The Self-Motivated Child: Education Through the Montessori Method

Anne Frank. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. P. Diddy. At first glance, these three personalities do not have anything in common. Frank was a young Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Hitler's forces, Marquez is a best-selling author and Nobel laureate in Literature while Diddy is a rapper turned business mogul. But they do share one thing: they are all products of a Montessori school.

The fact that Montessori has produced many famous and celebrated individuals speaks for the efficacy of its advocated method in educating children. In fact, there is nearly no primary school in America that does not include a Montessori technique in its program in one way or another.

The roots of Montessori
Montessori was founded by an Italian physician and educator named Maria Montessori. She was the first woman recipient of a medical degree in Italy and started her career as medical staff in a psychiatric clinic at the University of Rome. This experience with mentally retarded children inspired her to start the State Orthophrenic School of Rome, which was previously an asylum.

Montessori drew heavily on the methods and philosophies of Edouard Seguin and Jean Itard, two French educators she admired, to teach mentally retarded children. Convinced that her methods would have better results with normally intelligent children, Montessori opened the Casa de Bambini or Children's House in 1907 where she practiced her methods extensively.

While initially an experimental school, The Children's House became a very successful showcase of the Montessori Method and became famous throughout the world. In 1912, Montessori published the book 'The Montessori Method' where she detailed her system and criticized traditional techniques. The book became instrumental in reforming primary education worldwide.

The Montessori Method.
Older systems of education emphasized learning through physical compulsion to attract and maintain the attention of the child which Maria Montessori opposed. She instead pushed for using didactic materials to stimulate the child's interest while learning at the same time. This method allows the child to naturally concentrate on a task willingly, allowing him to gain knowledge without the usual stress or annoyance that older, more traditional methods produced.

Teaching a child using the Montessori Method involves providing children with enough freedom to discover new knowledge and skills within the confines of an environment that is specially prepared for this purpose. Each child is encouraged to work at his own pace and begin activities by themselves. Children may shift from one series of learning materials to another freely.

The method stresses the early learning of writing and reading, usually before the age of five. By training the senses and physical abilities, children become involved in a series of guided tasks involving manipulation of objects and discovering the association between them. By developing confidence and discipline in children, the Montessori Method promotes self-motivated learning.

When a child becomes ready for new and more complex tasks, the teacher, called the director in a Montessori school, then acts as a guide to lead the child to the next level, preventing the waste of effort and the accumulation of useless habits. Teachers are trained to recognize that learning is a cooperative undertaking and children can best learn in an environment that guides and directs them and avoids blame or long lectures.

The core of the Montessori Method.
The method recognizes that children learn differently from adults and that they are not helpless beings but quite capable to learn on their own. The method also acknowledges that children from age 6 and younger have an unlimited motivation to learn competence and skills within an environment that is comfortable, reasonably free and academic.

Learning through discovery is encouraged through self-correcting learning materials that children manipulate on their own. Independent problem-solving is also promoted and recognized.

How children's progress is measured.
While conventional methods of measurements are discouraged, children's educational progress is tracked through a series of qualitative analysis and feedback regarding a child's performance. This is made based on critical points, a list of skills, activities and an achievement narrative including the child's strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement. The word 'failure' is never used even when a child needs a lot of room for improvement in a certain area.

Proof of the Montessori Method Efficacy.
Contemporary education for children owes a lot to Maria Montessori's methods. She was the one who initiated providing young students with games stressing developmental learning, colorful materials and child-sized tables and chairs. Even today, scientists continually discover new evidence that proves how effective her methods are.

Thomas Salathe is the owner and web master of the Montessori Schools 4 You web Site. A long term interest in this educational system is behind this web site. Find a Montessori School for you E-mail:Thomas Salathe E-mail

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