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A Biography of Dr Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born on the 31st August 1870 in the

town of Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father, Alessandro, was an
accountant in the civil service, and her mother, Renilde
Stoppani, was well educated and had a passion for
The Montessori family moved to Rome in 1875, and the
following year the young Maria enrolled in the local state
school on the Via di San Nicolo da Tolentino. As her
education progressed, she began to break through the
barriers which constrained womens careers. From 1886 to
1890 she continued her studies at the Regio Instituto
Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, which she entered with the
intention of becoming an engineer. This was unusual at the
time as most girls who pursued secondary education
studied the classics rather than going to technical school.
Upon her graduation, Montessoris parents encouraged
her to take up a career in teaching, one of the few
occupations open to women at the time, but she was
determined to enter medical school and become a doctor.
Her father opposed this coursemedical school was then
an all-male preserveand initially Maria was refused entry
by the head of school. She was undeterred, apparently
ending the unsuccessful interview with the professor by
saying, I know I shall become a doctor.
Eventually, it seems, Pope Leo XIII interceded on her behalf. In 1890 Montessori enrolled at the
University of Rome to study physics, maths and natural sciences, receiving her diploma two years
later. This and the Popes intercession enabled her to enter the Faculty of Medicine, and she became
the first woman to enter medical school in Italy. Montessori stood out not just because of her gender,
but because she was actually intent on mastering the subject matter. She won a series of
scholarships at medical school which, together with the money she earned through private tuition,
enabled her to pay for most of her medical education.
Her time at medical school was not easy. She faced prejudice from her male colleagues and had to
work alone on dissections since these were not allowed to be done in mixed classes. But she was a
dedicated student, and on the 10th July 1896 became the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Italy,
and with this distinction also became known across the country.
She was immediately employed in the San Giovanni Hospital attached to the University. Later that
year she was asked to represent Italy at the International Congress for Womens Rights in Berlin, and
in her speech to the Congress she developed a thesis for social reform, arguing that women should
be entitled to equal wages with men. A reporter covering the event asked her how her patients
responded to a female doctor. She replied, they know intuitively when someone really cares about
them. It is only the upper classes that have a prejudice against women leading a useful
existence. [1]
In November 1896 Montessori added the appointment as surgical assistant at Santo Spirito Hospital
in Rome to her portfolio of tasks. Much of her work there was with the poor, and particularly with their
children. As a doctor she was noted for the way in which she tended her patients, making sure they
were warm and properly fed as well as diagnosing and treating their illnesses. In 1897 she
volunteered to join a research programme at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, and it
was here that she worked alongside Giusseppe Montesano, with whom a romance was to develop.
As part of her work at the clinic she would visit Romes asylums for the insane, seeking patients for
treatment at the clinic. She relates how, on one such visit, the caretaker of a childrens asylum told
her with disgust how the children grabbed crumbs off the floor after their meal. Montessori realised

that in such a bare, unfurnished room the children were desperate for sensorial stimulation and
activities for their hands, and that this deprivation was contributing to their condition.
She began to read all she could on the subject of mentally retarded children, and in particular she
studied the groundbreaking work of two early 19 th century Frenchmen, Jean-Marc Itard, who had
made his name working with the wild boy of Aveyron, and Edouard Sguin, his student. She was so
keen to understand their work properly that she translated it herself from French into Italian. Itard had
developed a technique of education through the senses, which Sguin later tried to adapt to
mainstream education. Highly critical of the regimented schooling of the time, Sguin emphasised
respect and understanding for each individual child. He created practical apparatus and equipment to
help develop the childs sensory perceptions and motor skills, which Montessori was later to use in
new ways. During the 1897-98 University terms she sought to expand her knowledge of education by
attending courses in pedagogy, studying the works of Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel.
In 1898 Montessoris work with the asylum children began to receive more prominence. The 28-yearold Montessori was asked to address the National Medical Congress in Turin, where she advocated
the controversial theory that the lack of adequate provision for retarded and disturbed children was a
cause of their delinquency. Expanding on this, she addressed the National Pedagogical Congress the
following year, presenting a vision of social progress and political economy rooted in educational
measures. This notion of social reform through education was an idea that was to develop and
mature in Montessoris thinking throughout her life.
Montessoris involvement with the National League for the Education of Retarded Children led to her
appointment as co-director, with Guisseppe Montesano, of a new institution called the Orthophrenic
School. The school took children with a broad spectrum of disorders and proved to be a turning point
in Montessoris life, marking a shift in her professional identity from physician to educator. Until now
her ideas about the development of children were only theories, but the small school, set up along the
lines of a teaching hospital, allowed her to put these ideas into practice. Montessori spent 2 years
working at the Orthophrenic School, experimenting with and refining the materials devised by Itard
and Sguin and bringing a scientific, analytical attitude to the work; teaching and observing the
children by day and writing up her notes by night.
The relationship with Guisseppe Montesano had developed into a love affair, and in 1898 Maria gave
birth to a child, a boy named Mario, who was given into the care of a family who lived in the
countryside near Rome. Maria visited Mario often, but it was not until he was older that he came to
know that Maria was his mother. A strong bond was nevertheless created, and in later years he
collaborated and travelled with his mother, continuing her work after her death.
In 1901 Montessori left the Orthophrenic School and immersed herself in her own studies of
educational philosophy and anthropology. In 1904 she took up a post as a lecturer at the Pedagogic
School of the University of Rome, which she held until 1908. In one lecture she told her
students: The subject of our study is humanity; our purpose is to become teachers. Now, what really
makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the
educator into the higher consciousness of a mission[2].
During this period Rome was growing very rapidly, and in the fever of speculative development, some
construction companies were going bankrupt, leaving unfinished building projects which quickly
attracted squatters. One such development, which stood in the San Lorenzo district, was rescued by
a group of wealthy bankers who undertook a basic restoration, dividing larger apartments into small
units for impoverished working families. With parents out at work all day, the younger children
wreaked havoc on the newly-completed buildings. This prompted the developers to approach Dr
Montessori to provide ways of occupying the children during the day to prevent further damage to the
Montessori grasped the opportunity of working with normal children and, bringing some of the
educational materials she had developed at the Orthophrenic School, she established her first Casa
dei Bambini or Childrens House, which opened on the 6 th January 1907. A small opening ceremony
was organised, but few had any expectations for the project. Montessori felt differently: I had a
strange feeling which made me announce emphatically that here was the opening of an undertaking
of which the whole world would one day speak.[3]

She put many different activities and other materials into the childrens environment but kept only
those that engaged them. What Montessori came to realise was that children who were placed in an
environment where activities were designed to support their natural development had the power to
educate themselves. She was later to refer to this as auto-education. In 1914 she wrote, I did not
invent a method of education, I simply gave some little children a chance to live.
By the autumn of 1908 there were five Case dei Bambini operating, four in Rome and one in Milan.
Children in a Casa dei Bambini made extraordinary progress, and soon 5-year-olds were writing and
reading. News of Montessoris new approach spread rapidly, and visitors arrived to see for
themselves how she was achieving such results. Within a year the Italian-speaking part of
Switzerland began transforming its kindergartens into Case dei Bambini, and the spread of the new
educational approach began.
In the summer of 1909 Dr Montessori gave the first training course in her approach to around 100
students. Her notes from this period became her first book, published that same year in Italy, which
appeared in translation in the United States in 1912 asThe Montessori Method, reaching second
place on the U.S. nonfiction bestseller list. Soon afterwards it was translated into 20 different
languages. It has become a major influence in the field of education.
On 20th December 1912 her mother died at the age of 72. Maria was deeply affected by this event,
and in the year following her mothers death she brought her 14-year-old son, Mario, to Rome to live
with her.
A period of great expansion in the Montessori approach now followed. Montessori societies, training
programmes and schools sprang to life all over the world, and a period of travel with public speaking
and lecturing occupied Dr Montessori, much of it in America, but also in the UK and throughout
Europe. By this time Montessori had given up her other commitments to devote herself entirely to
spreading the approach she had developed. Much of the expansion, however, was ill-founded and
distorted by the events of the First World War.
On returning from the USA in 1917, and after Marios marriage to his first wife, Helen Christy, she
based herself in Barcelona, Spain, where a Seminari-Laboratori de Pedagogi had been created for
her. Her son and his new wife joined her, and her four grandchildren were born there: two boys, Mario
Jr and Rolando, and two girls, Marilena and Renilde. Renilde, her youngest grandchild, was until very
recently the General Secretary and then President of the Association Montessori Internationale, the
organisation set up by Maria Montessori in 1929 to continue her work.
Maria nursed an ambition to create a permanent centre for research and development into her
approach to early-years education, but any possibility of this happening in her lifetime in Spain was
thwarted by the rise of fascism in Europe. By 1933 all Montessori schools in Germany had been
closed and an effigy of her was burned above a bonfire of her books in Berlin. In the same year, after
Montessori refused to cooperate with Mussolinis plans to incorporate Italian Montessori schools into
the fascist youth movement, he closed them all down. The outbreak of civil war in Spain forced the
family to abandon their home in Barcelona, and they sailed to England in the summer of 1936. From
England the refugees travelled to the Netherlands to stay in the family home of Ada Pierson, the
daughter of a Dutch banker. Mario, by now estranged from his first wife, was later to marry Ada.
In 1939 Mario and Maria embarked on a journey to India to give a 3-month training course in Madras
followed by a lecture tour; they were not to return for nearly 7 years. With the outbreak of war, as
Italian citizens, Mario was interned and Maria put under house arrest. She spent the summer in the
rural hill station of Kodaikanal, and this experience guided her thinking towards the nature of the
relationships among all living things, a theme she was to develop until the end of her life and which
became known as cosmic education, an approach for children aged 6 to 12. Montessori was well
looked after in India, where she met Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore. Her 70 th birthday request to the
Indian governmentthat Mario should be released and restored to herwas granted, and together
they trained over a thousand Indian teachers.
In 1946 they returned to the Netherlands and to the grandchildren who had spent the war years in the
care of Ada Pierson. In 1947 Montessori, now 76, addressed UNESCO on the theme Education and
Peace. In 1949 she received the first of three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her last public
engagement was in London in 1951 when she attended the 9 thInternational Montessori Congress. On

6th May 1952, at the holiday home of the Pierson family in the Netherlands, she died in the company
of her son, Mario, to whom she bequeathed the legacy of her work.

