Maria Montessori graduated from the medical school of the University of Rome in 1896 and she was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was very involved with the care of young children. Through scientific observation, she came to see how children interacted with one another, learned through the use of materials she provided, and went through specific phases of development. Her approach to education was developed based on her observations in collaboration with her background in psychology and her belief in the education of children as a means to create a better society. She continued to observe children around the world and found that the universal laws of development she had recognized were inherent to children of all races and cultures. The Montessori approach to education continues to be respected and practiced internationally.
Montessori education is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child. The inherent flexibility allows the method to adapt to the needs of the individual, regardless of the level of ability, learning style, or social maturity.
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. The children’s inherent love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, the children develop concentration, motivation, persistence, and discipline. Within this framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities, during the crucial years of development.
Montessori classrooms are designed for a three-year age mix to allow for both individual and social development. The more experienced children share what they have learned with those new to the group. Each child’s unique personality is encouraged; each child is respected as in important member of a community.
Discovering the joys of learning and developing social and intellectual discipline lay the foundations for a happy, productive life. The children develop an appreciation for the world while becoming responsible human beings and active members of a harmonious society.