History of Montessori

Maria Montessori, 1870-1952, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree.  She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology.  Dr. Maria Montessori was a skilled observer of behaviour.

During her work with disadvantaged children, she observed that children seem to learn more effectively when they have objects to act upon.  After sharing her observations with her colleagues, including Piaget and Seguin, she began to design materials for children to work with.  Following intensive observation and study, Montessori became convinced that her materials and methods could be advantageous for all children.  In 1907, she opened the first school in Europe to be based on her philosophy and methods.

The essence of Montessori Education is that every child is treated with respect: “help me to help myself”.  This is an involved concept and it leads to the achievement of success.  The child in this way builds his/her self-esteem, concentration, respect for, and cooperation with classmates, and the ability to make choices and accept responsibility for them.  Intrinsic motivation is an important element of the Montessori philosophy; true motivation to learn comes from the child, not from external motivators such as rewards or punishments, which work only to remove the pleasure of learning.  Since her death, an interest in 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 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.  Montessori education has expanded worldwide and is currently flourishing in North America.