Maria Montessori (1870-1952) became the first woman doctor in her country’s history. Her early work was with children with special education needs and children from deprived backgrounds and through careful observation she devised a way of teaching that benefits children, especially in their early years, as their experiences in these years will affect their whole approach to learning. Montessori emphasizes a holistic approach to learning, highlighting the importance of respect and peace.
Montessori believed that children are innate knowledge seekers and that they teach themselves. As she expressed it, young learners are “self-creating”. Her basic principle was to “follow the child”. A Montessori classroom is carefully prepared to allow the child to work independently and allow for the joy of self-discovery. Teachers introduce materials and children are free to choose, again and again, working and discovering, and ultimately mastering ideas. Lessons are given, but the goal is for children to discover the answer by using the “auto-didactic” or “self-correcting” materials that are found only in Montessori classrooms.
The Montessori method is based on three concepts: the specialised training of the teacher, a specially prepared environment complete with Montessori apparatus and a multi age grouping of children (vertical grouping). When these elements are in place, young children are able to discover their own talents, gain self-confidence, make friendships, experience the joys of learning, and grow in a holistic manner.