Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Ancona, Italy in 1870. She identified, through years of observation of young children, characteristics of learning common to all children. She believed all children carry within themselves the person they will become. In order to fully develop, a child must have freedom. This is a freedom to choose activities of interest. It is not a freedom to do nothing. Through the interaction with the activities in the classroom, order and self-discipline will develop.
Dr. Montessori developed what is called “the prepared environment.” This is an ordered environment where furniture is child sized and every activity has its own place in its own space. Children learn at their own abilities and interests and in a non-competitive atmosphere of love and respect. Grace and courtesy help the child learn the rules governing social behavior (i.e. how to greet someone, how to watch a lesson and how to courteously interrupt others speaking).
The role of the teacher is to prepare the environment, present the activities to the child and to motivate the child to interact with the activities in the classroom. It is the child who learns to choose activities of interest. It is the acquisition of inner discipline that allows children to complete activities and move on to choose another work.
Montessori education teaches children to observe, reason and problem solve. It allows children to experience the joy of discovery and develop a love for independent learning.