"The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age six. For that is the time when man's intelligence itself, it's greatest implement, is being formed."
Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator, acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn.
She opened the first Montessori school—the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House—in Rome on January 6, 1907. Subsequently, she traveled the world and wrote extensively about her approach to education.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another; she/he must do it him/herself or it will never be done. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years she spends in the classroom because she is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate his/her own natural desire to learn.
In the Montessori classroom, this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by her own choice rather than by being forced; and second, by helping her to perfect all her natural tools for learning, so that her ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. The Montessori materials have this dual long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.
The use of the materials is based on the young child’s unique aptitude for learning, which Dr. Montessori identified as the “absorbent mind”. In her writings she frequently compares the young mind to a sponge. It literally absorbs information from the environment. The process is particularly evident in the way a two year-old learns his/her native language, without formal instruction and without the conscious, tedious effort which an adult must make to master a foreign tongue. Acquiring information in this way is a natural and delightful activity for the young child who employs all her senses to investigate her interesting surroundings.
Since the child retains this ability to learn by absorbing until she is almost seven years old, Dr. Montessori reasoned that this experience could be enriched by a classroom where he/she could handle materials that would demonstrate basic educational information to him/her. Over sixty years of experience have proved her theory that a young child can learn to read, write and calculate in the same natural way that he/she learns to walk and talk. In a Montessori classroom, the equipment invites him/her to do this at his/her own periods of interest and readiness.
Dr. Montessori always emphasized that the hand is the chief teacher of the child. In order to learn there must be concentration, and the best way a child can concentrate is by fixing his attention on the task he/she is performing with his/her hands. (The adult habit of doodling is a remnant of the practice.) All the equipment in a Montessori classroom allows the child to reinforce her casual impressions by inviting her to use her hands for learning.
A 3 hour Montessori work cycle.