“The school must give the child’s spirit space and opportunity for expansion.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
“No education can teach a child to walk before its time; here nature herself commands and must be obeyed. Further, it is futile to try to keep the child still who has started to walk and run, because nature directs that any developed organ must be put to use. So as soon as language appears the child begins to chatter . . . ”
-Dr. Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Method of Education after a process of scientific observation and work with children. Born in Chiaravalle, Italy in 1870, Dr. Montessori’s family moved to Rome when she was five, where she had access to educational opportunities usually not pursued by women at the time. Dr. Montessori enrolled at the University of Rome and became the first woman to graduate with a medical degree.
Dr. Montessori began her career working with children with cognitive impairments. She studied the works of two French physicians, Drs. Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Edouard Seguin, who conducted extensive research on children with special needs, such as deaf children and children with intellectual disabilities. In Dr. Montessori’s work with children, after she introduced a new method of learning and the accompanying learning materials she specially designed, the children were able to pass ordinary school exams.
In 1907, the Italian government offered Dr. Montessori an opportunity to work with mainstream children in a nursery. She studied the group of dozens of three to six year olds and recorded how enthusiastically they worked, without force or coercion. Dr. Montessori observed in the children an inner calmness, an ability to concentrate for long periods of time, the quick absorption of complex skills and sophisticated knowledge, and a developed self-discipline that allowed her to step back and direct their development. Dr. Montessori’s method of teaching quickly became of interest to educators around the world.
Dr. Montessori referred to the young child’s mind as “absorbent.” Their minds act unconsciously absorbing experiences and impressions that are the foundation for creating his or her intellectual abilities. Have you ever thought about how it is possible for a young child to learn language when it is so difficult a task for adults to learn a new language? The young child hears birds, cars, music, and numerous other sounds, yet they are able to distinguish their “mother tongue” and use it with all of the correct phrases, pronunciations, and accents, local idioms, and familiar idiosyncrasies. Everything necessary for the child to acquire language resides within them.
A Montessori classroom is a “prepared” environment, which means everything in it is designed for use by the children who occupy the classroom. There are small tables, chairs and rugs, brooms, sponges, and an array of specially developed materials that teach them how to care for their environment, learn how to read, write, and understand math, science, and geography. The children also have lessons in grace and courtesy, which provides them with tools that help them socialize and interact appropriately.
Oak Hill Montessori provides two Montessori classrooms for children between three to six years of age. Dr. Montessori discovered a three year age range for a classroom is extremely important because the children help one another: Younger children observe what older children are doing which piques their curiosity and older children can teach younger ones what they know differently than a teacher can. This interaction also encourages a sense of community, cooperation, and a feeling of achievement, making for a united, peaceful, and happy learning environment.