Doctor Maria Montessori left an unparalleled gift to the child of today as a result of her life long study of the child’s mind and its unique way of absorbent learning.
She reveals the child’s sensitivity to his environment, from which he absorbs his perceptions and knowledge. She honors the individuality of the child. Each pupil must be given responsible freedom to meet the special needs of the environmental learning.
As success builds upon success, the child gains an inner discipline and the security of a strong self-image. Social interaction, guided by the “collective interests”, with children both younger and older than him self, adds to his joy and growth.
Maria Montessori was an Italian Physician and Educator. She was the first woman to receive a medical degree at the University of Rome in 1894. Born in 1870, she developed her method of education over a 45-year-old period of directly observing and working with children.
She recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. The child moves himself toward learning. The directress prepares the environment, programs the activity, functions as a catalytic agent and exemplary, and offers the child stimulation and guidance; It is the child who learns and is motivated through the work itself to persist in his chosen task.
Dr. Montessori devoted her life to the education of children, and was honored and respected throughout the world at the time of her death in 1952.
The basic principle of the Montessori Philosophy of education is that “every child carries within him potentialities of the MAN he can become”. In order to develop his physical, intellectual and character powers to the fullest, he must have freedom – freedom to be achieved through order and self-discipline.
The world of the child is full of sights and sounds that at first appear chaotic. From this chaos, the child must gradually create order and learn to distinguish the impressions that assail his senses. Slowly but surely, he will gain mastery of himself and his environment. Dr. Montessori developed what she called the prepares environment, which already possesses a definite order and disposes the child to develop at his own speed, according to his own capacities. Providing positive direction, the Montessori directress and parents realize the importance of allowing the child to develop “in his own time”, not in a preconceived idea of the same.
“Montessori is not interested in accelerating mental growth but in helping each child to fulfill his potential. The way to facilitate the fastest possible attainment of this goal is to help the child follow his own inner time clock for development, for it is the child who must develop himself. No one person can do the development of another. The adult can only assist – and cheer from the sidelines. The adult acts as a catalyst, not as a creator, in the child’s development of himself.”
The method by which a child is taught in Montessori schools might well be called “structural learning”. Since the child has learned to work independently in the prepared environment, he is ready to enjoy the presence of other children without necessarily working directly with them. The Montessori directress thus is able to work with each child individually.
The structure of the Montessori learning and training involves the use of many materials with which the child may work independently. Dr. Montessori painstakingly and scientifically developed these materials over a 45-year-old period of work and observation.
A child by nature moves himself towards learning. To this effect, Dr. Montessori stated that any unnecessary help given to the child hinders him in growth. The teacher prepares the environment, observes and directs the activity, functions as a catalyst of the child and environment, and offers the work according to the readiness and need of each child.
If the Montessori child is free to learn, it is important he has acquired from experience both physical and mental order, the “inner discipline” which frees him. He becomes aware, not only of his freedom, but of his corresponding responsibility of himself and to others. This is the core of Dr. Montessori’s philosophy. The aim of Montessori is to develop the whole child. Intellectual, Physical and Social development are of equal value in the prepared environment. The teacher strives to encourage and guide the child and to help him realize a balanced, happy, aware personality that will enhance his life as an adult.