Montessori Education is based on the principles developed by Maria Montessori, who opened her first school for children of low-income workers in an apartment building in Rome in 1907. The school was called “Casa dei Bambini”, Home for Children.
This first “Casa” was furnished with a teachers table, a stove, a blackboard, some chairs, group tables for the children and a cabinet filled with materials that Montessori developed in her earlier career when she researched how to teach kids who experience some form of mental disability. Maria Montessori created the materials after she realised that students seem to understand complex concepts better when they engaged all their senses.
Activities at this first school included personal care (such as dressing and undressing), care of the environment like sweeping, dusting and gardening. Otherwise they were free to move around and play with the materials. Montessori did not teach herself but instead oversaw the classroom work of her teachers.
Montessori observed that children showed episodes of deep concentration and multiple repetitions of the same activity. Given free choice, kids showed more interest in practical activities and the materials than normal toys, sweets or other rewards. Over time spontaneous self-discipline emerged.
Montessori concluded that working independently children seemed to reach new levels of autonomy and become self-motivated learners. She began to see the role of the teacher as a facilitator of young human beings who are free to move and act within the limits of a prepared environment. The goal: to grow children to become independent and responsible adults who share a love for learning.
Soon after Montessori herself and her ideas started travelling the world to inspired progressive thinkers and educators from all over. The inventors, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, became early advocates. Later alumni include Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as the two Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Today the term “Montessori” stands more for a method, than a school itself. The fact that it can be used freely by anyone led to a great variation of schools. Educators all over the world borrow Montessori's name, insights and materials to organize kindergartens, elementary schools, special needs programs, or even full 12 year curriculums. Some parents use it for homeschooling.
The following characteristics are shared among most programs:
- Students are free to choose what to learn
- Open classrooms that allow free movement
- Use of specialised Montessori materials
- Mixed age classes (from 0-3, 3-6 or 6-12) so children can learn from each other
- Uninterrupted blocks of study time, usually three hours
- No grading or homework
- and a trained teacher
Maria Montessori once famously said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”What are your thoughts on Montessori? Please share your opinions in the comments below!