An Italian physician dedicated to working with young children, Maria Montessori developed a method for teaching children that focuses on the child’s learning as opposed to the teacher’s teaching. Developed to emphasize initiative and self-reliance, the Montessori Method guides children through a series of learning tools and techniques in a disciplined environment. Introduced in Rome in 1907, Montessori’s method has spread throughout the world with each generation of learners. This tremendous growth and worldwide embrace demonstrates the effectiveness of a true, hands-on experience.
The founding concept in the Montessori philosophy of education is that every child carries unseen within him the man he will become. To develop his physical, intellectual and spiritual powers to their fullest potential, he must have the freedom to explore the world around him with guidance in an orderly, disciplined environment. The world of a child is full of sights and sounds that at first appear chaotic. From this chaos, the child must gradually create order for himself and learn to distinguish among the impressions that assail his senses. As this occurs, a child in a Montessori classroom will gain mastery not only of himself, but of his environment as well.
Why? is the natural question of a child. Why does the shape of this block fit with the others? Why is the water warm or cool? Why are there bubbles? A Montessori setting provides an environment where these and many other questions can be explored not only by sight and sound, but by the touch of a child’s eager hand. The classroom, for a child, is an entire world rich for the senses and all completely within each.
Dr. Montessori recognized that the only truly valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. Children, if given the opportunity, will automatically seek knowledge and navigate learning at their own pace. Often times, and specifically for those topics that are naturally intuitive for the child, this pace can be far accelerated over that of a traditional classroom. A Montessori teacher, called a Director or Directress, prepares the environment, programs the activity, functions as the reference person and exemplar and offers the child the stimulation necessary; but it is the child who learns. The child is motivated to learn from the tools and the work itself not solely by the teacher’s personality or teaching practices. Because this process is natural, the child will persist in his chosen task and seek additional knowledge as he masters the task at hand.
It is said that a Montessori child is free to learn. This is true because a child taught in a Montessori environment has acquired an inner discipline from exposure to the physical and mental order of a Montessori classroom. This belief is a core of Dr. Montessori’s educational philosophy; patterns of concentration, perseverance and thoroughness, nurtured in early childhood help children to observe, think and judge. A Montessori education prepares children to rely on themselves as they journey through life. A Montessori classroom introduces children to the joy and satisfaction of learning and provides a framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand in hand.