Educational philosophy and pedagogy

Early influences[edit]
Montessori's theory and philosophy of education were initially heavily influenced by the work
of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, douard Sguin, Friedrich Frbel, and Johann Heinrich
Pestalozzi, all of whom emphasized sensory exploration and manipulatives.[90][91] Montessori's
first work with mentally disabled children, at the Orthophrenic School in 19001901, used the
methods of Itard and Seguin, training children in physical activities such as walking and the
use of a spoon, training their senses by exposure to sights, smells, and tactile experiences,
and introducing letters in tactile form.[92] These activities developed into the Montessori
"Sensorial" materials.[93]

Scientific pedagogy[edit]
Montessori considered her work in the Orthophrenic School and her subsequent
psychological studies and research work in elementary schools as "scientific pedagogy", a
concept current in the study of education at the time. She called for not just observation and
measurement of students, but for the development of new methods which would transform
them. "Scientific education, therefore, was that which, while based on science, modified and
improved the individual."[94] Further, education itself should be transformed by science: "The
new methods if they were run on scientific lines, ought to change completely both the school
and its methods, ought to give rise to a new form of education."[95]

Casa dei Bambini[edit]

Working with non-disabled children in the Casa dei Bambini in 1907, Montessori began to
develop her own pedagogy. The essential elements of her educational theory emerged from
this work, described in The Montessori Method in 1912 and in The Discovery of the Child in
1948. Her method was founded on the observation of children at liberty to act freely in an
environment prepared to meet their needs.[96] Montessori came to the conclusion that the
children's spontaneous activity in this environment revealed an internal program of
development, and that the appropriate role of the educator was to remove obstacles to this
natural development and provide opportunities for it to proceed and flourish.[97]
Accordingly, the schoolroom was equipped with child-sized furnishings, "practical life"
activities such as sweeping and washing tables, and teaching material that Montessori had
developed herself. Children were given freedom to choose and carry out their own activities,
at their own paces and following their own inclinations. In these conditions, Montessori made

a number of observations which became the foundation of her work. First, she observed great
concentration in the children and spontaneous repetition of chosen activities. She also
observed a strong tendency in the children to order their own environment, straightening
tables and shelves and ordering materials. As children chose some activities over others,
Montessori refined the materials she offered to them. Over time, the children began to exhibit
what she called "spontaneous discipline".[98]

Further development and Montessori education today[edit]

Montessori continued to develop her pedagogy and her model of human development as she
expanded her work and extended it to older children. She saw human behavior as guided by
universal, innate characteristics in human psychology which her son and collaborator Mario
Montessori identified as "human tendencies" in 1957. In addition, she observed four distinct
periods, or "planes", in human development, extending from birth to six years, from six to
twelve, from twelve to eighteen, and from eighteen to twenty-four. She saw different
characteristics, learning modes, and developmental imperatives active in each of these
planes, and called for educational approaches specific to each period. Over the course of her
lifetime, Montessori developed pedagogical methods and materials for the first two planes,
from birth to age twelve, and wrote and lectured about the third and fourth planes. Maria
created over 4,000 Montessori classrooms across the world and her books were translated in
many different languages for the training of new educators. Her methods are installed in
hundreds of public and private schools across the United States.[99]
Montessori method[edit]

Montessori had many accomplishments with one being the Montessori method which is a
method of educating young children that stresses development of a child's own initiative and
natural abilities, especially through practical play. This method allowed children to develop at
their own pace and provided educators with a better understanding of child development. In
Maria's book, The Montessori Method, she goes into further detail about the method.
Educators in the field set up special environments to meet the needs of the students in three
age groups: two and a half years, two and a half to six years, and six and a half to twelve
years. The students learn through activities that involve exploration, manipulations, order,
repetition, abstraction, and communication. The teacher is to encourage children in the first
two age groups to use their senses to explore and manipulate materials in their immediate
environment. Children in the last age group deal with abstract concepts based on their newly
developed powers of reasoning, imagination, and creativity.[100]

Becoming an Educational Reformer

Montessori's work as a physician led her to focus on psychiatry and pediatrics. She was able
to pursue both areas as a researcher with the University of Rome. This allowed her to work
with and observe many disadvantaged children, particularly children of lower socioeconomic

status and children with disabilities in a variety of settings. It was in this work that Montessori
made the observations that would define her influence. Montessori began to observe that
children of all walks of life have an innate curiosity, and with this curiosity comes an intelligent
approach to going about the process of learning.
In 1900, she became the co-director for the Orthophrenic School, a school designed to train
teachers to work with children with mental disabilities. Because of her experiences here, along
with her continued education, Montessori made the decision to open up her own school. In
1907, Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini, a school for disadvantaged children. At Casa
dei Bambini, Montessori was able to implement a style of education that she felt was more
effective and more focused on the natural patterns of child development. Her students came
from other institutions and were often considered to be 'uneducable' students. 'Uneducable,'
however, wasn't a word in Montessori's vocabulary.

The Montessori Method

While Montessori's life itself was certainly influential, it is her pedagogical method that is the
meat of this video lesson. First, we should be clear that true mastery of Montessori's method
cannot be obtained by watching a short video. It is a lengthy process that requires in-depth
study and practice. However, we can outline the 'nuts and bolts' of Montessori's approaches
that are essential to understanding her impact on education.
First, we need to establish that the most important aspect of Montessori's approach is that it
is child-centered. A child-centered approach is one that places the child as the central focus
of the classroom. While that may seem abstract, it's not. It simply means that instead of the
teacher making all the decisions, the child gets some autonomy in what he or she learns and
how he or she goes about learning it. Several parallels can be drawn to the work of John

Overview of Montessori Education

Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
Maria Montessori was the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome. She first became
involved with education as a doctor treating underprivileged children. After studying the work of Itard and
Sequin and after much compassionate observation of young children, she designed special materials and a
scientifically prepared environment. These succeeded brilliantly and won world acclaim. She devoted her
energies and further studies to the field of education for the remainder of her life. The first "Casa Dei Bambini"
or the "Children's House" was opened in 1907 and since then Montessori schools have been established in
over fifty countries. Her work has made a significant contribution to improving the standards of education for
young children, and her methods and materials have been adopted in public and private schools around the

Montessori Philosophy
The foundation of Maria Montessori's approach is respect for the child as a worthy individual, occupied with the
task of developing himself into a mature human adult. She observed children's need for independence, for selfconfidence as adequate people, for control over their own impulses and emotions and a natural curiosity and
desire to learn.
She observed in young children a phenomenon she called the "absorbent mind". Children can absorb
information from their surroundings without any conscious, tedious effort. Learning does not have to be forced
upon them. If the environment is orderly and readily accessible and if the children are free to work through their
own cycles of activity at their own pace, they can learn to read, write and calculate in the same natural way that
they learned to walk and talk.
Dr. Montessori wrote, 'The most important period of life is not the age of university studies but the period from
birth to age six." It is now commonly accepted that from conception to age 4 the individual develops 50% of
his/her mature intelligence; from ages 4 to 8 another 30%. This indicates the rapid growth of intelligence in the
early years and the importance of the early environment on this development. It is also true that children
mature at very different rates and their periods of readiness for academic subjects vary greatly. Montessori
observed that a young child has periods of intense fascination for developing various skills such as climbing
stairs or counting. During these sensitive periods it is easier for the child to acquire particular skills than at any
other time in his/her life. The Montessori classroom allows each child freedom to select activities which
correspond to his or her own periods of interest and readiness.
By answering a child's needs as they arise, some children in a Montessori class begin to read and calculate
at a very early age. However, early learning was not Maria Montessori's objective. Her ideal was that the
learning experience should occur naturally and joyfully at the proper moment for each individual child. "It is true
we cannot make a genius," she wrote. We can only give each individual the chance to fulfill his/her potential to
become an independent, secure and balanced human being.

Maria Montessori (18701952) - Biography, Work with Disabled Children, Links to Itard
and Sguin, The Orthophrenic School
Physician Maria Montessori is recognized as one of the pioneers in the development of
early childhood education. She is also credited with promoting a substantial number of
important educational reforms that have worked their way over the course of the twentieth
century into the mainstream of education. These include the recognition of multiple
pathways to learning, the importance of concrete or hands-on learning, the stages of
cognitive development in children, and the link between children's emotional development
and their ability to learn at an optimal rate. Her ideas about the importance of the first six
years of life and the boundless potential of childrenregardless of race, gender, or social
classmade a significant contribution to human rights as societies around the world began
to rede-fine the rights and roles of women and children.

