“Education today, in this particular social period, is assuming truly unlimited importance. And the increased emphasis on its practical value can be summed up on one sentence: education is the best weapon for peace.”
– Maria Montessori, Education and Peace
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator who was best known for her acclaimed educational method that focuses on the way children naturally learn. Born in Chiaravelle, Italy in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896.
As a young woman, Maria engrossed herself in many fields of study, as she began as a doctor with a focus on psychiatry. Furthermore, she went on to develop an interest in education, attending classes on pedagogy and educational theory.
In 1900, she was appointed co-director of a new training institute for special education teachers. After much research and experimentation, many children actually made unexpected gains, and the program was proclaimed a success.
In 1904, Maria was appointed as a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome. However, her strong desire to help children soon led her to give up both her university chair and medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. These studies led her to observe and question the fundamental methods of teaching children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In 1907, Maria opened Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, a quality learning environment for young children in a poor inner-city district. While miss-behaved at first, the children soon showed interest in working with puzzles, learning to prepare meals, and manipulating materials, which demonstrated a great ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings.
Through scientific observation and experience, Maria designed a new learning method and environment that nurtured the child’s natural desire to learn. Children teach themselves. This fundamental principle inspired Montessori’s journey of educational reform, methodology, and teaching.
In 1913, Maria journeyed to the United States, the same year that Alexander Graham Bell and his wife founded the Montessori Educational Association in Washington, D.C. Other American supporters included Thomas Edison and Helen Keller.
Although Maria Montessori pursued her principles during war and very turbulent political times, she lectured widely, wrote articles and books, founded the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands in 1938, and established teacher training courses in the Montessori Method in India in 1939.
One of Maria’s greatest achievements was being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times – in 1929, 1950, and 1951.
Although she passed in 1952 in Noordwijk, Holland, her work continues on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), an organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1929 to further her research.
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking: it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to times in which they live.”
– Maria Montessori, Education and Peace
We at LFMS are proud advocates of child exploration and sensorial education. Interestingly, much of Maria Montessori’s educational theories stemmed from the works of scholar Friedrich Fröbel and physicians Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard and Édouard Séguin, particularly in the area of sensory education. From these concepts, Montessori developed a curriculum that used experience and hands-on manipulation of materials rather than the typical direct instruction that were common practice in school.
Sensory education consists of hands-on activities that encourage a child to use their five senses in order to heighten their intellectual abilities. As a child uses their senses, they are actively participating in their own learning and are absorbing information from their environment. For example, the act of a child touching an object is a “building block for writing, just as looking will be essential to reading development, and is at the core of sensory education.” While, movement is essential to a child’s development and growth (Tomlin, n.d.).
As you can see, sensory play is a very important part of early childhood development and the summertime is the perfect time to enhance those sensory skills. Through sensory play, a child can discover and learn about their environment in a format that they enjoy the most – play time.
Below we’ve chosen a fun summer sensory activity that the kids are guaranteed to enjoy. A big hat tip to educational blogger Allison Sonnier at Learn Play Imagine for the great idea!
Water Balloons & Color Theory
A great summertime activity that also enhances sensory learning is playing with colored water-filled balloons in the play pool. Children thoroughly enjoy popping the balloons filled with colored water and watching the colors mix as the pool water changes colors.
This activity is super fun and easy to set up!
All you need are:
• Water balloons
• Balloon pumper
• Liquid water colors (or food coloring)
• Play pool
The first step is to fill the balloon pumper with water. Next, apply the liquid water colors into the balloons. Allison suggests that you first squirt the water colors into the balloon pump, or you can add a few drops directly into the balloons (which tends to be messier). She also recommends using fun, vibrant colors, such as yellow and red, to make the perfect summer-time color-combinations.
The third step is easy…have fun! Watch as your children pick up and drop the heavy water balloons into the pool to make a big splash, and witness their imagination flourish as they come up with interesting ways to try to pop the balloons. Children also enjoy observing the changing colors, as the balloon water colors mix and swirl with the pool water. Eventually, the pool water will gradually change into the most vibrant and beautiful colors!
Check out Allison’s blog for more fun, summer-time sensory activities to do at home! Also, don’t forget check out Little Flower’s array of great summertime activities that your children will fully enjoy! Find more information here.
Tomilin, C. Ross (n.d.). “Approaches to Learning: Maria Montessori” (Article). Retrieved from: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=698
Often times, in a Montessori learning environment, it can be confusing for a child to move between two sets of expectations, such as punishment at home vs. consequences at school, or praise at home vs. acknowledgement at school. However, when the expectations at school and at home are similar, the children meet and surpass them with less effort and more enjoyment. The best Montessori teachers or understand that maintaining this delicate balance can be challenging and rewarding. It is on that foundation of freedom and structure that the child builds discipline. In this post, we’ll provide tips on how parents can promote self-guidance and self-discipline in their children.
Montessori herself held that discipline is “not…a fact but a way.” True discipline comes more from within than without and is the result of steadily developed inner growth. A child must develop an inward direction through work before she is able to choose and carry out her own acts. Montessori found that it was through the very freedom inherent in her classroom that the children were given the resources to reveal their inner self-discipline. Independence didn’t reduce respect for authority but rather expanded it. One of the things that sparked Maria Montessori’s greatest interest was that order and discipline seemed to be so closely tied, that they resulted in freedom.
Discipline in a Montessori environment is not something that is done to the child, or a method for controlling behavior, but rather, a development of the internal locus of control. This internal locus of control allows an individual to choose the correct behavior because it’s right for him or herself and the community.
