The Montessori Method
Dr. Maria Montessori
(1870 - 1952)
Developed the Montessori method of education. The Italian Physician who formulated this method had a particular genius for observing children. The materials are based on the young child's unique aptitude for learning, which Dr. Montessori identified as the "Absorbent Mind." In her writings, she frequently compared the young mind to a sponge, literally absorbing everything in the environment.
The Purpose of Montessori Education
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that all human beings possess a natural curiosity and love for knowledge, and if that passion for learning could be nurtured from childhood on then there would be no limit to what that we could achieve. Education must come from the inside out and not the outside in. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to bombard the child with facts and numbers from a pre-selected course of studies that do not take into account the different needs of the individual child, but rather cultivate and inspire every child's natural desire to create, explore, discover, and experience.
In the Montessori classroom this is achieved primarily by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning through activities of their own choosing rather than by being forced to follow what the other children may be doing, and further by helping each child to perfect all of their natural tools for learning so they can reach their greatest potential. The Montessori materials thus function of two levels: giving the child immediate insight and feedback, and providing the child with long-range skills and confidence to carry with them into the future.
How Children Learn
Through Dr. Montessori's observations and studies she discovered that every child possesses what she called an "Absorbent Mind", or a unique and sponge-like aptitude for learning. We need only compare the way a two-year old instinctively learns his native language without formal instruction versus the conscious and often tedious way adults master foreign languages to know that the young mind literally absorbs information from its environment. Learning through experience is a very organic and delightful activity for young children who naturally process and discover the world and their environment by employing their senses.
Dr. Montessori reasoned that the child retains the ability to absorb information in this way until they are nearly seven, and that in order to best nurture the child's "absorbent mind" it was necessary to have a classroom full of materials which would demonstrate basic educational information. Her teachings emphasized that children learn more through their own hands than through any other influence. The best way a child learns concentration is by fixing their attention on some task they are performing with their hands. When Dr. Montessori established her first school in 1907 it seemed radical to think that a child could learn to read, write, and calculate in the same natural way in which they learn to walk and talk, but over a hundred years later we continuously observe that if we allow a child to learn at their own periods of interest and readiness they can accomplish more than we dared hope for them.
The Importance of Early Childhood Education
Dr. Montessori wrote "The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man's intelligence itself, his greatest implement is being formed. But only his intelligence; the full totality of his psychic powers...At no other age has the child greater need of an intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lesson the chance he has of achieving perfection."