What is Montessori

A scientific method of pedagogy as applied to child education in the children’s house.

Montessori is an international philosophy of education based on scientific observation of how the child learns.  The approach is child-centred and acknowledges the innate eagerness of the child to learn and acquire knowledge.

It is a holistic approach to education which values all areas of the child’s development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive.

A Montessori education becomes an education for life, it enthuses the child to learn and thus develop a life-long love of learning which will continue his whole life through.

Maria Montessori History

Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori Philosophy, was born in 1870 and became Italy’s first woman medical doctor in 1896. Her special interest was in children and this led her to study the works of physicians such as Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard who worked at a Paris institution for deaf mutes.

She believed that observation was just as important in education as in the treatment of the sick, and that the mind developed through the actions of the senses. She pursued this belief by experiments with individuals who were challenged mentally.

In 1900 Montessori became the director of a practice demonstration school, with 22 students she had her first chance to make use of Itard’s sensory teaching materials and modify them to her own use. She designed and had manufactured a set of teaching materials based on his principles.

Through methodical observations of the children and their individual needs, she worked out the best means suited to teach them. Those children who had previously been abandoned as incapable of learning to function productively began showing the ability to care for themselves. When these children with special needs passed exams on a level with children with no learning challenges, she began questioning the calibre of ‘normal/mainstream’ education.

Dr. Montessori was so successful in her work with these children that she was now regarded as an educator rather than a physician. Realising that great results could be obtained by applying these theories to the teaching of all children, she left her work with the special needs.

In January 1907, Maria Montessori opened the first Casa di Bambini in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome. When the building was offered to her, the owners hoped that she would provide a place where the children of working mothers could be kept off the streets and thereby reduce vandalism. In the end the children were not only off the streets, they became eager students.

The materials for learning were designed to be self-correcting and the children thrived on the activity involved with learning. In observing these children, she noticed that after doing a particular activity, the children continued working with it over and over again, rather than putting it away. They seemed to work for the sake of working, not for reward. She also introduced reading and writing to these children of illiterate parents. This project marked a turning point in Maria Montessori’s career and life, and would soon cast her in the role of the world’s foremost female educator.