Maria Montessori opened her first school in Rome on January 6th 1907. 110 years later, is her philosophy about childhood still relevant? Have children and how they learn changed in the last century?
Let’s take a look at some quotes from Montessori and decide if they are still relevant today.
“At birth, the child leaves a person – his mother’s womb – and this makes him independent of her bodily functions. The baby is next endowed with an urge, or need, to face the outside world and to absorb it. We might say that he is born with ‘the psychology of world conquest.’ By absorbing what he finds about him, he forms his own personality.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 84)
Still true. It’s interesting that Montessori refers to a child’s innate desire to learn and grow as ‘the psychology of world conquest.’ If you’ve ever seen the determination on a toddlers face as they climb up a long set of stairs, you’ll agree that ‘conquest’ is an apt description.
“These very children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying : ‘Help me to do it alone!'” (From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 67)
Very true. Children still seek independence, starting with walking on their own and progressing to having their own apartment. Helping a child help themselves is a core goal of classrooms and families around the world.
“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 5)
Yes. True. If you’ve ever heard a parent or teacher exclaim “Where did you learn that?!” you know that children learn from their environment and piece together facts and data to teach themselves many skills.
“There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 21)
True!! Yes, one learns quite a bit at university, but where and when does one learn to learn? That’s birth to six, as we’re forming habits and skills that serve us for the rest of our lives.
It’s amazing that Montessori’s observations and the basis for her educational philosophy still ring true today. The world around us changes so quickly, but perhaps the tenets of childhood aren’t as easily persuaded.
For more quotes from Maria Montessori, visit Association Montessori Internationale.
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