Montessori Explained

Montessori is an educational philosophy that is used successfully throughout the world from preschool through secondary and has been in existence for over 100 years. 


Dr Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952) was Italy's first female doctor and developed a scientific approach to education. She based all her work on the principle that schooling should work with the child; not against it. In her first school in the slums of Rome, she witnessed what had previously been considered impossible: previously unruly, unmanageable children who were given time and space to explore a range of interesting equipment, free from adult interference, slowly transformed into sociable, communicative and considerate children. She was able to deduce that children have a natural curiosity and desire to learn, without the need for rewards or punishment and without constant adult intervention: "The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist.""


Teachers in a Montessori classroom will first be quiet observers, identifying each child's needs and stage of learning. Only then do they become active in guiding and encouraging, generally on a one-to-one basis. Learning is supported by beautiful Montessori equipment, which is usually self-correcting, offers systematically graduated lessons and generally isolates one principle. Montessori gives children the opportunity to keep succeeding, with each new step mastered at their own pace. The result is an inner self-confidence and a lifetime love of learning. Montessori saw the child as the creator of himself: "The foundation of education must be based on the following facts: that the joy of the child is in accomplishing things great for his age; that the real satisfaction of the child is to give maximum effort to the task in hand; that happiness consists in well-directed activity of body and mind in the way of excellence; that strength of mind and body and spirit is acquired by exercise and experience."


Montessori saw the value in developing the whole child. Children are encouraged to develop a sense of social responsibility towards the community and environment, as well as a moral responsibility. They learn that everything is interconnected: climate, crops, culture, architecture and so forth. They come to see themselves as part of a much bigger picture, one to which they ought to contribute constructively. Children of all cultures and creeds respond well to Montessori.