Maria Montessori was the first woman physician in Italy. An educator and humanitarian, she devoted her life to the study and observation of children. Her work was initially inspired by an interest in mentally deficient children. She developed a method of self education of young children within a planned environment using carefully designed materials and equipment. The results of her method led to the establishment of Montessori schools around the world. The movement came to the United States in 1915.
Basic to the Montessori philosophy is the concept that children are motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love of knowledge. The goal of early childhood education is to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. This is achieved within a prepared environment. Modern research has reinforced Dr. Montessori’s observations that children pass through various sensitive periods of intense fascination for learning a particular activity or skill. The Montessori classroom encourages and invites the child during these sensitive stages with appropriate materials. Within a framework of order, the child develops according to his/her own will and readiness under the guidance of the teachers. Children acquiring basic skills in this natural way gain an early enthusiasm for learning as their inner personal dignity, independence, and self-discipline develop.
Everything in the Montessori environment is proportioned to the child’s size. The equipment is readily accessible, moveable to permit flexible arrangement, and attractive. The children are aided in gaining independence and developing freedom to choose and work with materials and activities they can successfully complete. They may work alone or with others.