ahead of her time
Born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy, in 1870, Maria Montessori became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896.
Her clinical observations led her to analyze how children learn, concluding that they build themselves from what they find in their environment. Shifting her focus from the body to the mind, she returned to the university in 1901, this time to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome. Her desire to help children was so strong, however, that in 1906 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded the Casa Dei Bambini, or “Children’s House.”
science is applied to learning
What ultimately became the Montessori method of education was developed at Casa Dei Bambini, based upon Montessori’s scientific observations of the children’s almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do “naturally,” by themselves. As Dr. Montessori’s lower income children outperformed their middle-class peers on school entrance exams, the method quickly drew attention in Italy and abroad.
"The child has a deep love and need for purposeful work. He works, however, not as an adult for completion of a job, but for the sake of the activity itself. It is this activity, which enables him to accomplish his most important goal: the development of himself, his mental, physical, and psychological powers."
— Dr. Maria Montessori
going beyond academics
In Montessori schools, academic growth is seen as just one part of children’s healthy development. The method nurtures their social, emotional, and physical growth, ensuring that they are, as Dr. Maria Montessori put it, “treading always in the paths of joy and love.” She believed that finding one’s place in the world, finding work that is meaningful and fulfilling, and developing the inner peace and depth of soul that allows us to love are the most important goals in life.
Today, Montessori schools’ foundation is a deep respect for children as unique individuals who need their social and emotional development honored. The teaching of peace, social justice, and global citizenship is based on fostering respect for all people and living things, and helping children learn the tools for peaceful conflict resolution.
children teach themselves
This simple but profound truth inspired Dr Maria Montessori’s lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching, and teacher training-all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the child.
Montessori adopted the vision that children and their inner teacher develop at their own rate as they interact with the environment around them. The development of the human child required the ability of the parent and the teacher to think critically about the environment in which a child lived. Montessori determined the development of the human being to be as follows:
birth - 3 years
1 ½ - 3 years
2 - 4 years
refinement of movement; concern with truth and reality; awareness of order sequence in time and space
3 ½ - 4 ½ years
2 ½ - 6 years
4 - 4 ½ years
1 ½ - 4 years
coordination & muscle development; interest in small objects
3 - 6 years
4 ½ - 5 ½ years
Dr. Montessori developed her method over 50 years, observing thousands of children on three continents, and fine-tuning her approach based on how children reacted to the teachings and curriculum offered to them. An estimated 4,500 schools in the US practice some form of Montessori, and possibly as many as 20,000 world-wide.
montessori breeds innovation
Some of our biggest innovators have come from a Montessori education and credit the method for guiding them from a very young age. A well-rounded education— socially, emotionally, intellectually and artistically—helps children achieve their fullest potential as critical thinkers, learners, explorers, inventors, artists, and leaders.
Steve Wozniak (co-founder, Apple): He believes that Montessori schools are doing a better job than most schools in teaching independent thinking.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google): Both attended Montessori schools and attribute the learning and knowledge they acquired there to their success later in life. Sergey Brin especially points out the independence and self-motivation as helping him to be willing to go out on his own. He also enjoyed the freedom the staff granted him to explore and discover things by himself.
Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com): As a young boy, “he would get so engrossed in his activities as a Montessori preschooler that his teachers would literally have to pick him up out of his chair to go to the next task.”
Julia Child (author, chef, TV cooking shows): Julia attributes her Montessori education with creating a lifelong love of discovery and mastery, especially her manual dexterity, integral to her success as a chef.
Will Wright (video game pioneer, The Sims, SimCity, and Spore): “Montessori taught me the joy of discovery. It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (author, Nobel Prize winner): He says, "I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”
Jimmy Wales (founder, Wikipedia): As a child, Wales was a keen reader with an acute intellectual curiosity and, in what he credits to the influence of the Montessori method on the school’s philosophy of education.