"We cannot create observers by saying 'observe,' but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses."
The Early History of Montessori
Montessori education debuted in 1907 with Maria Montessori’s first school, the Casa dei Bambini, part of an urban renewal project in a low-income district of Rome. The school’s success resounded throughout Italy and additional schools soon opened in Rome and Milan. In 1909, Dr. Montessori published her landmark book, Il Metodo Della Pedagogia Scientifica Applicato All’Educazione Infantile Nelle Case Dei Bambini, known by its English title as The Montessori Method.
By 1910, news of the innovative technique had spread beyond Europe and teachers throughout the world were eager to learn it. Early Montessori educators were taught by Dr. Montessori herself. Her courses drew students from as far as Chile and Australia and within a few years there were Montessori schools on five continents.
In the United States, the fledgling movement caught on quickly. The first Montessori school opened in 1911 in Scarborough, NY, and others followed in rapid succession. Prominent figures, including Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, lent their support, and popular journals galvanized the public with articles on the “miracle children” who emerged from Montessori schools. By 1916, more than 100 Montessori schools were operating in 22 states.
Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori approach to education, was born in Italy in 1870. As a teenager she was determined to become an engineer, but later abandoned that idea in favor of studying medicine. Graduating as Italy's first female medical practitioner, she embarked on a career in mental health.
This brought her into contact with children diagnosed as educationally subnormal and excluded from the educational system. She devised special apparatus to help them learn through movement and achieved some remarkable results.
Following on from this she was asked to head up a child care project for a social housing initiative, and her first "Children's House" opened in San Lorenzo, a suburb of Rome, in 1907. Here, too, she introduced the equipment she had designed and observed the children very closely as they used it, tailoring what she provided in the environment to meet their developmental needs. There was great astonishment at the amount of learning that these pre-school children showed themselves to be capable of, not least of which was their explosion into writing.
Responding to demands to explaining her method, Montessori began to write about her discoveries and to train people to work with children the way she advocated. From this time on, education became her life and she continued to develop educational theories to fit what she observed among the children in her care.
For the rest of her life she traveled extensively, training, teaching, and lecturing around the world, increasingly convinced that it was only through effective education of the rising generation that universal peace could ever become a reality. She died in Holland in 1952, leaving an international legacy of Montessori schools and training centers around the world, all following the Montessori approach, transcending cultures, faiths, linguistic traditions, and political systems.
by Paula P. Lillard (1996)
Describes Montessori theory and contemporary American Montessori schools serving ages ranging from birth to adulthood.
Montessori from the Start
by Paula P. Lillard and Lynn L. Jessen (2003)
What parents can do to help their youngest children in the process of self-formation.
To Educate the Human Potential
by Maria Montessori (1948)
Describes the needs of the elementary-aged child in the process of acquiring culture.
The Absorbent Mind
by Maria Montessori (1949)
Discusses the development of infants and young children from birth to three years. Gives a clear explanation of the basis of Montessori theory and method.
The Child in the Family
by Maria Montessori (1956)
A series of short essays about the child, the family, and the school, with a philosophical emphasis.
From Childhood to Adolescence
by Maria Montessori (1973)
Discusses the development and education of the child from age seven through adolescence. Includes Dr. Montessori's thoughts on university education.
Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work
by E. M. Standing (1957)
Covers Maria Montessori's life, how she developed Montessori education, its theoretical basis, and the worldwide growth of the Montessori movement.