Grosvenor Montessori

Nurturing little learners

Montessori Philosophy

Who was Maria Montessori?

She was born in Italy in 1870, and chose a profession that was unheard of for a woman in Italy at the time.  Despite the challenges that she faced, she graduated as the first female doctor of medicine in 1896.  She joined the University of Rome’s Psychiatric Clinic where she encountered her first experience with the mentally challenged.  With much enthusiasm, she researched methods of helping them and soon gained fame for her remarkable successes. One such instance of accolades was her appointment to the position of director of Scuola Ortofrencia, by the Italian Minister following her talk at an educational Congress, in Turin in 1898. This was an institution devoted to the care and education of the mentally challenged.  She achieved much recognition for her work at the institution and evidence of this was the achievement of an above average score by her 8 year old mentally challenged student when they undertook a state examination.

When was the first Montessori school established?

Driven by her need to research the impact of her findings on normal children, Maria Montessori attended the University of Rome pursuing her study in psychology and philosophy.  She was later (1904) appointed as professor of anthropology at the University.  Three years later she was presented with the opportunity to open a school for slum children in the district of San Lorenzo in Rome.  She embraced this opportunity and following her observations of the next 12 months, on the 6 January 1907, ‘Casa dei Bambini’ (aka Children’s house) was established.  The philosophy adhered to at Casa dei Bambini can be seen in Montessori schools today.

How was the first Montessori school received?

The fame of Maria Montessori, her children’s house and methods spread, which then attracted much interest and international visits including educationalists and social workers. Her popularity flourished, she travelled globally, speaking at conferences for women, conducting training courses whilst continuing with her research.  The application of her principles extended to elementary preschool as well as infants from birth. Her research on the child’s early years is published in “Absorbent Mind” (1949).

What teaching materials are used in the Montessori classroom?

The materials used by Montessori are drawn partly from the materials used by Itard and Seguin, from objects used in psychological tests, and from the materials which were designed earlier in her own experimental work (Discovery of the child, Maria Montessori).

“Thus, the sensory materials should definitely be regarded as ‘materialized abstraction’ … When the child is directly confronted with the materials he applies himself to them with that kind of earnest, concentrated attention which seems to draw the best out of his consciousness. It really seems as if the little ones were involved in doing the best work their minds are capable of: the materials open new doors to their understanding which otherwise would remain locked [(Montessori, 1969, p. 197-98).”

What is the Prepared Environment?

Montessori identified six aspects that contribute towards creating the prepared environment:

Freedom – the child is free to explore and follow his own natural impulses, thus developing his potential and increasing his knowledge of the world around him.  The child experiences freedom through movement, exploration, engaging in social interactions as well as freedom from interference from others.  The intention of creating an environment of freedom is to enable the child to develop his freedom of choice thereby independence and confidence.

Order – the freedom experienced within the prepared environment exists within a structure and an element of order.  Montessori discovered that children manifest a sensitive period for order between 1 and 3 years. The classroom therefore has a place for everything and everything in its place.

Attractive – a classroom that is attractive is also naturally inviting for a child. The environment is therefore beautiful, pleasantly decorated, and colourful yet not over stimulating.  The child absorbs the beauty of the objects which surrounds him.

Natural – Montessori indicated the importance of nature and reality and incorporated this aspect into the environment.  The materials used are made from natural materials and the classroom makes provision for botany, zoology and geography to inspire the children towards nature.  The principle of reality is emphasized through the use of real objects that have been adapted to be child sized to encourage the child to be independent of the adult thereby enabling him to complete a task without frustration.

Social – the social environment identified by Montessori was born of the need to the child to interact with others thereby developing a sense of compassion and empathy for others. Children have a natural tendency to work and play in a group. Montessori enabled this need for social interaction in the classroom by creating an environment with multiple ages or “vertical grouping”.

Materials – Montessori makes mention of the intellectual environment through the active exploration with the materials.  The didactic nature of the materials enables the child to have control over his own learning.  The deliberate use of one set of each material encourages the child to learn the concepts of sharing, respect and value of the materials. The areas of intellectual environment identified are the practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics and cultural areas, which are adapted to allow maximum development of the child.

The prepared environment can therefore be seen as a platform through which learning is acquired and the link between the child and the adult.


One response to “Montessori Philosophy

  1. What a beautiful philosophy behind your hihgly prestigious school. My daughter is only turning 9 months in a few days time but I am deeply thinking of enroling her at Montessori when the time comes. I am iimpressed by what I just read and what people have told me

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