January 6, 2007 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first Montessori school in Rome. Italy’s first woman physician and surgeon, Maria Montessori called her first early childhood classroom a Children’s House to celebrate the world’s first child-sized tables, chairs and materials. As the world celebrated this centenary anniversary, Montessori schools throughout the world continue to offer prepared environments for children from infancy through high school. Montessori’s ideas are even being successfully used with Alzheimer and stroke patients.
“Free the child’s potential
and you will transform
both the child
and the world.”
— Dr. Maria Montessori
In the United States Montessori continues to grow and expand through private school, as well as significant numbers of public and charter Montessori schools in many states. A conservative estimate is that there are upwards of 25,000 Montessori schools in 110 countries serving more than a million children. Thousands more home school families also use Montessori.
Dr. Maria Montessori, whom the Ladies Home Journal called one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century, is a household name in many countries, with growing understanding of her unique approach to education that focuses on the development and expression of each child’s individual potential.
Montessori’s views on education
What is the secret of the longevity of the Montessori Method? Perhaps it is to be found in the unique blend of successful academics plus a profound understanding of individual uniqueness and innate spiritual potential. She conceived of education more broadly than the conveyance of facts and figures. It is to help life. “Our care of the children should be governed not by the desire to ‘make them learn things’, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within them the light which is called intelligence.”
She wrote: “I believe that the work of the educator consists primarily in protecting the [inner] powers and directing them without disturbing them in their expansion; and in the bringing of man into contact with the spirit which is within him and which should operate through him.” In addition to academic pursuits, the Montessori curriculum includes problem solving and peace, in a direct response to her writing about helping children develop inner direction.
This new way of thinking about education carries over to the preparation of teachers as well. “The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.” Internationally recognized teacher preparation is available throughout the United States and throughout the world.
Recent investigations conducted by the Universities of Virginia and Wisconsin demonstrate that Montessori kindergarten children outperformed control groups of peers. The sequential hands-on materials found in every Montessori classroom assist children to gain clear concepts and move along at their own independent rate of development. It also nurtures self-control and inner discipline.
A three-year study conducted by Lander University and the University of South Carolina focused on whether there is a difference between Montessori children and traditional public school children in self-regulation. They discovered that Montessori children had higher levels of self-regulation and that it grew more consistently than it did in public school children. For example, nearly 100% of non-Montessori children will go tell the teacher when they experience disagreements between classmates, while 70% of Montessori children have learned skills to work it out and only 30% have to go to the teacher for help.
The study also revealed that Montessori children like their academic work of reading, math, geography and science much more strongly than their peers who tended to prefer cutting, coloring and playing.
Growing Montessori Movement
The number of Montessori schools is growing world-wide as people come to understand and appreciate the value of Maria Montessoris approach. Montessori classrooms offer environments prepared with activities that correspond to internal development. When children are developmentally ready and are given opportunity and choice to use materials that correspond to their individual timetable of development, they proceed quickly and with great confidence and joy. They demonstrate concentration, keen interest and calmness in learning.
Children with this kind of experience grow up loving to learn. Their brains crave learning much as the body craves food and the lungs crave air.
This one is in Seoul, Korea
Montessori in St, Petersburg, Russia
Montessori in rural Mexio
Go see a Montessori school
If you have never seen a Montessori school, give an area school a call and make an appointment to visit. Find out for yourself why Montessori is going strong after its first 100 years! If a child you know is already in a Montessori school community, go observe.
Read about Montessori
Consider reading more about her and by her. A fascinating and comprehensive introduction is E.M. Standing’s biography: Maria Montessori Her Life and Work. Montessori herself wrote more than twenty-five books, most available in English. Read more about Montessori and its application to toddlers, preschool and elementary age children on this website in Montessori Insights.