Montessori was born in 1870 to an educated middle-class family in Ancona, Italy. Growing
up in a country that was, at the time, very conservative in its attitude toward and
treatment of women, Montessori pursued a medical and scientific education. In 1896,
despite many years of opposition from her father, teachers, and male fellow students, she

graduated with highest honors from the Medical School of the University of Rome,
becoming the first woman physician in Italy.
Work with Disabled Children

As a physician, Montessori specialized in pediatrics and the newly evolving field of

psychiatry. Her approach was that of a well-trained scientist, rather than the familiar
philosophical exploration and intuitive approach followed by many of the educational
innovators who came before and after. Montessori found it ironic that she became best
known for her contributions in education, a field that she had been unwilling to enter as it
was one of the three traditional roles open to women at the time: working with children,
homemaking, or the convent.
Montessori taught at the medical school of the University of Rome, and through its free
clinics she came into frequent contact with the children of the working class and poor. Her
experience with the children of poverty convinced Montessori that intelligence is not rare,
although it seemed to present itself in many forms other than those recognized by
traditional schools.
In 1900 Montessori was appointed director of the new Orthophrenic School attached to
the University of Rome, formerly a municipal asylum for the "deficient and insane"
children of the city, most of whom would be diagnosed in the twenty-first century as
autistic or mentally disabled. She and her colleagues initiated a wave of reform in an
institution that formerly had merely confined these mentally challenged youngsters in
barren settings. Recognizing her young patients' need for stimulation, purposeful activity,
and self-esteem, Montessori dismissed the caretakers who treated the inmates with
contempt. Facing a desperate lack of staff to care for so many children in a residential
setting, she set out to teach as many as possible of the less-disturbed children to care for
themselves and their fellow inmates.
Links to Itard and Sguin

From 1900 to 1901, Montessori combed the medical libraries of western Europe seeking
successful work previously done with the education of children with disabilities. Her
studies led Montessori to the work of two almost forgotten French physicians of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard and douard Sguin. Itard
is well known in the twenty-first century for his work with the "Wild Boy of Aveyron," a
youth who had been found wandering naked in the forest, presumably abandoned as a
very young child and thus spending many years living alone. The boy could not speak and
lacked almost all of the skills of everyday life. Here apparently was a "natural" man, a
human being who had grown up outside of human society without the influence of
interaction with his own kind. Itard hoped from this study to shed some light on the ageold debate about what proportion of human intelligence and personality is hereditary and
what proportion stems from learned behavior.
This experiment was a limited success, although it captured the attention and imagination
of many of his contemporaries. Itard found his wild boy uncooperative and unwilling or
unable to learn most things. This led him to postulate the existence of developmental
periods in normal human growth. He formed the hypothesis that, during these "sensitive
periods," a child must experience stimulation to develop normally, or grow up, forever

lacking the skills and intellectual concepts not developed at the stage when nature expects
them to be readily absorbed.
Although Itard's efforts to teach the wild boy were barely successful, he followed a
methodical approach in designing the process, arguing that all education would benefit
from the use of careful observation and experimentation. This idea had tremendous appeal
to the scientifically trained Montessori, and later became the cornerstone of her method.
From the work of douard Sguin, a French psychologist who studied with Itard and
carried on his research, Montessori drew further confirmation of Itard's ideas, along with
a far more specific and organized system for applying it to the everyday education of
children with disabilities. Working primarily with the blind, Sguin developed a
methodical approach to breaking skills down into small steps, and was highly successful
with a carefully developed collection of hands-on educational materials. In the early
twenty-first century, Sguin is recognized as the founder of the modern approach to
special education.
The Orthophrenic School

From these two predecessors, Montessori took the idea of a scientific approach to
education, based on observation and experimentation. She belongs to the child study
school of thought and pursued her work with the careful training and objectivity of the
biolo-gist studying the natural behavior of an animal in the forest. Montessori studied her
mentally disabled patients, listening and carefully noting their response to her attempts to
implement Sguin's educational methods, as well as their progress in becoming
increasingly independent and verbal.
Slowly the children learned to perform most of the everyday tasks involved in preparing
the meals and maintaining the environment of the residential school. Her success with
these mentally disabled children received international attention when, after two years,
many of Montessori's such adolescents were able to pass the standard exams given by the
Italian public schools.
Acclaimed for this miracle, Montessori responded by suggesting that newborn human
beings normally enter the world with an intellectual potential that was barely being
developed by schools in the early years of the twentieth century. She challenged that if she
could attain such results with children who were disabled, schools should be able to get
dramatically better results with normal children.
Montessori's work reinforced her humanistic ideals, and she actively supported various
social re-form movements. She was a highly regarded guest speaker throughout Europe on
behalf of children's rights, the women's movement, peace education, and the importance
of a league of nations. Montessori become well known and highly regarded throughout
Europe, which contributed to the publicity that surrounded her schools.
The Children's House

Unfortunately, the Italian Ministry of Education did not welcome Montessori's ideas, and
she was denied access to school-aged children. Frustrated in her efforts to conduct the
experiment with public school students, in 1907 she welcomed the opportunity to serve as

the medical director for a day-care center that was being organized for working-class
children who were too young to attend public school.
This first Casa dei Bambini (Children's House) was located in the worst slum district of
Rome, and the conditions Montessori faced were appalling. Her first class consisted of fifty
children, from two through five years of age, taught by one untrained caregiver. The
children remained at the center from dawn to dusk while their parents worked, and had to
be fed two meals per day, bathed regularly, and given a program of medical care. The
children themselves were typical of extreme inner-city poverty conditions. They entered
the Children's House on the first day crying and pushing, exhibiting generally aggressive
and impatient behavior. Montessori, not knowing whether her experiment would work
under such conditions, began by teaching the older children how to help out with the
everyday tasks that needed to be done. She also introduced the manipulative perceptual
discrimination and puzzles and eye-hand manipulative exercises that she had used with
mentally disabled children.
The results surprised her, for unlike her mentally disabled children who had to be prodded
to use her apparatus, these very small children were drawn to the work she introduced.
Children who had wandered aimlessly the week before began to settle down to long
periods of constructive activity. They were fascinated with the puzzles and perceptual
training devices.
To Montessori's amazement, children three and four years old took the greatest delight in
learning practical everyday living skills that reinforced their independence and selfrespect. Each day they begged her to show them more, even applauding with delight when
Montessori taught them the correct use of a handkerchief to blow one's own nose. Soon
the older children were taking care of the school, assisting their teacher with the
preparation and serving of meals and the maintenance of a spotless environment. Their
behavior as a group changed dramatically from that of street urchins running wild to
models of grace and courtesy. It was little wonder that the press found such a humaninterest story appealing and promptly broadcast it to the world.
Montessori education is sometimes criticized for being too structured and academically
demanding of young children. Montessori would have laughed at this suggestion. She
often said, "I followed these children, studying them, studied them closely, and they taught
me how to teach them."
Montessori made a practice of paying close attention to the children's spontaneous
behavior, arguing that only in this way could a teacher know how to teach. Traditionally
schools at this time paid little attention to children as individuals, other than to demand
that they adapt to external standards. Montessori argued that the educator's job is to serve
the child, determining what each student needs to make the greatest progress. To her, a
child who fails in school should not be blamed, any more than a doctor should blame a
patient who does not get well fast enough. Just as it is the job of the physician to help
people find the way to cure themselves, it is the educator's job to facilitate the natural
process of learning.
Montessori's children exploded into academics. Too young to go to public school, they
begged to be taught how to read and write. They learned to do so quickly and
enthusiastically, using special manipulative materials that Montessori designed for

maximum appeal and effectiveness. The children were fascinated by numbers. To respond
to their interest, the mathematically inclined doctor developed a series of concrete math
learning materials that still fascinates many mathematicians and educators to this day.
Soon her four- and five-year-olds were adding and subtracting four-digit numbers, soon
progressing on to multiplication, division, skip counting, and increasingly advanced and
abstract concepts.
Their interests blossomed in other areas as well, compelling the overworked physician to
spend night after night designing new materials to keep pace with the children in
geometry, geography, history, and natural science. Further proof of the children's
academic interests came shortly after her first school opened, when a group of wellintentioned women gave the children a collection of lovely and expensive toys. The new
gifts held the children's attention for a few days, but they soon returned to the more
interesting learning materials. To Montessori's surprise, she found that children who had
experienced both generally preferred work over play, at least during the school day. Of the
early twenty-first century classroom, Montessori would probably add: "Children read and
do advanced mathematics in Montessori schools not because we push them, but because
this is what they do when given the correct setting and opportunity. To deny them the
right to learn because we, as adults, think that they should not is illogical and typical of the
way schools have been run before."
Montessori evolved her method through trial and error, making educated guesses about
the underlying meaning of the children's actions. She was quick to pick up on their cues,
and constantly experimented with the class. For example, Montessori tells of the morning
when the teacher arrived late, only to find that the children had crawled through a window
and gone right to work. At the beginning, the learning materials, having cost so much to
make, were locked away in a tall cabinet. Only the teacher had a key and would open it and
hand the materials to the children upon request. In this instance the teacher had neglected
to lock the cabinet the night before. Finding it open, the children had selected one material
apiece and were working quietly. As Montessori arrived the teacher was scolding the
children for taking them out without permission. She recognized that the children's
behavior showed that they were capable of selecting their own work, and removed the
cabinet and replaced it with low open shelves on which the activities were always available
to the children. This may sound like a minor change, but it contradicted all educational
practice and theory of that period.
The Discovery of the Child

One discovery followed another, giving Montessori an increasingly clear view of the inner
mind of the child. She found that little children were capable of long periods of quiet
concentration, even though they rarely show signs of it in everyday settings. Although they
are often careless and sloppy, they respond positively to an atmosphere of calm and order.
Montessori noticed that the logical extension of the young child's love for a consistent and
often repeated routine is an environment in which everything has a place. Her children
took tremendous delight in carefully carrying their work to and from the shelves, taking
great pains not to bump into anything or spill the smallest piece. They walked carefully
through the rooms, instead of running wildly as they did on the streets.

