"I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori Method." - Maria Montessori.
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was born in Italy to well educated, middle class parents. She developed her method after graduating, at 27 years of age as the first female doctor in Italy.
Maria Montessori saw the child’s main goal in life as being to create him/herself (self evolution) and to develop to his/her full potential. She recognized that man passes through different stages in life, called the 4 planes of development, and that these phases of growth are akin to a metamorphosed butterfly.
The first period, the formative years of 0-6, are the most important time in a persons life. During these formative years the child has a natural love of learning. An inner guide or teacher drives their impulses to touch, move and learn from their environments.
The young child is also capable of absorbing, like a sponge, everything around them with their special, absorbent mind. Whilst absorbing everything around them they also pass through special sensitive periods in which learning a particular skill or ability is mastered effortlessly. In total we see the child passing through 6 sensitive periods, thereby acquiring all the traits and characteristics that make him uniquely human, such as language, order, movement, detail, sensorial perception and social aspects of culture.
Maria Montessori saw her life’s work as one of quietly following the child, in order to answer the very important question – What kind of “teaching” is best suited? Her quest also had an ever wider, overarching societal reach, leading her to conclude that “the only hope we have in changing the world and attaining world peace, is through the child”.
Her 3 main methods were:
Montessori Teachers are trained to remain in constant observation of the children, themselves and everything in the environment throughout the day, in order to mitigate hindrances to the child’s development; and maximise his learning.
This is an environment that has been carefully prepared by the Montessori Teacher. It is a most beautiful, enticing, stimulating environment. It has order, structure and flow and has a deep calming effect on the children. There are special wooden “self-educating” (didactic) materials on offer that allow for concentrated work and plenty of repetition of movements, leading to self-mastery.
Montessori Teachers have complete respect for the child and his abilities. They never do for the child what he can do for himself, preferring instead to build the child up and help him at every earliest possibility to attain independence. They act as constant protectors of his liberty and self-expression by allowing freedom of choice within the classroom at all times, so long as it is within the expected boundaries of good behaviour.