Montessori Method

“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age six; for that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed. The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play; it is work he must do in order to grow up.”
Dr. Maria Montessori was the first educator to realize the capacity of young children to learn and to systematically examine how the young child learns best. She believed that all children have a natural desire to learn and given the opportunity will absorb everything in their culture and environment. She identified that the most sensitive period for learning was the period between birth and age six. The Montessori method has been proven for over 100 years and is known and taught world-wide.

Sensitive periods are times in the child’s life when they are driven by nature to acquire a new skill or concept. During this time, learning will be easier than any other time in life. From newborn to two years of age, they are in the sensitive stage of language; from three to five years of age, they are refining small motor skills; and from four to six years of age, they are refining reading skills.

The Montessori philosophy and curriculum fosters love of learning and self-growth. Through the work children develop tools for learning that will prepare them for life.

montessori-method-image-3What is a Montessori education?

The essential purpose of a Montessori education is to offer each child an environment in which he can develop the skills and habits he needs for a lifetime of learning and happiness.

Named for its founder, Dr. Maria Montessori, the Montessori method is based on two simple truths: That children must be respected, and that children spontaneously love learning.

These principles and careful observation form a child-centered method that Montessori called an “education for life.” Its goal is the finest development of the whole human being – emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually – toward the nurturing of peaceful, caring citizens.

At age two or three, a child is at the beginning of his intellectual and personal journey. What he does or does not do during the next four to six years will substantially shape his future: unbeknownst to him, his early experiences, observations, thoughts and choices will crystallize into a characteristic way of thinking and a formed personal identity. During his preschool years, he will habituate certain methods of using his mind, draw certain bedrock judgments about the world and himself, and as a result form his basic personal character.

The Montessori Method provides the crucial framework a child needs to make the most of his precious early years. It enables him to develop motor and social skills; to learn handwriting, reading and basic numeracy; and to grow into a capable, confident young person eager to explore the fascinating world around him.

maria-montessori-with-childrenWhat does a Montessori environment (classroom) look like?

The Montessori prepared environment honors the child and the beauty and order essential for him to work at his natural, individual and optimal level. Carefully designed Montessori materials attract the interest of the student, while at the same time teaching an important, isolated concept for the child’s discovery. The child constructs her own reality and awareness, at first concretely through hands-on manipulation, until patterns are internalized and she discovers the next level of abstraction. The integrated Montessori curriculum shows the child how every aspect of learning is connected and intertwined.
—biography written by D. Renee Pendleton
Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy, in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. Shortly afterwards, she was chosen to represent Italy at two different women's conferences, in Berlin in 1896 and in London in 1900.

In her medical practice, her clinical observations led her to analyze how children learn, and she concluded that they build themselves from what they find in their environment. Shifting her focus from the body to the mind, she returned to the university in 1901, this time to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.

maria-montessori-with-childHer desire to help children was so strong, however, that in 1906 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded the first Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's House." What ultimately became the Montessori method of education developed there, based upon Montessori's scientific observations of these children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do "naturally," by themselves, unassisted by adults.

Children teach themselves. This simple but profound truth inspired Montessori's lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching, and teacher training—all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the child.

Maria Montessori made her first visit to the United States in 1913, the same year that Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington, DC, home. Among her other strong American supporters were Thomas Edison and Helen Keller.

In 1915, she attracted world attention with her "glass house" schoolroom exhibit at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. On this second U.S. visit, she also conducted a teacher training course and addressed the annual conventions of both the National Education Association and the International Kindergarten Union. The committee that brought her to San Francisco included Margaret Wilson, daughter of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

The Spanish government invited her to open a research institute in 1917. In 1919, she began a series of teacher training courses in London. In 1922, she was appointed a government inspector of schools in her native Italy, but because of her opposition to Mussolini's fascism, she was forced to leave Italy in 1934. She traveled to Barcelona, Spain, and was rescued there by a British cruiser in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. She opened the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands, in 1938, and founded a series of teacher training courses in India in 1939.

In 1940, when India entered World War II, she and her son, Mario Montessori, were interned as enemy aliens, but she was still permitted to conduct training courses. Later, she founded the Montessori Center in London (1947). She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times—in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

Maria Montessori died in Noordwijk, Holland, in 1952, but her work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on her work.

American Montessori Society Code of Ethics

AMS requires that all member schools and affiliated teacher education programs agree to comply with the AMS Code of Ethics. AMS relies on self-compliance of this Code. In pledging to accept the Code of Ethics, heads of schools and program directors agree that the educators in their institutions will strive to conduct themselves professionally and personally in ways that reflect their respect for one other and for the children they serve; and that they will do whatever is within their talents and capacity to protect the right of each child to have the freedom and opportunity to develop his or her full potential.

Principle I - Commitment to the Student

In fulfillment of the obligation to the children, the educator—
  1. shall encourage independent action in the pursuit of learning;
  2. shall protect the opportunity to provide for participation in educational programs without regard to race, sex, color, creed, or national origin;
  3. shall protect the health and safety of students;
  4. shall honor professional commitments and maintain obligations and contracts while never soliciting nor involving students or their parents in schemes for commercial gain;
  5. shall keep in confidence information that has been secured in the course of professional service, unless disclosure serves professional purposes or is required by law.

Principle II - Commitment to the Public

The Montessori educator shares in the responsibility for developing policy relating to the extension of educational opportunity for all and for interpreting educational programs and policies to the public. In fulfilling these goals, the educator—
  1. shall support the American Montessori Society and not misrepresent its policies in public discussion. Whenever speaking or writing about policies, the educator should take the precaution of distinguishing private views from the official position of the Society.
  2. shall not interfere with nor exploit the rights and responsibilities of colleagues within the teaching profession.

Principle III - Commitment to the Profession

The Montessori educator makes efforts to raise professional standards and conditions to attract persons worthy of trust to careers in Montessori education. In fulfilling these goals, the educator—
  1. shall extend just and equitable treatment to all members of the Montessori education profession;
  2. shall represent his or her own professional qualification with clarity and true intent;
  3. shall apply for, accept, offer, recommend, and assign professional positions and responsibilities on the basis of professional preparation and legal qualifications;
  4. shall use honest and effective methods of administering duties, use of time, and conducting business.

Adopted 1969, AMS Board of Directors. Expanded 1975. Updated 2008 and 2010.
“The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist”

“Development is a series of rebirths”

“The child becomes a person through work.”

“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self.”