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Born in Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870, Maria Montessori displayed a strong personality during her childhood.
At a young age, she wanted to become an engineer and attended an all-boys technical school, even though her father did not agree. She then attended the University of Rome, studying medicine.
Evidently ahead of her time, she was the first woman to graduate from the medical school of the University of Rome La Sapienza and, in 1896, she became the first woman doctor in Italy.
As a member of the Psychiatric Clinic at the University of Rome, Montessori continued to work in the fields of psychiatry, education, and anthropology. She developed an interest in the treatment and education of children with special needs and mental challenges.
She was appointed by the Italian Minister of Education to direct the Scuola Ortofrenica, an institution dedicated to children labeled mentally deficient. While testing her own theories of education, the children in her care improved remarkably in the areas of reading and writing, and even surpassed normal achievement scores.
Montessori was soon invited to run a school in a public housing project in Rome. Opened in January 1907, the now famous Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, became a revolutionary experiment in Maria's career.
Maria focused on creating an environment where children could learn and develop their skills at their own pace, a principle Montessori called "spontaneous self-development."
The role of the teacher in the classroom radically changed to discovering each child's potential and following the child's example in the learning process. News of children's ability to absorb knowledge and focus on learning quickly spread around the world, and Casa dei Bambini became the basis for what is now known as the Montessori method.
The impressive results of the natural learning method founded by Montessori quickly brought fame and invitations to travel. Dr. Montessori first visited the United States in 1913. She had a strong following in America, including Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Helen Keller.
In 1915, she spoke at Carnegie Hall and was later invited to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where she set up a glass-walled classroom for four months.
Spectators were invited to observe the 21 children in the classroom, all of whom were new to the Montessori method. The exhibit won two gold medals for education, and the world's attention was now focused on Montessori's visionary method of developing a child's innate potential.
Dr. Montessori began teaching teacher training courses and speaking to internationally known educational organizations. Societies formed to promote her methods. She was invited to open a research institute in Spain in 1917.
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In 1919, she began giving training courses in London. Although she remained highly regarded in Italy, she was forced to leave in 1934 because of her opposition to the fascism of the Mussolini regime.
After traveling first to Spain, she then lived in the Netherlands and continued to move to India in 1939 at the invitation of the Theosophical Society of India.
Although detained in India because of the war, Montessori continued to develop a series of training courses and create a solid foundation for the Montessori Method in India. Her son Mario, born in 1898, helped her develop and conduct these courses in India.
In her later years, Dr. Montessori conducted training courses in Pakistan, London and the Netherlands. Montessori traveled the world for more than 40 years, establishing training courses, lecturing, writing, and promoting her principled method of learning.
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She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. She moved to the Netherlands again in 1949 and lived there for the rest of her years, dying in Noordwijk aan Zee in 1952.
Dr. Montessori leaves behind not only an exceptional body of research and observation of children and their abilities to grow and learn, but also a system of education that promotes the freedom of the child to become more focused, creative, and imaginative as they develop intellectually and emotionally.
Her lifelong work on child development and education remains well known internationally, many organizations promote her methods, and Montessori schools are widespread in the United States and many other countries.
On January 6, 2007, ascended master Maria Montessori spoke through David C. Lewis to the spiritual seekers of the education of the children of the seventh root race:
When I contemplated all that was inspired in the way of discerning how the inner truths of the soul can be brought forth in a very orderly pattern through materials and through an environment that allowed the inner genius and creativity of the child-man-in-becoming/child-woman-in-miracle to unfold whereby through guided instruction naturally presented to that child, the very Christ-like patterns of [that one's] own soul could harmonize with that which one's own Higher Self would produce. Therefore, blessed ones, it is not so much a teaching or transmission of wisdom as a natural unfolding of that innate wisdom from within the one whose teacher is a servant.Each of you can take the very principles that I have been privileged to summarize in what has been called the Montessori Method and apply them in other areas of your professional life, in commerce and even in the organization of your Heart Centers and the establishment of your communities. For these principles are universal in nature and when fully embraced and understood will allow this flowery gift of virtue and the Buddhist path to emanate through all that you do, all that you perceive, blessed.