Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. In her work at the University of Rome's psychiatric clinic, Dr. Montessori developed an interest in the treatment of children and for several years wrote and spoke on their behalf. At age twenty-eight, she became the director of a school for mentally-disabled children. After two years under her guidance, these children, who formerly had been considered uneducable, took a school examination along with normal children and passed successfully. Educators called Dr. Montessori a miracle worker. What was her response? If mentally disabled children could be brought to the level of normal children, Dr. Montessori wanted to study the potential of "normal" children. She went back to school to study anthropology and psychology and finally, in 1907, was asked to take charge of fifty children from the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenz slum in the city of Rome.

Motessoris Idea of conducive Learning:

Multi-aged Grouping, based on Periods of Development: Children are grouped in three or six-year spans and have the same teacher for this period. The first group is called the "Nido" and consists of children in necessary daycare for working parents. This is age 0-1, or "until walking". The second group is known as the "Infant Community" and is from around one year to age 2-3. The third group is the "casa dei bambini" and is from 2.5-6 or 3-6, depending on the training of the teacher. The forth group is from 6-12, a larger age span because the children for this 6 years exhibit the same tendencies and learning habits. The emotional and physical growth is steady and the intellectual work strong. The 6 year old learns from and is inspired by children much older, and the teaching is done by older to younger as well as younger to older. This large age span helps to avoid the tendency of some teachers to over-schedule and over-direct students who need ever more freedom of time-planning and research. Sometimes this age group is divided into 6-9 ad 9-12, but this is a new development and still questioned by many. The next group is the 12-15 which is, at least in the West, a more emotional time with less ability to focus on intellectual work. Dr. Montessori called this time the Erdkinder CHildren, and proposed a farm school with real work close to the earth. The high school years are, as in traditional schools, a time of much more intellectual work, but with a different kind of child who has been through years of critical thinking, caring for the earth and other people, and independent research.

Dr Montessori observed the characteristics of the primary child, just as she observed the characteristics of the younger child. Her method is based upon the characteristics of the child at particular stages. Particular needs are met at particular stages in the child’s life, according to the characteristics at these times.

0 – 6 years – Language acquisition and the development of independence, concentration and movement.

6 – 12 years – Acquisition of culture, group instinct, moral and social consciousness.

12 – 18 years – The individual’s place in society.

18 – 24 years – The world as a society, its future and its problems.

To cater for the needs of the 6 – 12 year old who has become physically strong and has developed their powers of imagination to a point where the walls of a classroom are too confining to fully allow for their development, an important aspect of Montessori education is taking the 6 – 12 year old out into the environment, for the firsthand experience wherever possible. Therefore, excursions are considered an important and integral part of the child’s education.

The 3-Hour Work Period: Aft every age, a minimum of one 3-hour work period per day, uninterrupted by required attendance at group activities of any kind is required for the Montessori method of education to produce the results for which it is famous.


The Human Tendencies: The practical application of the Montessori method is based on human tendencies— to explore, move, share with a group, to be independent and make decisions, create order, develop self-control, abstract ideas from experience, use the creative imagination, work hard, repeat, concentrate, and perfect one's efforts


The Process of Learning: There are three stages of learning: 

Indirect Preparation: The steps of learning any concept are analyzed by the adult and are systematically offered to the child. A child is always learning something that is indirectly preparing him to learn something else, making education a joyful discovery instead of drudgery.


The Prepared Environment: Since the child learns to glean information from many sources, instead of being handed it by the teacher, it is the role of the teacher to prepare and continue to adapt the environment, to link the child to it through well-thought-out lessons, and to facilitate the child's exploration and creativity. The Prepared Environment is essential to the success of Montessori. There must be just the right amount of educational materials to allow for the work of the child. However, one thing that has become very obvious in our materialistic society in the west, is that TOO MUCH is worse than TOO LITTLE. The basic collection of didactic materials (such as that approved by the materials committee of AMI, The Association Montessori International) has been thoroughly tested over many years and has been shown to engage the children as much today as it has, as much in the USA as in other countries. Therefore it is very important to only supplement these materials with essential books and materials that are chosen only by an experienced teacher. The Michael Olaf Company is a well-known source for these tested supplementary books and materials. Instead of constantly adding to their collection of products offered, they continually refine and reduce their list, based on feedback from master teachers and Montessori teacher trainers. 

In the Montessori environment, there are five distinct areas which make up our prepared environment:

In the Montessori pre-school, there are five distinct areas which make up our prepared environment:


Observation: Scientific observations of the child's development are constantly carried out and recorded by the teacher. These observations are made on the level of concentration of each child, the introduction to and mastery of each piece of material, the social development, physical health, etc. on.


