Maria Montessori's Approach to Early Childhood Education
Maria Montessori was born August 31st, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy and spent her childhood in Florence and Rome. She was enrolled in the Regio Istituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci as an adolescent where she flourished in sciences and mathematics. Maria went on to pursue a degree in natural sciences from the University of Rome, where she won an academic prize during her first year of studies and also worked as a hospital assistant. During her last two years at the University, she excelled in pediatrics and psychology while gaining practical experience in the pediatrics consulting room and emergency services at the hospital. Maria earned a doctor of medicine in 1896 from the University of Rome.
After graduating Maria went on to pursue a career learning about the impact of education on children who had trouble learning inside the classroom, becoming co-director of a Orthophrenic School (an institute training teachers on how to address these challenges). In 1901 she left the Orthophrenic School, to seek further education in philosophy at the University of Rome taking a keen interest in educational philosophy; it is in this program that she researched and conducted elementary classroom observations and began to transfer her knowledge of education to mainstream children.
In 1906 Maria accepted an opportunity to educate and oversee a group a group of children of working parents from low income households in the San Lorenzo district in Rome. This led to the first Casa (children's house) being opened on January 6th, 1907, which enrolled up to 60 children between the ages of 2 to 3 and 6 to 7.
In her very first classroom, Maria Montessori noticed how inclined children were to completing practical tasks, their sensitivity to order, and performing repetitions of activity. From these principals her classroom transformed into a child centered environment with child friendly furniture, reachable shelves for children, and activities that expanded on self and environmental care - such as flower arranging, hand washing and food preparation. She also made sure the environment was open and encouraged children to move around freely from one area of the classroom to the next.
We have incorporated these same philosophies into our own classroom, providing a child with a safe and warm environment to explore during their key developmental years. Just as Maria Montessori discovered, we also found children seek certain stimuli with immense intensity to the exclusion of all others during these key developmental years; it is during this time that a child can most easily master a particular set of learning skills.
Our materials are devised to aid children in each sensitive period between the ages of 2 and 6, as observed by Maria Montessori:
Birth to six - Language (acquiring vocabulary, and structuring both written and verbal communication)
One to four - Little Things (embracing a child's natural curiosity about the little things in life i.e. an ant farm, opening up a world of intrigue and curiosity)
Two to four - Order (activities that focus on organization, tidiness and routine)
Two to six - Grace and Courtesy (activities focused around elegance and skill, along with thoughtfulness and consideration), and Music (the use of musical instruments to create harmony, melody and rhythm conveying ideas and emotions)