Montessori discovered that the environment itself was all-important in obtaining the
results that she had observed. Not wanting to use heavy school desks, she had carpenters
build child-sized tables and chairs. She was the first to do so, recognizing the frustration
that a little child experiences in an adult-sized world. Eventually she learned to design
entire schools around the size of the children. She had miniature pitchers and bowls
prepared and found knives that fit a child's tiny hand. The tables were lightweight,
allowing two children to move them alone. The children learned to control their
movements, disliking the way the calm atmosphere was disturbed when they knocked into
the furniture. Montessori studied the traffic pattern of the rooms, arranging the
furnishings and the activity area to minimize congestion and tripping. The children loved
to sit on the floor, so she bought little rugs to define their work areas and the children
quickly learned to walk around work that other children had laid out on their rugs.
Montessori carried this environmental engineering throughout the entire school building
and outside environment, designing child-sized toilets and low sinks, windows low to the
ground, low shelves, and miniature hand and garden tools of all sorts. Many of these ideas
were eventually adapted by the larger educational community, particularly at the nursery
and kindergarten levels. Many of the puzzles and educational devices in use at the preschool and elementary levels in the early twenty-first century are direct copies of
Montessori's original ideas. However, there is far more of her work that never entered the
mainstream, and twenty-first-century educators who are searching for new, more effective
answers are finding the accumulated experience of the Montessori community to be of
great interest.
Worldwide Response

Maria Montessori's first Children's House received overnight attention, and thousands of
visitors came away amazed and enthusiastic. Worldwide interest surged as she duplicated
her first school in other settings with the same results. Montessori captured the interest
and imagination of leaders and scientists around the world. In America, leading figures
such as Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford
enthusiastically supported her. Through books and countless articles written about and by
Montessori, she also became a well-known authority to parents and teachers.
As an internationally respected scientist, Montessori had a rare credibility in a field where
many others had promoted opinions, philosophies, and models that have not been readily
duplicated. The Montessori method offers a systematic approach that translates very well
to new settings. In the first thirty years of the twentieth century, the Montessori method
seemed to offer something for everyone. Conservatives appreciated the calm, responsible
behavior of the little children, along with their love for work. Liberals applauded the
freedom and spontaneity. Many political leaders saw it as a practical way to reform the
outmoded school systems of Europe, North America, and Asia, as well as an approach that
they hoped would lead to a more productive and law-abiding populace. Scientists of all
disciplines heralded its empirical foundation, along with the accelerated achievement of
the little children. Montessori rode a wave of enthusiastic support that many felt should
have changed the face of education far more dramatically than it did.
The Decline and Resurgence of Interest in Montessori Education in America

By 1925 there were more than 1,000 Montessori schools in the United States and many
tens of thousands more around the world. But by 1940 the movement had virtually

disappeared from the American scene. Only a handful of schools remained that openly
advertised that they followed the Montessori approach, although many continued to
operate without using the name. Education textbooks failed to mention her at all except as
an obscure footnote, and her work was virtually forgotten until it was "rediscovered" and
brought back to North America in the 1960s by Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambush and the
newly formed and rapidly expanding American Montessori Society. During this period,
Montessori schools continued to expand in most of the rest of the world.
The question is often asked about what led to the decline of Montessori education in the
United States. Several reasons can be reasonably postulated, including the disruption in
trans-Atlantic travel during and after World War I and World War II. Many would agree
that a highly influential book published in 1922 by Professor William Kilpatrick of
Columbia University, Montessori Reexamined, may have led many American educators to
dismiss Montessori unfairly as being an intellectual holdover from the outdated and no
longer accepted theories of faculty psychology. Kilpatrick pronounced that Montessori was
rigid, outdated, and mistaken in her attempt to educate the senses, suggesting that she was
under the misapprehension that the brain and senses could be strengthened, like a muscle,
by exercises in sensory training and memorization. Unfortunately, this and many other
criticisms were unfounded, primarily based on a lack of accurate information and understanding, along with perhaps some bias against Montessori's popularity as she was a
doctor and not a trained educator. Others have suggested that her being a highly articulate
and outspoken woman who was openly critical of the schools of her day may have also
played a substantial role.
In the early twenty-first century there are almost six thousand Montessori schools in the
United States, and their number continues to expand in virtually every country around the
world. In America, most Montessori schools are nonpublic and primarily serve early
childhood students between the age of two and six. However, the number of public school
districts implementing the Montessori approach has grown substantially since the 1980s,
with more than 300 districts running more than 500 magnet Montessori schools. As
charter schools have developed, Montessori schools are among the most popular and
successful models.
Also since the 1980s, Montessori schools have tended to expand in both enrollment and
the age levels served, with the majority of schools offering elementary programs as well as
early childhood. Secondary Montessori programs are less common, but are beginning to
appear in substantial numbers, initially as middle school programs and gradually as high
school programs as well.
The largest professional society in the United States is the American Montessori Society in
New York City. It accredits Montessori schools and more than fifty university-sponsored
and independent Montessori teacher education centers around the United States. Several
dozen smaller professional Montessori associations can also be found in the United States.
They include the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the society founded by
Montessori herself in 1929, which has its headquarters in the Netherlands and a national
office in Rochester, New York; and the more recently founded umbrella organization for
Montessori schools, the International Montessori Council (IMC), which has its American
offices in Rockville, Maryland, and Sarasota, Florida. The Montessori Accreditation

Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) also accredits Montessori teacher education
programs and is recognized ognized by the United States Department of Education.
Montessori's prime productive period lasted from the opening of the first Children's House
in 1907 until the 1930s. During this time, she continued her study of children, and
developed a vastly expanded curriculum and methodology for the elementary level as well.
Montessori schools were set up throughout Europe and North America, and Montessori
gave up her medical practice to devote all of her energies to advocating the rights and
intellectual potential of all children.
During her lifetime, Montessori was acknowledged as one of the world's leading educators.
As with all innovators, the educational community moved on beyond Montessori, adapting
many elements of her work that fit into existing theories and methods. It can be fairly
suggested that every classroom in America reflects Montessori's ideas to a fairly
substantial degree. Certainly the contemporary attitudes about multiple intelligences, the
importance of mental health and emotional literacy, the attractiveness of the modern
classroom, the use of manipulative materials in instruction, cooperative learning,
authentic assessment, and multiage classrooms as a desirable model for classroom
groupings are just a few examples of ideas generally attributed to Maria Montessori.
Ironically, schools are beginning to recognize that the Montessori approach has much
more to offer, primarily because to obtain the results that Montessori made world famous,
schools must implement her model as a complete restructuring of the school and the
teacher's role, rather than as a series of piecemeal reforms.
As understanding of child development has grown, many contemporary American
educators and those who would reform education have rediscovered how clear and
sensible her insight was. In the early twenty-first century, there is a growing consensus
among many psychologists and develop-mental educators that her ideas and educational
model were decades ahead of their time. As the movement gains support and continues to
spread into the American public school sector, one can readily say that Montessori, begun
at the dawn of the twentieth century, is a remarkably modern approach.
KRAMER, RITA MARIA. 1988. Maria Montessori: A Biography. Reading, MA: AddisonWesley.
LILLARD, PAULA. 1972. Montessori, a Modern Approach. New York: Schocken.
MONTESSORI, MARIA. 1992. The Secret of Childhood (1940). London: Sangam.
MONTESSORI, MARIA. 1995. The Absorbent Mind (1949). New York: Holt.
MONTESSORI, MARIA. 2002. The Montessori Method (1912). Mineola, NY: Dover.
STANDING, E. MORMITER. 1998. Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work. New York:

The Educational Theory of Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori left a long lasting mark on education around the world. She is regarded as one of
the most famous and accomplished educators of her time. Her philosophies and techniques are
studied and utilized in universities and schools today. Her life is a story of remarkable perseverance
and achievement. Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy on August 31, 1870. She was the
daughter of Allessandro Montessori and Renilde Stoppani.
She was described as a precocious little girl, who was always pushing the limits of society. Her
parents were both educated, but she grew up in a traditional Italian society where woman were
expected to be the central force of the family as wives and mothers. Montessori pushed the limits
by deciding to study engineering which was predominantly a male profession at the time. At the
age of thirteen Montessori joined a technically school where she was one of two women in
attendance. Although she was required to spend recess in a separate room from the men to shield
her from torment she was motivated to continue her education and attended the Leonardo da Vinci
Technical Institute for high school. She graduated in 1890. (Povell, 2007)
After high school, Montessori was still trying to push the societal limits and she attempted to enroll
into medical school. At first her application was denied because of her lack of knowledge in the
classical languages. She spent the subsequent two years taking her prerequisite courses and in 1892
she was admitted to the University of Rome Medical School and graduated and became the first
woman in Italy to be awarded a Medical Degree. While in medical school, Montessori found
herself drawn towards the pathology of degenerate child. She worked in the pediatric ambulatory
clinic and the psychiatric clinic throughout medical school and continued after graduation.
Montessori realized the connection between psychology, science and the education world and
began to speak out at conferences about the subject. She studied the needs of special education
children and began to establish methods of teaching the so called degenerate children in society
(Povell, 2007). Maria Montessori was a major influence on the womans movement in Italy. She
believed in the concept of the new woman. She lectured about the new woman and urged
woman to take a leading roles in educational reform. She was an example of the new woman and
she used that distinction to motivate woman to fight for their rights and earn the distinction as an
equal gender. (Hainstock, 1997)
As a medical doctor, Montessori studied neurology, specializing in mental illness. She later studied
psychology and anthropology, specializing in child development. This wide base of knowledge
allowed her to examine problems and research from a wide range of perspectives. Following her
success in the medical field, Montessori opened a school and developed an educational philosophy
which centered around the natural development of children in controlled environments. The school
and its innovative yet controversial approach was widely successful. Despite her success
Montessori was exiled from Italy by Musilini because she refused to educate children the
traditional Italian way. She moved to Spain and then the Netherlands. Montessori died in the
Netherlands in 1952, but not before she was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times. Her name
and philosophy lives on in hundreds of schools across the world. (Povell, 2007)
Theory of Value
What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? What are the goals of education?
Maria Montessori established much of her theories on education based on the works of the scholar
Froebel, and the physicians Jean Itard and Edouard Sequin which inspired her theories of sensory
education for early childhood education. Froebel, Itard, and Sequin allowed Montessori to develop
a curriculum that utilized experience and hands-on manipulation of materials versus the direct
instruction that typically took place in schools. Froebel, Itard, Sequin, and Montessori formed their
theories of education from working with special needs children in a particular technique known as
sensory education. Sequin taught the idiots how to walk, how to maintain their equilibrium in

