Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician who practiced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dr. Montessori’s first experience in education was as a physician treating mentally handicapped children. Her work with these children began to show impressive results, and she was able to develop such children to the point where they could attend the same classes as youngsters with normal capabilities. She observed that children possess an innate desire to explore, discover, and learn about their world.
In 1904, Dr. Montessori was named professor of anthropology at Rome University. Later, she took over direction of a children’s home in the working class district of San Lorenzo. Soon her reputation as a pedagogical genius began to spread beyond Italy’s borders.
After Italy, Swiss and English schools became the next countries to introduce Montessori’s teaching methods.
One basic idea of the Montessori philosophy is that innate in each child is a person that child will become. To develop his/her physical, intellectual, and spiritual powers to the fullest, the child must have freedom – a freedom achieved through order and self-discipline. Within this freedom, is Dr. Montessori’s “prepared environment”. Among its features is an ordered arrangement of learning materials in a non-competitive atmosphere, which helps each child develop at his/her own rate.