Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. Unlike most women of her day, she studied mathematics, physics and science. She planned to become an engineer but became so interested in biology, she decided to study medicine. Medical school was a constant struggle, but in 1896, ranking in the top of her class, she became the first woman to graduate from the University School of Medicine. She became interested in children left to waste away in mental institutions and began to work with these children. Eventually they were able to pass the State Elementary School Exams. It was said she had performed a miracle! Dr. Montessori felt this was certainly no miracle. If these children were capable of attaining this level of achievement, what then would be the level of work that healthy and normal children could achieve if given the proper environment? So began her years of work and study with normal children which evolved into the philosophy of education now called the Montessori Method.
Montessori philosophy is finally being used as originally intended, as a method of seeing children as they really are and of creating environments which foster the fulfillment of their highest potential – spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual – as members of a family, the world community and the Cosmos.
Dr. Montessori gave the world a scientific method, practical and tested, for bringing forth the very best in young human beings. She taught adults how to respect individual differences, and to emphasize social interaction and the education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body of knowledge.
Montessori practice is always up-to-date and dynamic because observation and the meeting of needs is continual and specific for each child. When physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs are met children glow with excitement and a drive to play and work with enthusiasm, to learn, and to create. They exhibit a desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment.
The high level of academic achievement so common in Montessori schools is a natural outcome of experience in such a supportive environment. The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural, mixed-age group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults.
Today Montessori teacher training centers and schools exist on all continents. There are Montessori parenting classes, “Nidos” (“nests” for infants), infant communities, “children’s houses” (for age 3-6), and classes for children up to age eighteen in public and private schools. Montessori works in gifted and talented programs, and for children with developmental disabilities of all kinds. Many parents are using Dr. Montessori’s discoveries to raise/educate their children at home.
The discoveries of Maria Montessori are valuable for anyone living and working with children in any situation.