“It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to teach child the chance to fulfil his potential possibilities.”
Who Was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in August of 1870. She was born during a time when most Italian women followed the course to be a teacher. She was a revolutionary who – with much perseverance and strength – became a doctor, a course of study made up entirely of men. Of course her time in medical school was extremely difficult. She had to work on dissections alone, as they were not allowed to be done in mixed classes. Despite the odds and prejudice against her, she became the first woman to qualify as a doctor, July 10, 1896.
The turning point of Montessori’s life was when she began working with retarded children in Rome’s asylum for the insane. The caretaker begrudgingly noted that the children would take crumbs off the floor and eat them after their meal. Montessori noted that in such bare and unfurnished rooms, the kids lacked sensoral stimulation and activities for their hands – and this was contributing to the situation.
With her partner in life, Maria became the co-director of the National League for the Education of Retarded Children. Through her observations of the children – which she wrote up at night – she began to define and put to the test her ideas and theories.
In the summer of 1909, she began her training course to about 100 students – which she called the Montessori Method. Her notes from the period became her first book, which was published in 1912. After the book was published, a great time of expansion ensued. Montessori schools sprang up all around the world.
With the onslaught of World War I, there was some corruption in the educational system. Maria was pressed – and many schools shut down when she did not relent.
She continued promoting her program until she died while on a family vacation in the Netherlands in 1952.
The Montessori Method
The Curriculum is to help the child grow from infancy to maturity in a mutual respectful environment. It’s successful because it draws principles from the natural development of the child. It’s a child led based learning program. Each child’s inner directives determine the learning and growth. The teacher is there to encourage the learning and growth – and not direct it.
The transformation of children from birth to adulthood occurs through a series of developmental stages (planes). Montessori practice changes in scope and manner to embrace the child’s changing development and interests.
The Planes of development
- Birth – 6 years old – The absorbent mind – absorbing all aspects of the environment
- 6-12 years old – The reasoning mind – observing the world through abstract thought and imagination
- 12-18 – The humanistic mind – Understanding humanity and the contribution that he/she can make
- 18-24 – the specialist mind – Taking his/her place in the world
While a Montessori education is very common in the young years, very rarely do you see it offered in the higher grades.
The Montessori Classroom
Children are provided a controlled environment where they are free to respond to their naturally tendency to work. The child’s innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage spontaneous, purposeful activities. Within the framework of order, Montessori educated children develop concentration and self-discipline. All chairs, tables, activities are positioned for the size of the children.
The materials stimulate the child into a logical path of discovery. It will be very obvious that something isn’t correct. Being able to see his/her mistake, will lead the child to self discovery on his/her own. Not only is about individual learning, but being with a bunch of students makes it socially stimulating. Olders mixed with youngers. The young ones are stimulated by the more advanced students, and the advanced students are able to teach the younger ones (what you can teach – you know and understand).
The key principles to the prepared environment are as follows
- Mixed age range
- Control of Error
- Role of the adult
Role of the Adult
The adult is not like a teacher – as in the more traditional school environment. The role of the adult in the Montessori method is to stimulate the child to teach himself by following his own internal urges.
Added Note From Lisa
While a great method to use, and it does work to produce intelligent independent children – be prepared to spend money on materials. You also need adequate space. A financial/space warning.
Thought Provoking Question
Were you or do you know anyone who was enriched in a Montessori program during the young years? How did you or the other person benefit?
Visit our other posts in the series – addressing different homeschool methodologies
- Homeschool – Montessori
- Homeschool – Charlotte Mason
- Homeschool – Classical Trivium
- Homeschool – Waldorf
- Homeschooling – Unschooling
- Homeschool – A Day in The Life of a Homeschooling Family – A New Series