What is Montessori Education?
A Historical Perspective
What is Montessori? This is definitely the most frequently asked question we receive every day at the Montessori Foundation. This (and other) information is addressed in our FAQ section and throughout many articles and posts on this website, but here are three important things you should know from the start: 1) Montessori is not a chain or a franchise; 2) Montessori is not so much a “what” as it is a “who”; and 3) Montessori is non-secular in nature, although it has been embraced by families of many different faiths throughout the world.
How It All Began
by Tim Seldin & Paul Epstein, PhD
Below: An excerpt from their co-authored book, The Montessori Way
These characteristics (and other discoveries made with the children of San Lorenzo in 1907) were quickly replicated, as new Montessori schools opened throughout Europe and around the world. Children in Elementary and Secondary Montessori schools displayed tremendous enthusiasm, as they explored and studied topics in great detail. Their learning achievements were profound.
The overall Montessori experience, however, is deeper than an academic course of study. Because the Montessori process fully engages children’s natural learning potentials, Montessori students learn about themselves, develop self-confidence, communicate effectively, and work well in groups. Today’s Montessori schools incorporate the discoveries of Maria Montessori as well as recent understandings of how learning and development take place. Montessori schools are now found in private, public, and home-school settings in the United States and abroad. The educational programs located in these schools range from infant care to high school students.
Many of these schools are affiliates of, or are accredited by, one of a dozen national and/or international Montessori organizations. Teachers receive Montessori teacher certification after completing rigorous courses of study. Many teachers describe their own experiences of personal transformation as they, too, witness in children astounding capabilities. From a family’s perspective, becoming part of a Montessori school could be thought of as adopting a natural lifestyle we call the Montessori Way.
Note:Photos to the left show inside and outside of early 20th century Montessori classrooms. The last photo shows Maria Montessori and her son, Mario, visiting a classroom.
Maria Montessori: In Her Own Words
What happened will always remain a mystery to me. I have tried since then to understand what took place in those children. Certainly there was nothing of what is to be found now in any House of Children. There were only rough large tables. I brought them some of the materials which had been used for our work in experimental psychology, the items which we use today as sensorial material and materials for the exercises of practical life.
I merely wanted to study the children’s reactions. I asked the woman in charge not to interfere with them in any way, as otherwise I would not be able to observe them. Someone brought them paper and colored pencils, but, in itself, this was not the explanation of the further events. There was no one who loved them. I myself only visited them once a week, and during the day, the children had no communication with their parents.
The children were quiet; they had no interference either from the teacher or from the parents, but their environment contrasted vividly from that which they had been used to; compared to that of their previous life, it seemed fantastically beautiful. The walls were white, there was a green plot of grass outside, though no one had yet thought to plant flowers in it, but most beautiful of all was the fact that they had interesting occupations in which no one, no one at all, interfered....
Above: Maria Montessori
Staff Picks From Our Bookstore
Tomorrrow’s Child Magazine
Through Tomorrow’s Child, we have shared stories of the youngest Montessori children through those who graduate from Montessori high schools. We share information from former students about the impact of their Montessori education on their life as college students, their choices of work, and how they raise their own children. It is not unusual to find that many students enrolled in Montessori schools today are actually second-generation Montessorians.
We also provide solid advice on how to bring Montessori into the home, sharing the very real challenges and rewards of raising children in an atmosphere of respect for every level of development.
Montessori schools deliberately create a partnership with parents to work together to teach children what they need to succeed in the ‘real’ world; that’s the easy part! The greater, more rewarding challenge is to help children retain the capacity to grow into adulthood with the empathy, gravitas, and leadership skills they experienced in their Montessori schools when they were children. ORDER HERE
Want to get involved? We welcome and depend on the gift of time, wisdom, and financial contributions. The Montessori Foundation and the International Montessori Council are non-profit organizations. Gifts of any amount (or kind) to help sustain our programs are gratefully accepted.