Furthermore, discipline presumes a certain degree of obedience. Maria Montessori spoke of three levels of obedience. In the first level, before the age of three, a child is unable to obey unless what is asked of them corresponds with one of their vital urges. The second level of obedience is reached when the child is capable of understanding another person’s wishes and can act them out in their own behavior. The third level of obedience, Montessori referred to as the “joyful obedience.” In this stage, the child has internalized obedience and has developed self-discipline. This is where they clearly see the value of what is being provided to them by authority and wishes to obey. With this level of obedience or self-discipline comes a degree of self-respect, where a child can’t help but respect the rights and needs of others along with their own.
Parents can foster this type of discipline with a democratic parenting style, rather than an authoritative one. Parents are familiar with the typical methodology of being obedient, “or else,” as discipline was enforced from without rather than permitted to grow from within. To be consistent with the “discipline” used in a Montessori classroom, parenting styles at home should emphasize respect for the child’s feelings, choices within acceptable limits, encouragement, conflict resolution, and natural and logical consequences for behavior, rather than the typical techniques of threats, bribes, or withdrawal of privileges.
Every adult who cares for a child has a responsibility to guide, correct, and socialize them toward appropriate behaviors. Positive guidance and discipline are crucial because they promote children’s self-control, teach children responsibility, and help them make thoughtful choices. The more effective parents are at inspiring proper child behavior, the less time and effort an adult will spend correcting the child’s misbehavior.
Teaching children self-discipline is a demanding task and requires patience, attention, cooperation, and a good understanding of the child.
Below are some positive discipline techniques to help prevent misbehavior:
• Set clear, consistent rules.
• Show interest in the child’s activities.
• Encourage self-control by providing meaningful choices.
• Build children’s images of themselves as trustworthy, responsible and cooperative.
• Focus on the desired behavior rather than the one to be avoided.
• Note and pay attention to children when they do things right.
• Set a good example.
• Help children see how their actions affect others.
One of the most common questions we get at Little Flower Montessori is whether we assign homework. The answer to this is: sometimes. However, it’s not the typical homework that parents might remember doing as a student. Homework is not usually given to children below elementary level, and those assignments that are given to older children rarely involves “busy” work. Instead, children are given meaningful, interesting assignments that might expand on the topics that they are pursuing in class.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that if we do not dictate the work of the child in class, then it does not make sense to dictate the work they choose at home. Thus, traditional homework is kept to a minimum, as we feel that children should spend their afternoons and evenings pursuing their personal interests, interacting with their families, and relaxing.
In the Montessori curriculum, we emphasize practicing interpersonal skills of compassion, respectful communication, and encouraging a child’s natural curiosity to discover why and how things work. Our goal is to prepare students for life, not just for admission to college. LFMS aims to empower and encourage young people to become self-confident people who think for themselves, solve problems creatively, and to help them lead lives filled with purpose, meaning, and happiness.
It’s important to understand that children learn at their own pace and in different ways. Montessori demonstrates that children are normally born intelligent, curious, and creative. They will want to learn and explore whatever they find interesting and captures their attention, not what their parents or teachers choose for them.
Although we don’t require homework, we may ask children to read and write daily. A reading task may require the child to set aside some time to read whatever he or she finds interesting; while, a writing task might comprise of writing in a journal or a creative writing exercise. Some other activities that may constitute as homework would be to do household chores, as responsibilities at home help the child to develop language skills and cultural awareness. Also, making math a part of the home environment (such as dividing a pizza into equal pieces, shopping and making change) and giving the child a voice in family decisions are important to the child’s perception of math concepts and economics. Other at-home projects could include: learn first aid; learn something new and teach it to someone in your class; or plant a garden, tree, or some bulbs around your house.
Again, our goal at Little Flower Montessori is to inspire a sense of purpose and individuality in our students. We believe that the purpose of the home environment is to spend quality time with our children and inspire their natural curiosity and love for learning.
“The ‘absorbent mind’ welcomes everything, puts its hope in everything, accepts poverty equally with wealth, adopts any religion and the prejudices and habits of its countrymen, incarnating all in itself. This is the child!” ~ Maria Montessori
The “absorbent mind” refers to the mind’s capacity to take in information and sensations from the world that surrounds it. Maria Montessori believed that children have the ability to educate themselves and cannot help learning. Children learn from their environment simply by living.
Montessori sees the absorbent mind in two phases. The first phase occurs from birth to three years old. Babies are born without a language and very few skills other than the instinct to survive. However, the young child unconsciously acquires basic abilities as he absorbs his surroundings in the early years in order to build and create himself. Maria called this period the period of “unconscious creation” or the “unconscious absorbent mind.” The child’s ability to absorb this information eventually allows him to acquire the skills to speak, walk, feed himself, and gain control of hands and bodily functions, all of which is necessary for future independence.
Once the child has acquired these abilities (around the age of three years old), he then moves on into the next phase of the absorbent mind called the “period of conscious work” or the “conscious absorbent mind.” During this period, the child begins to intentionally direct and focus attention on experiences that will develop those abilities that were created during the first three years.
From the years of three to six, the fundamental task of the child during this phase of conscious absorption is intellectual development and freedom; the freedom to move purposefully, to choose his own direction and to concentrate. In addition, during this phase, the child will expand his vocabulary greatly. Thus, Montessori environments are built to foster their vernacular growth.
The first six years are crucial for a child’s self-development, and we must trust that the child will unfold before us. The act of living life and adapting to their environment will create the person the child is to become.
The Association Montessori International/USA is a national non-profit organization that strives to propagate and further the teachings and work of Dr. Maria Montessori in the United States. Click here for more info.
“Great school! Children learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities! leading to concentration, motivation, self discipline, and a love of learning!”
-Submitted by a parent–