Maria Montessori, born in 1870 in a small town in Italy, changed the face of educating young children forever. Though her parents encouraged her to become a teacher, she took a very unlikely path for a woman in her time and decided to study engineering. She didn’t love it and changed her path again to study medicine, which was nearly unheard of. She became the first woman in Italy to attain a Doctorate in Medicine. An internship at a pediatric clinic working with children who had mental deficiencies lead her to believe that their problems were not so much a medical issue, but more of a pedagogical problem. In other words, if these children were taught differently their abilities would increase.
Her research and understanding gain from studying these children prompted her to begin her first “Children’s House” in 1907 in the slums of Rome. Though she faced harsh critics who laughed at her efforts for working with such young children, she ultimately gained worldwide acceptance for her methods.
What was so different about her methods?
She believed that education begins at birth and that the first few years of life are the MOST FORMATIVE and the most important.
She believed that what happens from birth until age 6 largely determine who the child becomes and it must not be wasted. And, within those 6 years, there are “Sensitive Periods” that occur when the child is most receptive to learning certain skills.
The classroom is completely and totally arranged for the child, giving them the opportunity to work and develop freely.
The furniture is proportioned to the child’s size.
Materials are arranged on shelves ARE within reach of the child so that obtaining and returning them can be the responsibility of the child.
There is beauty in the classroom – both natural and artistic.
The materials are well-made, well-maintained and neatly arranged.
There is nothing that the child cannot see and touch.
The child proceeds at his or her own pace.
This quote sums it up so well:
In this way we shall notice that the child has a personality which he is seeking to expand; he has initiative, he chooses his own work, persists in it, changes it according to his inner needs; he does not shirk effort, he rather goes in search of it, and with great joy he faces obstacles within his capacity to overcome.
As parents, this is such a huge part of what we want for our children. For them to seek out what they want to learn, face challenges, know themselves, solve problems and grow in the process.
For my son, I am doing what I can when I can so that these years are not wasted. This blog is our story.