"I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method."
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a visionary, a woman who led an extraordinary life. As the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome School of Medicine, Dr. Montessori gained recognition at a young age for her work in math and the established sciences. She also pursued a study in the newer disciplines of the day, anthropology and psychiatry, two areas of interest that would be of great value to her in her work as a physician and scientist. Her approach to education was developed based on her observations in conjunction with her background in psychology and 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 she had recognized in Italy were universal and inherent in children of all races and cultures.
She realized that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment. She also observed the manner in which children learned as they spontaneously chose and work with the auto didactic materials she provided. She discovered that the characteristics at each stage of human development are unique, and that the foundation of the whole personality is laid during the early years of life. This discovery is now universally accepted in scientific circles. Maria Montessori stated that the mind of the child, which in the first six years of life is different from that at any later stage of development. She calls it the Absorbent Mind.
Through her studies of educational methods, she declared two principles as the foundation of Montessori pedagogy: the universal characteristics of the human child, and the child as a unique, unrepeatable, respectable, and admirable individual to be unconditionally accepted.
INDIA and THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
During World War II Dr. Montessori was forced into exile from Italy because of her antifascist views. During this period she lived and worked in India. It was here that she developed her work Education for Peace, and developed many of the ideas taught in her training courses today. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since her death, Dr. Montessori’s methods have continued to spread throughout the world. Her message to those who emulated her was always to turn one’s attention to the child, to “follow the child”. It is because of this basic tenet, and the observation guidelines left by her, that Dr. Montessori’s ideas would never become obsolete.
The potential of the child is not just mental, but is revealed only when the complete “Montessori method” is understood and followed.
Many people, hearing of the high academic level reached by children in this system of education, miss the point and think that Montessori math manipulative (as an example) is all there is to the Montessori method. It is easy to acquire materials and to take short courses to learn to use them, but the real value of Montessori takes long and thorough training for the adult.