maria montessori
facebook            simona nicolae
simona@mariamontessori.ro



INTERESTING TO READ... august 2013

Who was MARIA MONTESSORI? 
What did she create?
 
 
She was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, a small town in Italy, in a catholic family. Maria's life with her father, former state official and very authoritative, was not an easy one. The mother came from a family of researchers and scientists. She fully supported Maria.
Maria liked mathematics, and when she turned 15, she opted for an engineering school, where she studied for a year or two. The father does not agree to her choice. Despite the minister of education's opposition, she says: "I know I will be a doctor". She finally obtains the approval to register for medical school and in 1896 she is the first woman with a degree in medicine. Her studies were very difficult, even the more so since she was not allowed to attend dissections in the presence of men, which is why she performed them individually.
She opts for psychiatry – mentally ill children. She starts working with them - she separates them from the adults and she realises they spent all day in empty rooms. She decides to find activities and materials for these children.
She obtains the bachelor's degrees in: biology, philosophy, and psychology. She becomes a researcher and a scientist, and not as an on-field teacher.
1898 – she attends the pedagogic congress in Turin, where she pleads for these children's rights - to be supported to reintegrate in society and regain human dignity. At the end of this congress, the minister of education entrusts her with the management of a school of orthophrenics - children with disabilities. Her task was to teach them to write, read, and count, though she did not have any pedagogic training.
Thus, she starts studying the work of Itard  (1775-1835) – a doctor renowned for the education of the wild child – Victor, l’enfnat sauvage de L’Aveyron – a boy abandoned in the woods at birth and found when he was 9-10 years old. Maria read all Itard's daily reports on Victor, the wild child.
In the meantime, she also studied the work of Seguin (1812-1880), a doctor who designed a series of sensorial materials dedicated to the education of the hearing and speech impaired. Maria copies Seguin's book by hand. When copying it, she becomes an adept of Seguin's thinking. (This particular element is present in the quality of the Montessori material. Thinking can only be deployed in time, space, and absence.)
She does all that in Paris.
In 1898, she returned to Italy and produced Seguin's material, but with changes. She maintained the principle. The trained the teachers in the orthophrenics school on how to use the material.
The progress soon appears – she registers these children for the usual school examinations, where they obtain better results than children without any disabilities.
She goes from training to development. She believes that each normal child's potential can be better developed. Thus, in 1902 she ceases her activity in this school.
1904 – she becomes an anthropology teacher – she tries to understand human development.
1907  in San Lorenzo – the town hosts old houses and a migrating population. The mayor wanted to rehabilitate the buildings, but he could not find someone to look after the children who are not supervised and destroy the buildings. He asks Maria to take care of these children.
January 6 – she opens the first "Casa dei bambini”, a neighbourhood kindergarten, open for children aged 3 to 6. Thus, the first class for children aged 3 to 6 is born.
1907 – 1910 – works in San Lorenzo – discovers the phenomenon of attentiveness in children, the first pillar of Montessori pedagogy.
Example: Washing hands – children returned to their activity, though the purpose had been reached - she realises they are pushed by an inner force that determines them to resume the act.
Through observation, she identifies the purpose of attentiveness: it allows children to focus on an activity with a defined purpose, because the development of intelligence is underpinned by concentration. She refers to the phenomenon as the secret of childhood. Starting from this point, children become much calmer and more social. The consequence of concentration is social awakening.
Starting from this point, she amends Seguin's material according to the attentiveness phenomenon. She built several prototypes and gave them to the children to use them. She only kept those that favour concentration.
Her international renown was brought by the "writing phenomenon". She gave rugged letters to the elder children (glasspaper – image 1). One day, one of the children aged 4 who was watching Maria and another child handling the letter, took the chalk and she realised he was writing. She called this phenomenon the "writing phenomenon”, because the younger children immediately started writing. Hence, she gave the rugged letters to the smaller children.( 3 year - 3 years ½). 
