Montessori – A Brief History

One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child. – Maria Montessori

Known throughout the world, the Montessori method of education is based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman physician in Italy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Specializing in pediatrics and psychiatry, Maria Montessori had regular contact with working class and poor children through free clinics at the University of Rome’s medical school. These experiences convinced Dr. Montessori that children are born with incredible learning potential and an intrinsic desire to explore, discover, and learn about their world.
Through scientific investigation, study of available research and observation of children with developmental disabilities, as well as with poor children of normal intelligence, Dr. Montessori saw that children flourish in an environment that supports the individual child’s social, emotional, intellectual, and moral development. Through observations of children and through trial and error, Dr. Montessori developed an educational method that is designed to help each child reach his or her full potential in all areas of life. The prepared environment allows for self-directed learning and relies on multi-sensory, sequential, and self-correcting materials. The teacher functions as a resource, role-model, demonstrator, record-keeper, and meticulous observer of each child’s behavior and growth.

Dr. Montessori’s Children Houses received numerous visitors who came away in awe of how the children took responsibility for their environment and pursued intellectual concepts that were typically introduced much later in schooling. As Montessori duplicated her schools throughout Europe, she also began introducing her method to the United States with the support of the Washington Montessori Society whose members included Alexander Graham Bell and Woodrow Wilson’s daughter.

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