Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870 and became the first woman in Italy to graduate as a Doctor of Medicine in 1896. She had an intense and passionate interest in the development of young children. She opened the first institution for children below the age of six, which she called Casa Dei Bambini (Children's House) in 1907.
She believed that if education follows the natural development of the child, society would move to a higher level of co-operation, peace, and harmony. The goal of the Montessori School is to support children in this development, with the primary aim to provide opportunities for each child to reach his full potential.
HER MAIN CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WORK OF THOSE OF US RAISING AND EDUCATING CHILDREN ARE IN THESE AREAS:
Montessori developed special educational materials and a curriculum that would support the natural growth of children from all backgrounds. Her approach protects children from many of the obstacles to development and encouraged individual nurturing and group harmony.
Montessori education is gentle and respectful preparation for life. It will give your child a proper environment, freedom of choice, great preparation for future education, self-confidence, and the best of a happy childhood.
"Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, the study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants – doing nothing but living and walking about – came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child’s way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love." -Maria Montessori
Preparing the most natural and life-supporting environment for the child
Observing the child living freely in this environment
Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill their greatest potential — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually
KEY PRINCIPLES OF MONTESSORI PHILOSOPHY
The psychic development of the child starts before birth. Montessori philosophy says that the child contains a spiritual embryo. This is not what you can see; this is a special force within the child, which he got from nature. It is a great power and effort to observe, learn and imitate through the environment.
We need to be ready when the child is born and become a part of our lives and protect his great internal potential. We, as adults, must nourish it with love as the child is very fragile. The newborn child needs freedom and a good environment for his psychic growth. Every child is the unique creation of nature. We can help him to unfold himself from within. Warm, love, soft-touch, this is what he needs.
If your child is 2.5 to 6 years old, he is enjoying an amazing time for natural development. We say that the child is going through sensitive periods and is able to absorb from the environment easily and naturally through the senses.
FROM EUROPE TO THE UNITED STATES
Invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and others, Dr. Montessori spoke at Carnegie Hall in 1915. She was invited to set up a classroom at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where spectators watched twenty-one children, all new to this Montessori method, behind a glass wall for four months. The only two gold medals awarded for education went to this class, and the education of young children was altered forever.
INDIA AND THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
During World War II, Dr. Montessori was forced into exile from Italy because of her antifascist views and 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 twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.
THE MONTESSORI ASSISTANTS TO INFANCY PROGRAM
“Nido”(Italian for “Nest”) / Toddler or Pre-Casa
In the 1940s, inspired by the amazing potential of children realized in the early years, Dr. Montessori stated that age three was too late to begin to support the work and development of children. In 1947, the Montessori Assistants to Infancy program (“Nido”, Italian for “Nest”), was begun in Rome. This was a 3-year, full-time, program which is referred to today as Toddler or Pre-Casa.
Since her death, an interest in Dr. Montessori’s methods has 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 will never become obsolete.
Many people, hearing of the high academic level reached by students 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.
The potential of the child is not just mental but is revealed only when the complete “Montessori Method” is understood and followed. The child’s choice, practical work, care of others and the environment, and above all, the high levels of concentration reached when work is respected and not interrupted, reveal a human being that is superior not only academically, but emotionally and spiritually; a child who cares deeply about other people and the world, and who works to discover a unique and individual way to contribute. This is the essence of real “Montessori” work today.
“FOLLOW THE CHILD”
The Montessori phrase “Follow the child” plays an important role in the whole Montessori education. The directress should trust the child and believe in his spontaneous action.
It happens that the young child is demanding activities, which are not 'appropriate' to his age. Let him try and follow him. He was observing his older friend to do this activity and he feels inside that he might be ready for that. If he does not succeed, he will walk away himself and come back another day and try it again and again. Trust the child and show him your confidence to build his self-esteem.
The mixed age group creates the family system and helps children to progress faster by observing older friends. On the other side, older children learn how to help young children. They help them to present new activities and 'teach' them their natural skills. The Montessori environment really supports this development and offers great possibilities.
As the parents, please do not have the doubt your child, trust him. Children are able to do many things, but they must be allowed to do it. Follow your child as we follow him in our school. Children trust us and we need to trust them. That is what can make our children happy.
NOTE: The name “MONTESSORI”
Due to a legal judgment years ago, the use of the word “Montessori” is not protected and can be used by anyone for any purpose, to describe schools, teacher training centers, and toys and materials. Thus, it falls on each person to research “real” Montessori for his or her child.