An exceptional neurologist, specialized in child development, Dr. Maria Montessori was, in fact, the first Italian woman to ever receive a degree in medicine. In January 1907, she created the “Casa dei Bambini” in San Lorenzo – a poor industrial quarter of Rome.
She observed the needs of the infant through adolescence. Her analyses and scientifically designed learning program have been an international inspiration of early childhood education. Montessori teaching principles are based on:
- Respect for the child
- Balanced intellectual, physical, and emotional development
- A prepared “open classroom” environment with multi- disciplinary, scientifically designed tactile material
- A spirit of cooperation, rather than competition
- Harmony through exercises of grace and courtesy
Maria Montessori believed the purpose of education is to be an aid to life. It should go far beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge in various areas of culture. Her teachings were based on a psychology honoring the individuality of the child, with the aim of harnessing a child’s innate delight in discovery and to make use of a child’s self-motivation in revealing learning as a joyous experience.
Two of Montessori’s primary influences regarding child psychology were the French physician Jean Itard (1775-1838) and his student, Edouard Seguin (1812-1880). Itard was made famous by his study of the “Wild Boy of Aveyron,” leading to his assumption that normal human growth has specific phases of development. Seguin created specific physical and sensory activities to develop mental processing. Their work profoundly inspired Dr. Montessori, who in turn developed a deep understanding of the connection between the physiology and neurology of the child.
Dr. Montessori’s insights – which foster harmony through disciplines of grace and courtesy, self-reliance and self-esteem – continue to universally inspire families, educators and governments from all walks of life.