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The Montessori Philosophy and Approach

Montessori education

Montessori education is a philosophy through which everything relevant to the life of the child, during their particular stage of development, is provided in an appropriate, stimulating and sensitive environment, so that learning through discovery and self-direction is nurtured. 

The child possesses an inner dynamic spirit which, given the appropriate environment, manifests itself in a desire and a "drive" to learn and adapt and to attain a high level of independence. The purpose of Montessori education therefore, is twofold: to help the individual to reach self-awareness and self-worth and, to fully develop the individual's various potentialities.

Maria Montessori was a scientist, who was earth-bound and highly spiritual in her pursuit of truth. She studied medicine, specialising in psychiatry and anthropology. She was also an outstanding mathematician. She studied educational methods for many years and took into account the two seemingly paradoxical extremes which are at the centre of her pedagogy: the universal characteristics of the human child, and the child as a unique, unrepeatable, respectable and admirable individual to be unconditionally accepted as one of life's most marvellous expressions.

Through careful and exhaustive scrutiny, she realised that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment (the absorbent mind). She also observed the manner in which they learned as they spontaneously chose and worked with the auto-didactic materials she provided (Montessori materials). Her approach to education stemmed from a solid knowledge of biology, psychiatry and anthropology. She studied children of all races and cultures in many countries around the world, seeing the universality of the laws of human development.

The Montessori approach

The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life. It is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child. Its flexibility provides a matrix within which each individual child's inner directives freely guide the child toward wholesome growth.

The transformation of children from birth to adulthood occurs through a series of developmental planes. Montessori practice changes in scope and manner to embrace the child's changing characteristics and interests.

  • The first plane of development occurs from birth to age six. At this stage, children are sensorial explorers, constructing their intellects by absorbing every aspect of their environment, their language and their culture.
  • From age 6 to 12, children become conceptual explorers. They develop their powers of abstraction and imagination, and apply their knowledge to discover and expand their worlds further.
  • The years between 12 and 18 see the children become humanistic explorers, seeking to understand their place in society and their opportunity to contribute to it.
  • From 18 to 24, as young adults, they become specialised explorers, seeking a niche from which to contribute to universal dialogue.

The Montessori movement

Montessori pedagogical principles are rooted in a social movement intended to champion the cause of all children, in all strata of society, of all races and ethnic backgrounds, within and beyond educational institutions.

The Montessori movement is based on the realization that: "...mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.”

Maria Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (www.montessori-ami.org) in 1929. The objectives of the association are to uphold, propagate and further the pedagogical principles and practice formulated by Maria Montessori for the full development of the human being. The Montessori movement works to assist children and their families in a variety of settings. Montessorians serve as advocates for all children - championing the rights of the child in society.

View our Montessori books