the most difficult movements of the body such as going up the stairs, jumping, etc., and finally, to
feel, beginning the education of the muscular sensations by touching, and reading the difference of
temperature, and ending with the education of the senses (MM, 40-41).
It was this concept of teaching children to experience the world by using the five senses and
extending the input to thought processes that Montessori considered to be the most valuable asset to
childrens learning. Montessori claims that it is through movement and manipulation of the senses
that children would gain knowledge of language, abstract thought, critically thinking and problem
solving skills, math skills, independence, practical life skills, and discipline. If students only learn
how to manipulate the environment without learning how to understand the meaning of their
senses, we as educators, have only led these children to adapt themselves to a low order of life
(almost a vegetable existence)[need to lead] the idiot from the vegetative to the intellectual life,
from the education of the senses to general notions, from general notions to abstract thought, from
abstract thought to morality (MM, 41).
Montessoris idea of sensory education included hands on activities that would require the child to
tune into their five senses to heightening their intellectually abilities. She was inspired by
Aristotles philosophy that there was nothing in the intellect which does not fit exist in the senses
[and] The hands and mind work together, making the learning experience one of doing rather than
simply observing (Hainstock, 1997, 91-92). When the child uses their senses they become active
participants in their education and absorb knowledge through their environment. It was through this
analysis of the senses that language and abstract thought developed in children.Not only was it
important for children to develop sensory education and an understanding of their senses in the
learning process, but it is important for children in Montessoris learning theories for children to
develop practical life skills through linguistic exercises, sensory training and physical activities that
directly fit the child for the duties of practical life (MM, 62).
Children learned proper nutrition and hygiene, as well as language acquisition and generalization
skills. It was important to Montessori for children to learn the knowledge and skills to live in
society. Children also learned to develop self-discipline and independence, which are skills
Montessori thought were worthwhile for children to learn at a young age so they can mature into
meaningful members of society.Discipline in Montessoris eyes was the development of selfmastery and motivation to continue the learning process without teacher involvement. Montessori
said Since the child now learns to move rather than to sit still, he prepares himself not for the
school, but for life; for he becomes able, through habit and through practice, to perform easily and
correctly the simple acts of social or community life. The discipline to which the child habituates
himself here is, in its character, not limited to the school environment but extends to society (MM,
It was through this concept of self-discipline that the child learns to independence and practical life
skills which will allow the child to live as a meaningful member of society. Montessori thought that
practical knowledge was the most important skills a child could learn; [children who] learn to
walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down stairs, to lift up fallen objects, to dress and
undress themselves, to speak distinctly, and to express their own needs clearlymake it possible
for children to achieve the satisfaction of their own individual aims and desires (MM, 97).
In conclusion the knowledge and skills worth while knowing based on Montessoris vision are
sensory education, manipulation of ones environment, practical life skills, and self-discipline.
These core skills act as a tool box for children to become active learners and contributing members
of society. What are the goals of education?
The goals of a Montessori education were to develop sensory training, language acquisition,
arithmetic, physical education, practical life skills and abstract thought through the teaching of the
whole child and the integration of the family into the early education system. Montessori began her
educational experiences by working with special needs children. At the time of Montessori, special
needs children were thought of as a lost cause. They could not learn how to become members of

society because intelligence was fixed. She strongly opposed to the perceptions on cognitive
abilities of these children at the time, and believed that they could learn how to become members of
society through special teaching techniques that utilized sensory education and hands-on
experience. Her aim was to teach children academics through practical life experiences and to
to develop thewhole personality of the child through motor, sensory, and intellectual activity
(Hainstock, 1997, 35).
Motor, sensory, and intellectual activity (particularly language) are the basis of many of
Montessoris theories of education and the creation of her curriculums. Montessori claims
Our aim in education in general is twofold, biological and social. From the biological side we wish
to help the natural development of the individual, from the social standpoint it is our aim to prepare
the individual for the environmentAll education of little children must be governed by this
principle to help the natural psychic and physical development of the child (Hainstock, 1997, 77)
The functions to be established by the child fall into two groups: 1) the motor functions by
which he is to secure his balance and learn to walk, and to coordinate his movements; 2) the
sensory functions through which, receiving sensations from his environment, he lays the
foundations of his intelligence by a continual exercise of observation, comparison and judgment. In
this way he gradually comes to be acquainted with his environment and to develop his intelligence
(Hainstock, 1997, 79).
Montessori believed that her ultimate aim would be accomplished by allowing the children to
manipulate their environment. Not only was it important to Montessori to teach children the
practical life skills necessary to live in society, but also to integrate the family into the learning
Montessori said that it was the union of the family and the school in the matter of educational aims
that would enhance student learning and be more meaningful to both the parents and the child.
Montessori said that both home and school were places of social processes and it was important to
educate children in both contexts to allow them the skills to generalize lessons learned to their
future schooling career and ultimately the greater society. The Childrens House, Montessoris first
school in Rome was placed in a residential building in Rome. The Childs House provided the
family with comfort and assurance. It provided parents with a place where they could leave the
child while they had to go to work and in return would receive an education. The chief aims of the
Childrens House was to offer, free of charge, to the children of those parents who are obliged to
absent themselves for their work, the personal care which the parents are not able to give. In the
Childrens House attention is given to the education, the health, the physical and moral
development of the children. The work is carried on in a way suited to the age of the children (MM,
And when after three years of such a novitiate, the mothers send their children to the common
schools, they will be excellently prepared to co-operate in the work of education (MM, 64). It
was important to incorporate the family into the educational process so that socialization education
would take place across environments, allowing the child more opportunities to generalize skills
learned to the greater society. The aim of Montessori education is to foster autonomous,
competent, responsible, adaptive citizens who are life-long learners and problem solvers (Katz,
1990, 11).
Theory of Knowledge
What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? What is a lie?
Knowledge, according to Montessori, is life. It is the result of the experience that we gain from
manipulating our environment and analyzing our senses that increase our knowledge of the world
around us and allow us to live as productive members of society. Montessoris curriculum requires
students to manipulate real life tools to gain an understanding of the world. Montessori said that the

more experience we have with the practical life tools the more knowledge that we have gained to
better prepare us for society.
Itards vision of the environment was one of a caring and nurturing place that awakened the senses
in order to train hearing, vision and communication skills. Knowledge of the physical world was
seen as gained through experiences as perceived through the senses. Language could also be gained
through sensory experiences. Itards approach to education was to awaken Victors senses of touch,
taste and smell, and later to train the senses of hearing, vision (Spodek & Bernard, 1988, 7).
Sequin described an environment in which each act contains both a motor function and a sensory
function. Sequin used the physiological exercise of senses and muscles to construct and reconstruct
complete circles of acts and he used the exercise of one sense to corroborate the action and verify
the acquisition of another sense (Spodek & Bernard, 1988, 8). It was the interplay of Itard and
Sequins visions of sensory education that Montessori thought knowledge was acquired. The
environment that students would manipulate knowledge and gain experience was an important part
of Montessoris vision. Montessori claimed that the environment influences knowledge. The school
is the ideal place to provide a child with more experiences with the physical and social phenomena
of the world. It is the collaboration of the physical and the social and the ability to critically think
about the experiences that increases knowledge. Montessori created developmentally appropriate
and scientifically sound apparatuses for children to manipulate in the classroom. Montessori
created materials such as color cards, spool rods, sandpaper numbers, and 3D shapes and these
materials needed to be in places that children could see, hear and work with at his/her own leisure.
Montessoris ultimate aim in the development of these materials and her detailed methodology of
education was to help children prepare for life with a more organized approach to academic
skills and problem solving and the development of the childs independence, self-discipline, and
interest in learning (Hainstock, 1997, 37). It was the interaction between the structured materials
and the environment that a student would gain knowledge. To simplify to its purest sense,
knowledge is the result of the learning process.
How does knowledge differ from belief?
Montessori labeled beliefs as ideologies and defined them as sets of beliefs concerning the
things about which we are the most passionate and of which we are least certain (Katz, 1990, 7).
When people rely on ideologies they tend to denounce evidence that would run counter to their
beliefs. Ideologies also generate strong temptations to become doctrinaire, to adhere slavishly to
the words and pronouncements of the founding fathers and mothers, and become more rigid in
interpreting the sacred texts that the founders themselves might have been (Katz, 1990, 8).
Montessori would claim that these ideologies impeded knowledge.
Knowledge, according to Montessori, is created out of the ability to analyze, criticize, examine,
observed, and interpret information in a meaningful way. Knowledge is the manipulation of the
environment, the critical reflection of the senses, and the ability to make meaning of the analyzed
information. Knowledge is earned through research, motivation, hard work, and interest. Ideologies
do not allow for the attainment of knowledge because they deny the evidence that may counteract
the belief.
The difference between knowledge and beliefs is that knowledge is backed by research or a
defining experience and beliefs are not supported. Beliefs are the result of passion and the influence
of others. The child is an active participant in the development of knowledge because they
manipulate their own environment. In regards to beliefs, these are often imparted to the student by
others. Montessori would want students to use the knowledge learned through the manipulation of
their environment to examine the beliefs imparted to them by others. Montessori would believe that
knowledge is much more important than beliefs.
What is a lie? What is a mistake?

