Education For Life

Maria Montessori – Education for Life

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. After overcoming many obstacles, she was accepted to the University of Rome. In 1896, she became the first woman in Italy to receive a medical diploma with highest honors. She became involved as an activist for women’s rights as she had experienced discrimination and barriers on her way to becoming a medical doctor.

The field of education and teaching had never been a goal in her mind. However, during work with mentally deficient children in an asylum, she began researching educational philosophies and practices. With her medical background in biology, psychology, and anthropology and using her highly developed skills as a research scientist, she observed her charges closely and experimented with different ways of working with them. This was a profound experience which led her to reframe our understanding of the way children learn.

A few years later, she was given an opportunity to try these new concepts with a group of young children in a poor socioeconomic area of Rome. The first Casa de Bambini (children’s house) opened on January  6, 1907. Again, observations of the children,  looking at how they responded to the different activities, produced results that caused many to call the children “new children.” News of a different way to educate children spread quickly around the world.

Soon, Montessori was invited to many countries to lecture and give training courses. She took these opportunities to observe how children grow and develop in very differing cultures. She found that although environments and cultures greatly varied, basic patterns of development were the same.

Montessori surmised that what the human child required was a path to grow and develop according to these basic human needs. Thus, she coined the term for her approach, “education as an aid to life.” What children needed most was to develop their personalities and abilities in accordance with those basic patterns to become a fully human adult. Through acquiring the basic mental faculties to learn and adapt, they would be able to successfully function no matter the environment or how the world might change. Education for Life has as its foundation four principles: Human Tendencies, Four Planes of Development, the Absorbent Mind, and Sensitive Periods.