The Montessori Method is an educational philosophy developed by medical doctor Maria Montessori (1870-1952) from Italy. In her time, students were forced to sit at desks for hours while teachers dictated information. Children who were unable to succeed in this environment were considered ‘phrenasthenic’ and therefore unteachable. In today’s educational terms, we might say they had ‘special needs’ or ‘exceptionalities.’ Rather than discriminate against these children, Montessori accepted, observed, and interacted with them, and discovered their natural desire and curiosity for learning. Over time, she developed an educational method that benefited all children, including the ones that succeeded in the old method of teaching as well. Her approach was scientific; it considered the development of a child’s brain and body. For this reason, her method has succeeded around the world today.
Montessori discovered that young children are constantly learning by absorbing the information in their environment. So she created a loving school environment – the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) – for children ages 2 to 6. Children had the freedom to move around the classroom and choose what to learn from Montessori’s original curriculum including: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Science and Culture. The children became surprisingly less motivated by treats and rewards as they developed an intrinsic appreciation for their individual successes and self-discipline. Montessori championed for holistic, child-centered education while her contemporaries were still relying on rote memorization.
What sets apart the Montessori Method? The materials and environment are carefully designed to be beautiful and attractive to the child. Each activity isolates a particular set of skills that a child can practice and perfect, while simultaneously minimizing confusion or frustration. The activities also include a mechanism called a ‘control of error,’ that allows a child to independently become aware of their mistakes and fix them without feeling discouraged. The teacher is a gentle directress that guides the child to interact with the environment. With such intelligent design, children are inspired to have a life-long love for learning.