The Montessori method or philosophy was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Born in 1870, she became the first woman in Italy to earn a medical degree. During her work, first with developmentally delayed children and later with typical children, she had extensive opportunities to study how children learn and, as a result, developed an educational philosophy and method which differed dramatically from educational principles of the early 20th century.
Dr. Montessori observed that children learn naturally about themselves and their world through exploration and discovery. From their inception, Montessori schools have had material and methods designed specifically to encourage this natural learning and to help children become self-motivated, independent learners for life.
Montessori schools seek to provide a balanced curriculum in practical life skills, sensory ability, mathematics, language, science, geography, computer study, music and the cultural arts.
Montessori materials arouse children's spontaneous interest, providing a concentration on tasks that, because it is natural and self-generated, promotes independent learning. Children are free to move about in an environment prepared for independent, multi-sensory learning.
Children are free to pace themselves in the academic curriculum as is appropriate to their aptitude and interest, with the guidance of the teachers, as needed. A child who is fascinated by numbers may work on addition and multiplication in his kindergarten year. Children are not pushed to learn at the pace of a group, but allowed the time to absorb concepts and encouraged to pursue repetition of learning activities until she has mastered a topic.
Dr. Montessori wrote a number of books, including the following:
The Absorbent Mind
Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook
Education for a New World
The Montessori Method
The Secret of Childhood
To Educate the Human Potential
Other books about the Montessori approach include the following:
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, Angeline Stoll Lillard
The Essential Montessori, by Elizabeth Hainstock
Montessori Today, by Paula Polk Lillard
The Montessori Controversy, by John Chattin_McNichols
A Parents Guide to the Montessori Classroom, by Aline D. Wolf