In the SCHR Institute at present, training for teachers is
offered through the Studies Computer Handicapped Research Montessori
International/Syria, The programme prepared by eng.
Nabil Eid including E-
Learning for special needs and teaching Montessori in the home.
What are the child's nature and needs? How are they different
from those of an adult? How can we best foster the child's development so as
to help him maximize his potential for productivity and happiness in life?
Current research validates Montessori's ideas. We believe that, on the
whole, the philosophy of the child developed and the teacher Maria
Montessori, is most consistent with the Objectivist view of human nature,
needs, and values.
Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from the
University of Rome Medical School, became a doctor in 1896. Her first post
was in the university's Psychiatric Clinic.
In that age, retarded children were considered a medical
problem, rather than an educational one, and were often kept in hospitals
for the insane. Montessori's visits with children in Roman insane asylums
prompted her to study the works of Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838) and
Edouard Seguin (1812-1880), two French-born pioneers in education for the
mentally deficient. She went on to read all the major works on educational
theory of the previous two centuries.
In 1899, Montessori became director of the State Orthophrenic
School, where her work with the retarded was so successful that the majority
of her students were able to pass the state education exams. While other
people exclaimed over this phenomenal success, Montessori pondered its
implication for normal children. If the mentally deficient could do as well
on the exams as normal children, in what poor state must those normal
children be! This reflection led her to devote her life to education.
Montessori opened her first Casa dei Bambini (Children's House)
in 1907, applying to children of normal intelligence the methods and
materials she had developed for deficient children. She also spent a great
deal of time observing and meditating on what children did with her
materials—what brought out their best learning and their greatest
As a result of Montessori's achievements at the Casa dei
Bambini, her method spread rapidly. By 1915, over 100 Montessori schools had
opened in America, and many more had opened in the rest of the world. In
Switzerland, one of the most important 20th-century theorists in child
development—Jean Piaget (1896-1980)—was heavily influenced by Montessori and
her method. Piaget was director of the modified Montessori school in Geneva,
where he did some of the observations for his first book, Language and
Thought of the Child, and served as head of the Swiss Montessori society.
Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, by E.M. Standing, is an
interesting historical account told from the viewpoint of a devoted
The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori's own works constitute the best source of
information concerning her theories and methods. The Montessori Method,
the first overview of her educational techniques, remains the best in many
respects. Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook goes into the details of her
philosophy, materials, and methods. The Discovery of the Child is a later
detailed summarization of Montessori's philosophy and method of teaching,
with much discussion of the child's nature and the best means of approaching
the child with work. The Secret of Childhood is a history of what—and
how—Montessori learned about the unique nature of children, the problems
that can arise when the child's nature is not properly nurtured, and the
repercussions that proper and improper nurturing of the child have on
society. This work is especially recommended for parents.
According to Maria Montessori, "A child's work is to create the
person she will become." To carry out this self-construction, children have
innate mental powers, but they must be free to use these powers. For this
reason, a Montessori classroom provides freedom while maintaining an
environment that encourages a sense of order and self-discipline. "Freedom
in a structured environment" is the Montessori dictum that names this
Like all thinkers in the Aristotelian tradition, Montessori
recognized that the senses must be educated first in the development of the
intellect. Consequently, she created a vast array of special learning
materials from which concepts could be abstracted and through which they
could be concretized. In recognition of the independent nature of the
developing intellect, these materials are self-correcting—that is, from
their use, the child discovers for himself whether he has the right answer.
This feature of her materials encourages the child to be concerned with
facts and truth, rather than with what adults say is right or wrong.
Also basic to Montessori's philosophy is her belief in the
"sensitive periods" of a child's development: periods when the child seeks
certain stimuli with immense intensity, and, consequently, can most easily
master a particular learning skill. The teacher's role is to recognize the
sensitive periods in individual children and put the children in touch with
the appropriate materials.
Montessori also identified stages of growth—which she called
"Planes of Development"—that occur in approximately six-year intervals and
that are further subdivided into two three-year segments. These planes of
development are the basis for the three-year age groupings found in
Montessori schools: ages 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12, and 12 to 18.
From birth to age six, children are sensorial explorers,
studying every aspect of their environment, language, and culture.
Montessori's The Absorbent Mind provides a detailed discussion of how the
child's mind and needs develop during this period.
From age six to twelve, children become reasoning explorers.
They develop new powers of abstraction and imagination, using and applying
their knowledge to further discover and expand their world. During this
time, it is still essential that the child carry out activities in order to
integrate acting and thinking. It is his own effort that gives him
independence, and his own experience that brings him answers as to how and
why things function as they do. Montessori's The Montessori Elementary
Materials discusses the materials and curriculum to be used for children
during this period.
From Childhood to Adolescence, also by Montessori, outlines the
changes children undergo in mentality and outlook as they grow from
childhood to adolescence, and the nature and needs of the adolescent child.
She also proposes a radical concept of schooling for the adolescent.
