are detained in India during World War II.
1947: Dr. Montessori starts a training center in London and continues to spend time in India.
1949: Dr. Montessori is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
1950: Dr. Montessori is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
1951: Dr. Montessori is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
1952: Dr. Montessori died in the Netherlands assured that her legacy would be continued through the work of the Association Montessori Internationale.
Montessori education works in every setting for the success of each child by supporting their innate desire to learn while rigorously developing their academic, moral, social and emotional skills, all of which create a fully capable individual.
The following are a selection of links and sources aiming to help you learn more about Montessori .
Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)
Montessori movie “Let the child be guide”
Anna-Maria Yotsova: How the Montessori method finds its place in Bulgarian education
The Foundation of the Human Being
Dr. Steven Hughes: For building the skills necessary for life
Anna-Mariya Yotsova: How to support children to build independence, freedom and responsibility and daily rituals
Anna-Mariya Yotsova: How to support children to build independence, freedom and responsibility and daily rituals
Dr. Montessori was a pioneering scientist and educator, who developed the approach based on the development of the whole human being. Her work has been studied and developed for many years and is successfully evidenced today in neuroscience and research into the executive functioning skills of children and adults.
The following are a selection of links to Montessori research and studies.
Educational Technology Research and Development, University of Sydney – Finger tracing enhances learning: evidence for 100-year-old practice
Largest Ever Montessori Study: Strengths Across Race and Income, National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. David Ayer, 2018
New Study: Public Montessori Raises Achievement, Closes Gaps, Angeline S. Lillard, PhD, 2017
Montessori: The Science behind the Genius, Angeline S. Lillard, PhD, 2017
Longitudinal Comparison of Place-Value and Arithmetic Knowledge in Montessori and Non-Montessori Students, Elida V. Laski, Marina Vasilyeva, and Joanna Schiffman, Boston College, Journal of Montessori Research 2016, Volume 2, Issue 1
Interventions Shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4 to 12 Years Old, Adele Diamond and Kathleen Lee, Science magazine, August 2011
Empirical studies on Montessori education in Germany, Chloë Marshall, Department of Psychology and Human Development, University College London, 2008
Evaluating Montessori Education, Angeline Lillard and Nicole Else-Quest, Science magazine, September 2006
A comparison of Montessori and traditional middle schools: motivation, quality of experience, and social context, Kevin Rathunde, The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3, Summer 2003
If the children have freedom to choose their work, how the school ensures that the child’s education meets the state standards?
Children in Montessori environments are free to choose within limits, and have only as much freedom as they can handle with appropriate responsibility. The teacher creates daily and weekly lesson plans and observes the work in every lesson for each child. The teacher connects the child with the curriculum and then tracks their progress to ensure that every child masters their appropriate level and element of the curriculum. Beyond there are three important tools – the student has an awareness about the educational requirements and expectations as a minimum, records his work in a student journal on a daily basis and has a weekly individual meeting with his teacher.
What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
For children six and under, Montessori emphasises learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classrooms learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. They are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own, with materials that have been introduced to them 1:1 by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Above age six, children learn to do independent research; arrange field trips to gather information; interview specialists; create group presentation, dramas, art exhibits, musical productions, science projects, and so forth. There is no limit to what they can create in this environment of intelligently guided freedom of choice. There is great respect for the choices of the children, but they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. There is no wasted time and children enjoy their work and study. After the teacher connects them with a lesson, much of the learning that follows comes from sharing and inspiring each other instead of competing with each other.
Can Montessori students adapt to traditional education?
Teaching our children to adjust to change without undue fear and anxiety is one of life’s important lesson for all children. But here’s the bonus for Montessori students: the Montessori Method is all about developing such coping tools through building confidence, independence, and problem solving skills. As a result, most Montessori students are actually more adaptable than their non-Montessori peers.
Montessori children are able to transition to normal schools and they do it pretty well. The majority of children themselves reported that they adjusted just fine, and their parents reported that their child made the transition to the new school without acting out or showing any kinds of transitional problems.
The Montessori students hаvе good work habits and organization, and hand in their assignments on time, they work independently and are focused, disciplined and self directed. The children transitioning to conventional schools from Montessori elementary programs have spend years working independently and with a good deal of freedom. They have been accountable to their teachers for the plans that they have agreed to do and they have been following up for years. They’ve been working at graduate school level of self-responsibility.
Do Montessori schools have textbooks, homework, or grades?
The Montessori classrooms do not emphasize the use of textbooks, grades, or homework in their traditional meaning.
The Montessori students are encouraged to take ownership of their own learning. This is an essential step in fostering the child’s natural, in-borne desire to soak up knowledge. Because children who are internally motivated are far more likely to become responsible, self-disciplined, confident, initiative-takers, with strong academic skills and a lifelong love for learning. This is the key to education as it should be: developed to teach the way children really learn.