Lies and mistakes were merely part of the learning process to Montessori. A mistake was used as an
educational tool in which the child can learn from, and a lie was a method for the child to critically
analyze information. Montessori would likely say that a lie is a form of a mistake in which children
learn from untruths by critically thinking about the process. Mistakes were a natural part of the
learning process according to Montessori. Montessori thoughts on error are that it is well to
cultivate a friendly feeling towards error, to treat it as a companion, inseparable from our lives, as
something having a purpose, which it truly hasIf we seek perfection, we must pay attention to
our own defects, for it is only by correcting these than we can improve ourselvesmistakes, to us,
have a particular importance (AM, 246-247).
She would say that when children work with the environment they will naturally make mistakes
and often those mistakes are a critical part of the learning process. It is the repetition of the activity
that the child will gain mastery and learn the concept. Montessori would claim that a lie is an
untruth which is not rooted, or based on scientific knowledge or research. Lies are an extension of
mistakes and can aide students in the self-discovery process that is similar to the learning process
children endure while investigating mistakes (Nelson & DeLorenzo, 2010).
Theory of Human Nature
What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human
Montessori developed her ideas of what it means to be a human being in a time that education of
special needs children was rare and unappreciated. She determined what it meant to be a human
being through her research on educating mentally disable children. She placed a strong emphasis on
human nature in the development of the family and childrearing practices; claiming One critical
means through which our species can evolve is childraising and education. The way we raise and
educate our young is one of the most powerful means we have to choose consciously to evolve
through and beyond our current crisis (Marshak, 2003, 21). Montessori determined that to be
human means to have a family and it is within the family that socialization and primary education
of young children should take place beginning from birth. Montessori claimed to have a common
vision developed from the theories of human development similar to Rudolf Steiner, Sri Aurobindo
Ghose, and Hazrat Inayat Khan.
The common vision that Montessori developed answered the following questions: 1) what is the
true nature of human beings, 2) what is the course of human growth from birth through age 21, and
3) given this understanding of human growth, what are the desired functions of child raising and
education? (Marshak, 2003). The common vision regarding what is the true nature of human beings
provides a clear set of images of what constitutes human potential, wholeness, and growth
throughout childhood. It is both holistic and integrative in character, describing the body, emotions,
mind, and spirit, and the systems of interactions among them (Marshak, 2003, 21). It is the use of
these common visions that human unfoldment from birth until age 21 is described as a play of
nature and nurture. The human child has an inner teacher to guide their development in which a
human can experience the environment in a nurturing setting and grow. Childrearing is described as
the interaction between the parent and the teacher to help the human child develop the inner teacher
through facilitation instead of direction.
Montessori adopted this common vision of what it is to be a human being in her theories of
education claiming that it is because of this inner teacher that children developed at their own rate
as they interact with the environment around them. To be human to Montessori means to develop
through stages that she thought began with the newborn. Montessori considered a newborn child as
a spiritual embryo (as quoted in Marshak, 2003, 23). The development of the human child was an
interplay of the inner teacher to guide a childs growth, the involvement of the parent and the
teacher, and the ability to think critically about the environment in which a child lived. Montessori
determined the development of the human being to be as follows:

Birth 3

Absorbent Mind


Language development


Coordination and muscle


Sensory experiences

Interest in small objects


Refinement of movement
Concern with truth and
Awareness of order sequence
in time and space


Sensory refinement

3 - 6 years Susceptibility to adult





Tactile sense



(Hainstock, 1997, 69)This developmental process allows for humans to grow intellectually and
achieve Montessoris ultimate goal which is to develop knowledge at an early age that would allow
for a human to live as a meaningful and productive member of society. In summary Montessori said
to be human is to have a family and develop the children in that family through education and
How does it differ from other species?
A human being, according to Montessori is different from other species because of the development
process in which a human child grows. It is the ability to manipulate the environment to increase
thought and analysis of the world around them that allows humans to progress in a superior
manner than other species. Montessori would argue that the intellectual ability for humans to think
critically in each stage of development allows for the needs and desires of humans to be more
advanced than that of an animal who lives to survive instead of transform society (MM, 1964).
Montessori also described the needs of humans to be physical and spiritual needs. The physical
needs of human beings are: food, clothing, transportation, shelter and defense (Scott, 2006,
The spiritual needs of human beings are: art, religion, self-adornment, and communication
(Scott, 2006, 32). It is the needs of the human being, in Montessoris vision that make humans
inherently different that other species that do not posses the same needs, particularly when it comes
to spiritual needs. It is the spiritual needs of human beings that allow for the development of
language, thought, critical thinking and problem solving skills and the ability to live as a productive
and meaningful member of society. Montessori would likely say that the difference between other
species and human beings is the ability to think, speak and interact with society (MM, 1964). What
are the limits of human potential?
With the aspects of Montessoris theories of education and the importance of practical life skills,
she would likely determine that human potential is limitless. A child that learns to manipulate their
environment and develop knowledge to critically analyze and learn from that manipulation makes a
person a life-long learner in society. At a time when special needs children were thought to have no
potential or place in society, Montessori disagreed. She thought that these children could learn and
could become positive contributing members of society through her teaching theories.
The theories of the time were that of Darwin who determined that people had fixed intelligences
and predetermined destinies. Darwins theory of fixed intelligence (i.e. intelligence was
predetermined by heredity and therefore early education could not change later intellectual
development) was popular at the time that Montessori began advocating early childhood education.
Montessori would have disagreed with Darwins theory because she believed that every child had
the ability to learn through experience. The experiences a child has can be limitless if they are made
available to them, making human potential limitless.
Theory of Learning
What is learning? How are skills/knowledge acquired?
Learning, according to Montessori, comes from manipulation of the environment and the training
of the senses. Montessori thought that within every child There existsan unconscious mental
state which is of a creative nature. [She] called it the Absorbent Mind (CE, 85). Montessori says
that First, he [the child] takes in the world as a whole, then he analyzes it (AM, 84-85). He
constructs his mind step by step till it becomes possessed of memory, the power to understand, the

ability to thinkThe discovery that the child has a mind able to absorb on its own account
(AM, 27-28).
The childs absorbent mind is the driving force behind Montessoris theories of how children learn.
She claims that children will absorb information from the environment that they are in.When you
walk into a Montessori elementary classroom, you may see a small group sitting on the floor, with
an adult facilitating a lesson. Other children will be working individually or with partners or in
groups of three or four.And the room is full of pleasant chatter, the cheerful buzz of meaningful,
interesting work. There is the look and sound of respect for work in an atmosphere of congenial
dignity (Rosanova, 2003, 8). It is this relaxed and motivating environment that Montessori thought
children learned. It is the manipulation of the environment that children develop the idea that
meaning is both possible and worthwhile[and] the children acquire knowledge by themselves by
working on hands-on projects and reflecting. The children actually discover information
(Rosanova, 2003, 9).
Learning in a Montessori classroom is that of student discovery. The child is the teacher and utilizes
the structured materials to enhance learning. Learning comes from working repeatedly on
logically connected projects in order to satisfy his curiosity, and in order to build his own sense of
competence (Rosanova, 2003, 9). As a child repeatedly works on projects and discovers his/her
own knowledge they are bound to make mistakes. Montessori said that it is through these natural
mistakes that children learn how to critically analyze and problem solve within the environment
without relying on others to solve the problem for them. Each child discovers mistakes through
feedback given by the project materials rather than by the teacher. The teacher avoids pointing out
mistakes in favor of self-evaluation by each child. Instead of judging and correcting, the teacher
advises the use of different complementary project materials, or teaches again, presenting a
material from a different angle (Rosanova, 2003, 9). Learning is doing. It is to experience through
discovery, through manipulation, through critical thinking, through mistakes and through problem
solving skills. In the process of learning children can gain self-esteem and generalization skills
prior to the first grade that will prepare them to become a life-long learner.
How are skills and knowledge acquired?
Learning, according to Montessori comes from reality based, structured and prepared
environments. Elizabeth Hainstock (1997) claimsEvidence clearly shows that the early years, from
birth to six, are the most formative and are too often wasted by not realizing the childs true
potential. Gradual, sequential learning at this stage can be easy, fun, and important to the
developing child. As the sensitive periods show, these early years are when the child learns with the
greatest ease and is most responsive to particular phases of learning. To the young child, learning is
a natural function of childhood effortless and challenging, and more meaningful than idle play
(32).Montessori believed that preschool education for children under the age of six was necessary
and that children learned from having the freedom to explore and manipulate the environment. She
believed that children learned through interacting with their peers and with the specifically
designed materials available within the Montessori school.
The environment must be structured and organized. All materials in the Montessori environment
must have a specific place, be structured, prepared, aesthetically pleasing and child sized. The
organization of the environment is crucial to a childs learning because that is where children will
take in, or absorb the information and therefore learn. It must be child-sized so that the child can
access and manipulate the environment. The materials that Montessori developed were designed
to be self-correcting, and the children thrived on the activity involved with learning (Hainstock,
1997, 14). They were auto-instructional in that they did not require a teacher to show the children
how to use the materials, the children were able to play with the tool and gain knowledge from it on
their own. The teacher was simply there as an observer and a facilitator.
Montessori allowed the children the freedom to choose what materials they wanted to work with as
well as who they wanted to work with. Montessori felt that the children were far less inhibited