She understands that all children have their specific moments when they approach the elements of the culture they live in. These are the sensitive periods – second pillar of Montessori pedagogy.
This is her second discovery.
The child needs time to complete the inner work, and the progress will surface one day. We have to trust the child.
The third pillar of the Montessori pedagogy is the child's freedom of choice.
It is complex, because you have to do in order be able to choose. This means accompanying the child until he says: "I want to do that".
She understood that she had to make sure that the material is at the children's reach. Thus, the settings has to be especially adapted to the child: according to his size and capacities. The child has to be able to use all materials, without the adult's help. The adult only has to make the connection between the child and the material.
1908 – 1909 – holds the first teacher training courses.
1909 – draws up the programme for children aged between 0 and 3, with the help of Anna Maccheroni and Adele Costa Gnocci.
1913 – the first conference in the USA – upon the invitation of Graham Bell (the inventor of the telephone).
1913 – the first training course held in Rome with students throughout the world.
Starting the First World War, she spent her time creating training centres, visiting schools, and holding conferences. She shared the results of her research. The time for research ended, even if she still worked on the elementary school programme (for children aged between 6 and 12).
1916 – she stopped in Barcelona where she set up a training seminar. It is here that she writes all her religious and education books.
1929sets up the Association Montessori  Internationale (AMI) in Copenhagen, but the registered office will be in Amsterdam.
With the onset of fascism, all schools in Italy were shut down, and she left for India.
1939-1946 –she sets up in Chennai, where she holds training courses for hundreds of training courses for students.
Develops Cosmic Education - programme for children aged between 6 and 12.
Cosmic education - 5 great lessons:
1.Story of the Universe
2.Story of the Solar System and the Earth
3.Story of life on Earth
4.Story of Humans
5.Story of Language and Math
In elementary school, education becomes trans-disciplinary because all these topics allow for the onset of research projects.
She relies on the child's development plans and interest, so as to be granted access to culture. This gives the child an idea on who he is, allows him to become part of a story, and learn about respecting the earth and people. It teaches him about the interdependency of things (sets the premises for environmental education).
Develops the programme for children aged between 0 and 3.
The slogan for children aged between 3 and 6: "Help me do it myself”.
The slogan for children aged between 6 and 12: "Help me to think for myself”.
1949 – she is awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honour by Leon Blum, prime minister of France. 
During her lifetime she did not leave the transmission of her philosophy to anyone apart from her son Mario Montessori.
1898 –  Mario is born. She does not raise him. The father was a psychiatrist, George Montessano, and he was Maria's professor. 
Because she had started her career as a physician, Maria takes Mario to a farm, and she returns to see him weekly. 
Maria takes Mario back at the age of 12, when her mother dies. She takes him to the USA and at 18 he marries an American. They return to Europe and have 4 children. He divorces and stays with the children in Spain and then in the Netherlands. He writes a book, "Tendencies of Humans", including his own concepts, which is going to be used in the elementary cycle. He remarries a very rich Dutch.
He takes over the leadership of Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), followed by his second wife, and then AMI management was open to people outside the family.
Montessori philosophy reaches Austria and Germania in 1930: Ana Freud, Eric Erikson are personalities who attended her training courses at the time.
Here are some of the people who were, in one way or another, influenced by Maria Montessori's philosophy and education method: George Clooney, Cami Cotler, John, and Joan Cusack, Dakota Fanning, Melissa, and Sarah Gilbert, Helen Hunt, and Lea Salonga; artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser; writers Anne Frank and T. Berry Brazelton; Peter Drucker; Google founders: Larry Page and Sergey Brin; the founder of Amazon.com: Jeff Bezos; the founder of Wikipedia: Jimmy Wales; the designer of the Sims game: Will Wright; the former owner and publisher of Washington Post: Katharine Graham; the former First Lady and publisher: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; the winner of the Nobel Prize: Gabriel Garcia Marquez; the famous cook and author: Julia Child; magician David Blaine; the media mogul Sean Combs; musician Joshua Bell; and Princes William and Harry.
In one of his letters to Maria Montessori, Freud said: "If all children were educated according to Montessori principles, my work would be of no use”.