Maria Montessori was born in 1870. A natural scholar, particularly in mathematics and the sciences, she was keen to study engineering. The time in which she lived attracted immediate blocks to her aspirations, including those by her own father, who preferred her to follow the more traditional female vocation of housekeeper or if she really wanted a career outside the home, teaching.
Maria persisted and eventually enrolled at the University of Rome, where she graduated top of her class as the first Italian female Doctor of Medicine. Her early experience saw her working with intellectually impaired children, where she introduced materials to assist with their learning and saw them achieve similar exam results to their neurotypical peers. When requested to take care of unruly children in an apartment block in the slums of Rome, she introduced these same materials paired with unrelenting observations of children and her unprejudiced philosophy of teaching was born. This became the first of many Casa de Bambini (Children’s House) thanks to her thereafter life commitment of traveling abroad to hand on her method.
Each individual child sits central to the philosophy, with adults modestly blending in to the environment. Consistent effort is made to remove obstacles to each child’s independence, building self worth and confidence. Allowing children to regularly achieve without unsought interference offers repeated and sought after feelings of joy in accomplishment.
Children are offered familiar and unfamiliar activities that contribute to the care of themselves and the upholding of their community, along with scientifically designed materials that embed worldly concepts into their unconscious minds. This holistic curriculum shapes devoted and caring individuals, who naturally love to learn.
Montessori remains the most widely taught pedagogy world wide, with a growing number of successful graduates doing very well in their chosen vocation; often leaders and entrepreneurs in their field.
In New Zealand, we are fortunate to see the philosophy growing, most popular in preschool delivery with an increasing number of primary school units and growing interest in the provision of higher school offerings.
The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.