Freedom within Limits – the Education Principles of Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori
(1870 – 1952)

On August 31, 1870, Italian physician and educator Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori was born. She is probably best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy. Her educational method is in use today in public and private schools throughout the world.

Maria Montessori was pretty well educated herself and mostly supported by her mother to continue school. She entered a technical school at the age of 13, where she learned everything from mathematics over history to various languages. She excelled in her classes and decided to enroll at the University of Rome’s medical school, which was very unlikely for women these days. During her time there she was harassed badly by fellow students as well as professors due to her gender and had to perform several practice examinations on the human body all by herself since seeing a naked person along with male students in the same room was inappropriate. Despite the problematic situation, she won an academic prize in her first year and became an expert in pediatric medicine.

Montessori received her doctorate in medicine and soon started a position in a hospital, working with mentally ill children and increasing her good reputation in the field. She started giving lectures and advocated women’s rights as well as those for children with mental diseases. The work with disabled kids highly influenced and shaped Maria Montessori. She started going deeper and deeper in this field of research and began reading the works of Edouard Seguin and Jean Marc Gaspard Itard. They led her the way to establish new ideas on working with children who didn’t have to be mentally disabled but indeed showed learning problems. Her reputation kept growing as her scientific publications were a huge success.Working with the disabled, she also learned how to interact with “regular” children and designed novel studying methods, which was an immediate success.

A theory, Montessori began practicing and observing was that children needed much more space and time to get creative and study more efficiently than permanently regulating them. She insisted on smaller furniture only for children in the classroom and saw the importance of the mixture of sports, intellectual studies and manual work during the day. Her methods began spreading and several schools, functioning after her suggestions were opened, which was not only noticed by parents, but also by journalists around the country. In the 1910s, Montessori’s ideas were noticed across Europe and her work was published everywhere she wished to. In the United States, her methods were seen as controversial and many high positioned officials criticized them, which led to numerous debated throughout the country. However, most governments around the world supported her efforts. In the 1930s, Montessori came into conflict with the Italian government due to her peace advocating speeches and she left Italy.

Throughout the rest of her life, Maria Montessori continued teaching, lecturing and expanding her theories. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and honored numerous times by organizations around the globe.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture titled Lets get serious about teacher quality by Stephen Dinham.

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