The Montessori philosophy
Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) was Italy’s first female doctor. She observed children in an environment where they were given a free choice of activity and created materials that would help them build their personality.
Her fundamental idea was that the children would be helped through their surroundings to get independence and freedom in their activities. They should be offered to decide their activity on their own and work on them independently as long as there was interest.
Every child should be given the opportunity to work based on their own personal abilities.
The teacher’s job is to observe the child in its work and development and carefully guide it when needed. The child needs to acquire knowledge through its own activities.
Maria Montessori began her teaching career as a teacher for 50 children, within the ages 3-5, on the 6th of January 1907 in Rome.
All she had at her disposal was an untrained assistant, a few tables and chairs, and some working materials that she previously had used to help mentally challenged children.
The children who were in the older category would have needed exposure to the materials when they were younger, before their interest was awakened. When their interest already had been awakened, their attention was already captured.
Dr Montessori was surprised when she discovered how the younger children adapted to the materials. She noted episodes of deep attention and concentration and that the children showed more interest in practical activities and Montessori's materials than in toys provided for them.
Because Dr Montessori was a scientist at heart, her explanation for this observation was that the materials corresponded to a deep seated need within the younger children.
As time progressed, she created very specialized materials that were based on thorough experimenting and observations. To an untrained eye the materials may look common but for the young child it is a source of gratification and joy.
At the same time, she created an environment that suited the children and took in consideration of their inherent characteristics.
The Montessori method took form through this experimental background. Dr Montessori observed the children’s work within the prepared environment and noted what they chose to work with and what they distanced themselves from. Based on this knowledge, she formulated what became known as the Montessori method.
The design of the Montessori materials has been selected by children all over the world, which responds to their inner needs and desire.
Children with different backgrounds; economical, social and cultural, have constantly been drawn to these materials and keep feeling drawn even after a century past since they were used for the very first time.
Maria Montessori’s view of mankind in brief
- Believe in the child, i.e. trust that the child wants and can evolve.
- Respect the child, i.e. see the child as an individual and take its words and wishes seriously. Give the children the opportunities to respect each other.
- Give the child freedom of choice, i.e. the child gets to choose its activity on its own within distinct and clear boundaries.
- See the child’s needs, i.e. always keep the individual child’s need of stimulus and support in mind.