when learning from their peers. There is much that a child can teach another child more easily than
a teacher can. There is mutual respect among the children and a lack of competitiveness that allows
them to learn from each other (Hainstock, 1997, 36). It is not uncommon in a Montessori
classroom to see two children working together on an activity one day, and then individually the
Mistakes were a natural part of the learning process according to Montessori.She believed that
when children work with the environment they will naturally make mistakes and often those
mistakes are a critical part of the learning process. It is the repetition of the activity that the child
will gain mastery and learn the concept.
An example of a Montessori instructional strategy in which the child is learning the difference
between the colors red and blue is as follows:First period. The association of the sensory
perception with the name. For example, we present to the child, two colours, red and blue.
Presenting the red, we say simply, This is the red, and presenting the blue, This is the blue. Then
we lay the spools upon the table under the eyes of the child.Second period. Recognition of the
object corresponding to the name. We say to the child, Give me the red, and then, Give me the
blue. Third period. The remembering of the name corresponding to the object. We ask the child,
showing him the object, What is this? and he should respond, Red (MM, 177-178).
It is through this direct method as well as the indirect method of Montessori teaching that children
learn concepts from concrete to abstract. Montessori also believed that movement was a critical
part of the learning process for children. When the child begins to move, his mind, being able to
absorb, has already taken in his surroundingsHe does it with his hands, be experience, first in
play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of mans intelligence (AM, 27). It is
with this movement and manipulation of the environment that the child actively participates in
learning and is motivated to do so because the child is able to choose items to fulfill their own
needs. Skills and knowledge are acquired through proper environments, socialization, and the
ability to construct knowledge. In order to acquire these skills children must be allowed to construct
their own knowledge by analyzing their own experiences and mistakes.
Theory of Transmission
Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be?
The role of teacher is crucial to the Montessori Method. She thought that home was an extension of
school and learning needs to take place in both environments. With that said both the parent and the
school teacher must teach. Montessori says that the mothers influence on young children is
strongHis explosion of learning comes about with your help. The home environment is a
natural source of learning and discovery for the child (Hainstock, 1997, 43).
The school teacher is an integral part of the home and school environment. The school teacher, like
the mother, needs to be a nurturer while at the same time not impeding on the childs self discovery.
In order to be a teacher at a Montessori School the individual must be well trained in Montessoris
methods and beliefs. Montessori was very scientific in her research and methods and would expect
her teachers to be well versed in them also. Montessoris methods of teaching are explained further
in the following section. The role of the teacher is a shared responsibility of the parent, specifically
the mother, and the school teacher. By what methods?The Montessori methods plays a very specific
role. Children in the Montessori school guide their own learning through work with the prepared
environment. The children manipulate materials and increase knowledge through work. The role of
the teacher is to observe the children at work and interject only when necessary. In a Montessori
school the teacher teaches little and observes muchFor this reason I have changed the name
of teacher into that of directressThe directressmust have a clear idea of the two factors which
enter into her works; the guidance of the child, and the individual exercises (MM, 173).
Montessori tried to deemphasize the role of the teacher in the classroom so that unlike a regular
classroom the teacher is to take a back seat and observe student learning; but the role of the teacher

is still very significant because through this observation the teacher is able to push the student to
higher levels of thinking. Montessori considered the teacher the keeper of the school, which is her
first consideration. The teacher must make sure that the environment the students work in is clean
and organized, with everything in its place, dusted, bright and cheerfulAll the apparatus is to
be kept meticulously in order, beautiful and shinning, in perfect condition. Nothing may be
missing, so that to the child it always seems new, complete and ready for use (AM, 277-278).
It is the directresss responsibility to make sure that the materials in which the students will gain
knowledge from are readily available to the children. Montessori also had strong opinions on how a
teacher should look in her classroom: the teacher also must be attractive, pleasing in
appearance, tidy and clean, calm and dignifiedThe teachers appearance is the first step to
gaining the childs confidence and respect(AM, 277-278). It is imperative in a Montessori
classroom that the teacher takes the role of the observer. Students gain knowledge through work
and play and the teacher must facilitate that process. The directress of a Montessori classroom is an
observer of student behavior. She watches the children manipulate the materials and only interjects
when necessary. Montessori clearly outlines how a teacher should conduct lessons in the
the teacher must not limit her action to observation, but must proceed to experimentIn this
method the lesson corresponds to an experimentThe lessonsare individual, and brevity must be
one of their chief characteristicsAnother quality is its simplicity.The third quality of the lesson
is its objectivity. The lesson must be presented in such a way that the personality of the teacher
shall disappear. There shall remain in evidence only the object to which she wishes to call the
attention of the child (AM, 108).The teacher shall observe whether the child interests himself in
the object, how he is interested in it, for how long, etc., even noticing the expressions of his face.
And she must take great care not to offend the principles of liberty (MM, 107-109). The essential
thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the childs whole personality (AM,
The teacher must take on the belief that the child will grow intellectually and socially as the teacher
diminishes. The student will show their knowledge growth by interacting with more stimulating
materials in a more complex way. The teacher in a Montessori classroom is supposed to only
interject when the child needs further stimulation or the teacher observes the need for the child to
move onto more complex materials and concepts. The teacher must intervene to lead the child
from sensations to ideas from the concrete to the abstract, and to the association of ideas
(MM, 224). The teacher is to show the child how to work with the materials and then allow them to
work independently and with others. It is with the observation and repetition of the exercises that
the child learns. The teacher must make sure that they do not insist on repeating lessons and they do
not make the child feel as if they have made a mistake. According to Montessori, it is through
mistakes that we learn.
What will the curriculum be?
It is by allowing the child to manipulate the structured and prepared environment that students will
learn. She thought that children should master the following concepts through experiences with her
structured and prepared materials: Sensory education, language, writing and reading, arithmetic,
imagination, and fantasy, art and music, physical education and nature. Language to Montessori is
the childs most remarkable intellectual achievement (Hainstock, 1997, 94).
Vocabulary in a Montessori school takes place daily and is encouraged through self-expression,
lessons, and freedom of choice. The acquisition of language lays the foundation for writing and
reading education. Montessori believed that writing precedes reading; that children begin to write
without instruction through drawing and play. Progress in writing is marked by the parallel
development of the written and spoken language (AM, 173) and When we present a letter to the
child and enunciate its sound, he fixes the image of this letter by means of the visual sensewhen
he sees and recognizes, he reads, and when he traces, he writes (MM, 280-290). Knowledge of

arithmetic, according to Montessori is gained through repetitive use of materials such as sandpaper
numbers, rods, and spindle boxes so that children can understand the concrete knowledge of
numbers before gaining knowledge of the abstract meaning of numbers and math concepts. Critics
of the Montessori Method claimed that she neglected the idea of imagination and fantasy because
Montessori thought that students learned through experience with the real world, and imagination
was not an imitation of the real world. Montessori thought that if imagination was based in truth, it
was a great way for children to experience the real world through creativity (Hainstock,
1997).Music, creativity and art take place in a variety of forms within the Montessori day by
teaching children music theory, rhythm,art work, too, is individualized, since it is done when
the particular child feels the need (Hainstock, 1997, 33).
Montessori advocated for physical education, but desired specific and varied exercises to aid the
children in muscular control and coordination of movements, while exercising different parts of the
bodyexercises pertaining to correct carriage, the respiratory system, speech habits, and exercises
for the fingers were all of equal importance (Hainstock, 1997, 103). Montessori had a specific,
detail and purposeful method to aid children in gaining knowledge. Most of her theory allows for
the childrens freedom of expression within the prepared environment of a Montessori school.
Montessori was very precise when it came to how a teacher was to impart knowledge on a student,
such as observing student behavior with the prepared materials and only interjecting when
necessary to push the student to the next level. The curriculum was meant to teach Sensory
education, language, writing and reading, arithmetic, imagination, and fantasy, art and music,
physical education and nature.
Theory of Society
What is Society? What institutions are involved in the educational process?
Maria Montessori developed her educational method in the early 1900s. She opened her first
school, Casa dei Bambini, in Rome in 1907. During that time period, the role of the child was to be
seen and not heard and adults had all the power. However, Montessori believed that children had a
higher intelligence than the adult. (Hainstock, 1997) It was also a time period where children before
the age of 6 were not formally educated. During this time period, the upper class children showing
bright futures were given most educational opportunities. This left lower class families with little
options for education. It also left children with learning disabilities no options. Montessori set out
to change this with her method.
The societal and cultural powers were a lot for any educational renaissance man to overcome and
seemingly impossible for a woman. This was a time period where men held all the power and elite
jobs and women were responsible for taking care of children and the home. Montessori was an
iconic figure in the feminist movement in Italy at the time. She was the first female doctor in Italy
and she often gave lectures and speeches in support of the feminist movement (Povell, 2007). She
was determined to change societies views of the role of the woman by proving a role model to all
To answer the question, society was a system designed to reaffirm and maintain classes. The rich
stay rich, the less fortunate stay less fortunate, and men run everything. Society is a system
awarding great advantages to the elite, strong and male. Society favors those who can accomplish
the most with the least amount of help. Montessori recognized these shortcomings in our society
and set out to change one, the education of our children. Montessori began this process of
transformation in her first school, the Childrens House, in which
the peoplewere poor, honest, but without any particular profession. They lived from day to
day on chance of workThey lived surrounded by people who were coarse and immoral. And
all of these unfortunates housed in the rebuilt
apartments were without exception illiterate.
The children worked together in a kind of common paradise. Because of their parents ignorance
they received no
education from their families. Neither were they influenced by the ordinary
type of education that children receive in school (D, 38-41). In the process she caused social

