THE MONTESSORI METHOD
Dr. Maria Montessori, over 80 years ago, was Italy’s first woman medical doctor. Using her scientific background, she began observing children in the children’s houses of Rome. Based on her observations she developed unique materials, a child-centered environment, and was one of the first persons to revolutionize educational thought by stressing respect for the child, freedom of expression, self-education, and training through use of movement and the senses.
The basic idea of the Montessori philosophy of education is that each child carries unseen, within him or herself, the person he or she actually is to become, and has an innate power to accomplish that task. In order to develop the physical, intellectual, and spiritual powers required for this task to the fullest, there must be freedom—freedom to interact with a prepared environment.
Consistent with these ideas, the goals at our schools can be defined in terms of
a) Content Goals and b) Process Goals.
Content goals concentrate on examining the information available to us about our world and how we live in it. The goals include the three basic symbol systems (mathematics, language, and the arts) which are used to systematize that information. Other forms made available for the child’s exploration include science, geography, and the refinement of the senses.
The second set of goals are process goals and represent the means by which human potentialities become realities. The child is in the process of becoming a social being, capable of finding his/her place in the human community. As such, much of his/her “work” centers on learning more about him or herself. He or she discovers the ever increasing number of things he or she can and cannot do in caring for self and environment. He or she learns to recognize, evaluate, and act upon other people’s responses to his/her actions.
Progressive achievement of both content and process goals by the child results in the emergence of his/her personal identity—a self, which, through gaining mastery over the environment and over the process of his/her own becoming, can take charge of his/her own destiny—the ultimate purpose of the Montessori method.
Dr. Maria Montessori developed what she called “the prepared environment”, a setting which already possesses a certain order in terms of both process and content. Making use of this order, the child is free to go about the business of perfecting him/herself.
Dr. Montessori recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self motivation of the child. Children move themselves toward learning. The teacher prepares the environment, programs the activity, functions as reference person and the model, and offers the child stimulation. It is the child, however, who learns, who is motivated through the work itself
(not the teacher’s personality) to persist in a chosen task. If the Montessori child is free to learn, it is because he or she has acquired from exposure to both mental and physical order an “inner discipline”.
This is the core of Dr. Montessori’s educational philosophy. Patterns of concentration, stick-to-itiveness, and thoroughness established in early childhood teach children to observe, to think, to discriminate and to judge. Montessori introduces children to the joy of learning at an early age and provides a framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand in hand.
“The child should love everything that he or she learns, for mental and emotional growth are linked. Whatever is presented to him or her must be made beautiful and clear, striking the imagination. Once this love has been kindled, all problems confronting educationalists will disappear”.
— Maria Montessori