Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) was Italy’s first female physician. Through her medical practice, her studies, and teaching at the University, she developed an interest in children and their development. Through her careful observation and innate understanding of children, she developed the philosophy and materials used in her first school, the “Casa dei Bambini” (Children’s House).
It opened in 1907 in the San Lorenzo district of Rome and served children of the working poor who were in the 3- to 6-year old range. These were children who would otherwise have been left on their own while parents worked until they were of school age. It is from the Casa dei Bambini that Montessori schools have evolved and spread throughout the world.
Dr. Maria Montessori’s visionary method of educating children by appealing to their intellectual, physical and emotional needs appears to be common sense, yet is a complete break from traditional teaching methods. Where traditionally an omnipotent teacher would discipline, direct and inform students; there is instead a guide who allows them to explore the world around them safely and joyously. Where memorization and repetition are used to remember ideas; objects and examples are used to imprint concepts of math, reading, and other disciplines.
Parents and teachers involved in Montessori schools generally praise the method because of the direct effects that are apparent in their children. Students recognize the impact of this education later on in life, as they enter the world self-sufficient, eager to learn and equipped with the tools to deal with success and failure in all aspects of their lives.