change far exceeding her expectations. Montessori was challenged by many barriers in her attempt
to change the face of education for young children both male and female from poor families and
uneducated backgrounds.
In many ways society was Montessoris enemy. Society is what she was trying to undo. She hated
the male dominated culture and the lack of opportunities for the less fortunate. Rather than fighting
the enemy Montessori decided to change it. Montessori found the society in which she lived to be
primarily a conflict model, in which the haves had everything, while the have-nots were left to fend
for themselves. She sought to change society from this conflict model to that of an individualistic
society where all children, regardless of background or ability could become educated and active
members of society (Clabaugh, 2011). She changed it by implementing society into her school
model. Montessori said that society is a system of family. She thought that school should be an
extension of the family, where education takes place in both environments and allows children to
generalize information learned to adapt and accommodate the bigger society in which they live.
In short, society was a necessary evil to Montessori. Rather than fight that evil she worked to
change it. Society as she knew it was a male dominated machine meant to hold down the less
fortunate. Montessori decided to change society by implementing it into her method as an extension
of her school consisting of a family systemWhat institutions are involved in the educational
process?Montessori believed that to learn is to experience. In turn she would have said that every
influence in a childs life is involved in the educational process. She utilized practical life
experiences because children have an inherent desire to imitate the things around them. (Hainstock,
1997) Whether it is family, school, culture, or society, children have the desire to imitate the things
they are surrounded by. In the process of imitating these institutions the process of learning occurs
from the resulting experience. The most common of these institutions in the childs life would the
most often imitated and therefore the most important.
Elizabeth Hainstock (1997) clearly sums up the important institutions involved in the educational
process by stating that:
The home, which is the childs first learning environment, is the ideal place to begin Montessori,
and the mother is the most logical first teacher for the child. It is she who is most interested in his
well-being and spends the greatest amount of time with him in his early, formative yearsThe
home environment is a natural
source of learning and discovery for the child. By scaling things to his size and making things more
easily accessible to him, you will greatly facilitate his learning to help himself function on his
own in this environment (43-44). The environment of a Montessori classroom is meant to feel
similar to a childs home in which everything is scaled down to child size and allows for the child
to discover knowledge. Educational materials developed by Montessori for the classroom were
established to provide the child with what is neededin his stages of development, and each
piece of apparatus serves a specific purpose. It is an environment in which the child functions
freely, fulfilling his own inner needs (Hainstock, 1997, 34) that allows for the generalization from
the home to the school and to the greater society. The classroom is therefore an extension of the
home in which the child can feel comfortable learning at his/her own pace.
Montessori advocated for the education of early childhood children. She thought that if young
children learned how to critically think, manipulate, and analyze the world around them before
entering primary school, they would become life-long learners and therefore better members of
society. It was in the home and in the school that this learning should take place. Montessori began
the Childrens House, in which she placed the school directly in the apartment building of the
children she was seeking to educate. The family had the opportunity to work with the teachers, the
students and the environment to aide in further learning of their children. Parents also could assist
with the socialization process of young children by actively participating in the schooling process.
In summary, any consistent institution in a childs life can be involved in the educational process,
and Montessori believed that the two most important are the home and the school. (MM).

Theory of Opportunity
Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?
In order to fully answer this question we must establish the difference between education and
schooling. To educate someone is to deliberately teach them something new. Schooling is the
formal setting in which education takes place (Clabaugh, 2011). Now that the definitions of
education and schooling have been established, Montessoris thoughts on who is to be educated and
who is to be schooled can be adequately established.
She was interested in proving that children of any ability or background could learn and become a
contributing member of society. Montessori worked with special needs children when she was a
medical doctor. She developed a passion for helping these children and quickly realized that many
theorists of the time neglected their educational needs because of the belief that special needs could
not learn. At that time education and schooling was reserved for the rich, upper class children who
had bright futures. There were little educational options for poor children and no options for
children with special needs. Montessori decided to help educated these children by developing a
school and educational theory (Povell, 2007).
Montessori believes that everyone should be educated regardless of age, gender, race or class. She
believed that education is simply a result of an individuals experiences. Human beings are
constantly educating each other and themselves through experience and that cycle never stops.
Education is a never-ending phenomenon that must continue throughout an individuals life in order
for them to progress in society. Education is the basis for existence. Once you stop being educated
you stop experiencing and in turn stop living.
As evidence by her opening a school in the slums of Rome, Montessori thought that everyone
should have an opportunity to be schooled. The Childrens House was a prime example of
Montessoris idea that everyone should have the opportunity to attend school and be educated. The
Childrens House was strategically placed in a poor housing complex in Rome with the idea that
lower income families with special needs children, ages 3-6 would be provided the opportunity for
schooling. In was in this school that Montessori demonstrated that education can and should be
available to all children. The Childrens House provided the students and their families with the
education needed to continue in traditional schools. Montessori thought that school should be a
direct extension of the family, regardless of race, class or gender. The child and their family should
have a school, which offers experiences to enrich the educational process. As the Montessori
method evolved, students of all socioeconomic status and abilities were given the choice to attend a
Montessori classroom. Montessori did not deny education or schooling to any child willing to be
Theory of Consensus
Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?
It is in human nature to disagree. With education comes thought and with thought comes belief and
feelings. It is natural for humans to hold strong to their own thoughts and feelings and this leads to
disagreement among individuals. Montessori strongly advocated for the promotion of individual
thinking and learning. In the times of temple schools this was frowned upon. The teachers simply
taught what the students should know and the students had little control over their own education.
This created a society controlled by the men of power and only their opinions mattered (Clabaugh,
Montessori thought that children should build their own knowledge. This in turn created individuals
that challenged authority and knowledge. This led to disagreement. Disagreement occurs when
educated individuals are willing to challenge the beliefs and systems of others, especially those of

The major disagreement over Montessoris theories is between traditional educators and
progressive educators. Traditionalists are opposed to Montessoris unique approach to education,
while progressives appreciate and support her method. The following criticisms are examples of
those who disagree and the response Montessori would provide:
The Montessori method deprives children of their childhood by introducing cognitive learning at
such an early age (Hainstock, 1997, 32). Traditional educators would say that introducing such
cognitive learning would in fact impose on further education, while progressive educators, such as
Montessori would say that according to developmental theories, birth to age three is a prime time
for introducing such cognitive learning. As the sensitive periods show, these early years are when
the child learns with the greatest ease and is most responsive to particular phases of learning
(Hainstock, 1997, 32).
Will the child with a Montessori background be able to adjust socially and academically to his
peers in public school? (Hainstock, 1997, 37). A traditional educator would claim that because of
the free choice and limited teaching in a Montessori school the child would be maladjusted to the
more structured and direct methods of teaching in public school. A progressive educator would
claim that a child with a Montessori background will arrive at any school eager to learn and
everything will be different, which in itself is a challenge that the child enjoys. Socially he will
adjust well because he is used to working closely with his peers and sharing ideas (Hainstock,
1997, 37).
There is too much emphasis on practical life exercises (Hainstock, 1997, 35). A traditional
educator would disapprove of the practical life exercises because without the basic knowledge that
is imparted on students in the school setting practical life exercises are useless. Montessori and
fellow progressive educators would claim that is the activities and exercises of practical life that
students gain a deeper understanding of the basic knowledge and are able to generalize information
to the world. The practical life exercises are done purposefully to take advantage of the childs
desire to imitate things that he sees around him and to help him learn to function in his own
environment. More important, each exercises is a potential occasion for the concentrated activity
associated with normalization and is preliminary to more advanced learning (Hainstock, 1997,
In conclusion, Montessori thought that disagreement was a result of humans acting as individuals
and developing their own knowledge, beliefs and opinions through their own personal experiences.
Disagreement occurs when individuals challenge the knowledge, beliefs or opinions of others.
There are many disagreements over the Montessori method between traditionalist and progressive
educators. The progressives tend to support her and traditionalists to challenge her. Based on her
research and theories, Montessori would look at these arguments as a positive extension of the
learning process.How is consensus achieved?Montessori would likely say that consensus can never
be achieved and ultimately should not be achieved. Learning is the process of experiencing the
world around us and interpreting that sensory input in a cognitive and analytical way. It is not
possible because everyone experiences and interprets the world differently and in turn, we learn to
read the world around us and generalize knowledge that could help transform society. Consensus
would ultimately mean that the learning process has stopped and people no longer critically think
about the world and how to live in it.
Montessori thought that the conflict model of the society that she lived in should be altered towards
an individualistic society in which everyone is given the opportunity to benefit them selves while
working peacefully together (Clabaugh, 2011). This individualistic society that Montessori would
consider ideal would say that consensus should only be achieved when it comes to personal gains,
unfortunately people have different and individual goals to achieve and therefore consensus will
only occur while working towards achieving those goals.
Consensus is not possible because as humans we learn from experience and every individuals
experience is different. As we learn from our experiences we develop personal feelings, beliefs and

opinions. These individualistic ideals of society bring on disagreement and conflict. Montessori
thought that our individualistic society was not capable of consensus and the only way to achieve it
would be for the learning process to come to a complete halt. If learning came to a halt then society
and the human race would seize to exist as well.Whose opinion takes precedence?In the conflict
society that Montessori established her educational theories in, the rich mans opinion took
precedence. Montessori disagreed and thought that the childs opinion of how and what to learn
should be the forefront of education. Montessori described that society labeled adults to be superior
to children, but she thought that children were in fact the superiors. Children held the power and
adults should be listening to them. (Hainstock, 1997)
Montessori modeled her educational method around the experience of the individual. She believed
that the individual must construct their own knowledge by manipulating their environment. As a
result of this belief, Montessori would have said that the individuals opinion takes precedence. In
the case of education that individual is the child. The child should be listened to and their opinion
should take precedence over all others because it is their educational experience.Based on
Montessoris belief that children are superior, and her individualistic methods, the opinion of the
child takes precedence. Children are constantly evolving and developing and they know what they
need more than any adult. It is their education and they should not only have a say, but their voice
should be heard the loudest.
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