Work Centers: The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room, and to continue to work on a piece of material with no time limit.


Teaching Method: There are no text books, and seldom will two or more children be studying the same thing at the same time. Children learn directly from the environment, and from other children—rather than from the teacher. The teacher is trained to teach one child at a time, with a few small groups and almost no lessons given to the whole class. She is facile in the basic lessons of math, language, the arts and sciences, and in guiding a child's research and exploration, capitalizing on interests and excitement about a subject. Large groups occur only in the beginning of a new class, or in the beginning of the school year, and are phased out as the children gain independence. The child is scientifically observed, observations recorded and studied by the teacher. Children learn from what they are studying individually, but also from the amazing variety of work that is going on around them during the day.


Class Size: The most successful 3-6 or 6-12 classes are of 30-35 children to one teacher, with one non teaching assistant, this number reached gradually over 1-3 years. This provides the most variety of personalities, learning styles, and work being done at one time. This class size is possible because the children learn from each other and stay with the same teacher for three to six years. This size help to create much independent work, and peer teaching, and eliminates the possibility of too much teacher-centered, teacher-directed work.


Basic Lessons: A well-trained Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during training practicing the many basic lessons with materials in all areas. She/he must pass difficult written and oral exams on these lessons in order to be certified. She is trained to recognize a child's readiness—according to age, ability, and interest—for a specific lesson, and is prepared to guide individual progress. Although the teacher plans lessons for each child for each day, she will bow to the interests of a child following a passion.


Areas of Study Linked: All subjects are interwoven; history, art, music, math, astronomy, biology, geology, physics, and chemistry are not isolated from each other and a child studies them in any order he chooses, moving through all in a unique way for each child. At any one time in a day all subjects—math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc.—are being studied, at all levels.


The Schedule: There is at least one 3-hour period of uninterrupted, work time each day, not broken up by required group lessons or lessons by specialists. Adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt someone who is busy at a task. Groups form spontaneously but not on a predictable schedule. Specialists are available at times but no child is asked to interrupt a self-initiated project to attend these lessons.


Assessment: There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher's observation and record keeping. The real test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning, concentration, and work.


Requirements for Age 3-6: There are no academic requirements for this age, but children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and often learn to read, write and calculate beyond what is often thought usual for a child of this age.


Requirements for Ages 6-18: Requirements for ages 6-18: There are no curriculum requirements except those set by the state, or college entrance requirements, for specific grades and these take a minimum amount of time. Students of K-12+ age design 1-2 week contracts with the teacher to balance their work, and learn time management skills. The work of the 6-12 class includes subjects usually not introduced until high school.


Learning Styles: All intelligences and styles of learning—musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, natural, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical—are nurtured and respected.


Character Education: Opportunities for the valorization of the personality is considered at least as important as academic education. Children are given the opportunity to take care of themselves, each other, and the environment—gardening, cooking, building, moving gracefully, speaking politely, doing social work in the community, etc.


The Results of learning in this way: In looking at the results one must be sure they are judging a class run by a fully trained teacher. Using Montessori without this training will not have the same results. When the environment meets all of the needs of children they become, without any manipulation by the adult, physically healthy, mentally and psychologically fulfilled, extremely well-educated, and brimming over with joy and kindness toward each other. 


Montessori Education

Traditional Education

Based on helping the natural development of the human being

Based on the transfer of a national curriculum

Children learn at their own pace and follow their own individual interest

Children learn from a set curriculum according to a time frame that is the same for everyone

Children teach themselves using materials specially prepared for the purpose

Children are taught by the teacher

Child is an active participant in learning

Child is a passive participant in learning

Understanding comes through the child’s own experiences via the materials and the promotion of children’s ability to find things out for themselves

Learning is based on subjects and is limited to what is given

Learning is based on the fact that physical exploration and cognition are linked

Children sit at desks and learn from a whiteboard and worksheets

Child can work where he/she is comfortable, move around and talk at will while not disturbing others

Child is usually assigned own chair and encouraged to sit still and listen during group sessions

The teacher works in collaboration with the children

The class is teacher led

The child’s individual development brings its own reward and therefore motivation

Motivation is achieved by a system of reward and punishment

Environment and method encourage internal self- discipline

Teacher acts as primary enforcer of external discipline

Child works as long as he/she wishes on chosen project

Child generally given specific time limit for work

Uninterrupted work cycles

Block time, period lessons

Mixed age groups

Same age groups

Working and learning matched to the social development of the child

Working and learning without emphasis on the social development of the child

Shared emphasis on intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual development

Main emphasis on intellectual development

Shared focus on the acquisition of academic, social, practical and life skills

Main focus on academics