Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the first female physicians in Italy. She began working with special needs children soon after graduating the university. She found by giving these children simple tasks to do they became more focused and not so “special needs” anymore. Dr. Montessori developed a very hands-on, instinctual method of teaching children that has been popular all over the world for more than one hundred years, including here in the United States.
Dr. Montessori’s primary philosophy about teaching was to “follow the child.” To Montessori educators this means we are to let the child guide us into what they would like to learn. For example, in the primary classroom (ages 3-6) the main area of work is referred to as “practical life/sensorial.” Work in this area consists of scrubbing tables, washing dishes, pouring, sweeping, wiping, dressing boards, and taking care of dolls. Children, as young as three, have the ability, and the need, to do and have meaningful work.
“Freedom within limits” was another large part of Dr. Montessori’s teaching philosophy. Freedom within limits refers to the concept that children should be free to do what they’d like in the classroom within the limits the teacher has set for them. A teacher will give a child a set amount of things to do for the day but then allows him or her to have the freedom to do preferred tasks within that work for the rest of the day.
The Montessori method of teaching focuses on the process of learning, rather than the end result. As parents new to Montessori become accustomed to this method, they learn their child may not necessarily have a “finished product” when it comes to his or her work, rather there may be five or six versions of it that, upon further inspection, gets closer to perfection as he or she reach the end of the lesson.
Dr. Montessori discovered that children are capable of amazing things at a very young age. She found that when children feel confident in their ability to contribute to the community they have a more positive attitude towards learning.
Additionally, Dr. Montessori felt that learning should begin at home. Many Montessorians feel that Montessori philosophy should be carried throughout all areas of a child’s life, not just in his or her school setting. In addition to what the kids learn in the classroom, MASB focuses on parent education and believes without a proper foundation, a child’s education will surely not be as strong as it should be.
“The child can develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experiences ‘work’.” – Dr. Maria Montessori