Valuable secondary works on the Montessori method include
Elizabeth Hainstock's Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years,
and Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years. Both give an
abbreviated view of the philosophy and the method, as well as detailed
instructions on how to make and use the materials. Paula Lilliard's 1972
work, Montessori: A Modern Approach, reviews the history and nature
of the Montessori philosophy, discussing how "current" it is in addressing
modern educational concerns and what it has to offer the contemporary
Throughout her writing, Montessori combines keen observations
and insights with a heroic view of the importance of the child's work in
self- development—work by which each man creates the best within him. Many
writers and critics dislike Montessori's romantic rhetoric, and admittedly
her phraseology tends to the mystical. Nevertheless, we find her language
refreshing and inspiring. As the following sentence illustrates, she always
keeps in mind the glory and grandeur of human development:
"Humanity shows itself in all its intellectual splendor during
this tender age as the sun shows itself at the dawn, and the flower in the
first unfolding of the petals; and we must respect religiously, reverently,
these first indications of individuality."
The Montessori method always places its principles and
activities in the broad context of the importance of human life and
development, intelligence and free will. Indeed, one of the cornerstones of
the Montessori method is the presentation of knowledge as an integrated
whole, emphasizing conceptual relationships between different branches of
learning, and the placement of knowledge in its historical context.
The adult in
charge of these environments requires unique preparation. The traditional
Montessori training is a full year of graduate work for each of the
following three age levels, and stages of development, of children: Birth to
three years Three years to six years Six years to twelve years. The
Montessori middle and high school teacher ideally has taken all three
training courses plus graduate work in an academic area or areas.
Out of a
spirit of enthusiasm for following Dr. Montessori's ideas there is a wide
variety of teacher preparation. Some have taken intensive, year-long
graduate courses, studying under experienced master teachers who
have themselves undergone an exacting teacher-training certification program
of several years duration. These Montessori teacher-trainees have earned
their certification by passing rigorous practical, written, and oral exams.
Others have simply read one of Dr. Montessori's books and applied some of
her ideas in a daycare environment. Between these two extremes there are
many other examples and no official check on the use of the word
"Montessori." Due to the wide variation of the preparation of adult there is
a corresponding variety in the success and quality of schools.
We know that
allowing for the work of the inner guide is the hardest part of working in
the classroom. It is easy to emphasize our own agenda; to weigh the
academics disproportionately, to push for the quick solution, to substitute
our will for the child's. It is so difficult to keep from over-directing, to
observe without judgment, to wait for the child to reveal herself. Yet, over
and over again, when we do honor that inner guide, the personality unfolds
in a way that surprises - that goes beyond what we could direct or predict.
The Montessori 0-3 Program
Over fifty years ago Dr. Montessori realized that working with children
older than three was too late to have the most beneficial effect on the life
of a human, and she initiated what was to become a two-year, full-time,
course for adults living or working with children from birth to three years
Educational Materials for 0-3 age
A sparse environment of carefully chosen materials calls the child to work,
concentration, and joy. A crowded or chaotic environment can cause stress
and can dissipate a child's energy.
Before the age of six, a child learns from direct contact with the
environment, by means of all the senses, and through movement; the child
literally absorbs what is in the environment. The toys and materials in the
home and school should be of the very best quality to call forth
self-respect, respect and care from the child toward the environment, and
the development of an appreciation of beauty.
Montessorians are very cautious about allowing children to be guinea pigs
for the use of new inventions, and in the long history of humans on earth,
both computers and televisions are very recent inventions. We are finding
out that even such relatively simple objects as pacifiers and walkers get in
the way of optimal and healthful development, and recent brain research
reveals to us that computers and television may have far more negative
influences on our children's development than positive. They affect the
child so much more because of the inordinately large amount of time spent in
front of them in some situations.
EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS AND MATERIALS - BIRTH TO AGE 12+
A sparse environment of carefully chosen materials calls the child to
work, concentration, and joy. A crowded or chaotic environment can cause
stress and can dissipate a child's energy.
As Montessori education becomes more popular more
materials are produced which are labeled "Montessori" and one must be more
and more careful in selection. Too many materials, or inappropriate
materials can be worse than too few.
- Birth to Age Six: Before the age of six, a
child learns from direct contact with the environment, by means of all
the senses, and through movement; the child literally absorbs what is in
the environment. The toys and materials in the home and school for this
period of development should be of the very best quality to call forth
self-respect, respect and care from the child toward the environment,
and the development of an appreciation of beauty.
Age Six to Twelve: From age six to twelve, "the age of the
Imagination," the children produce so much -- charts, models, books,
timelines, maps, books, plays, etc. -- that the environment must be
continually pared down to the essentials so that the children continue
to create. Sensorial-manipulative materials, such as multiplication bead
frames, can also be used for older children, but should be left behind
as soon as the child is ready to work in the abstract.
- Age Twelve +: From age twelve to eighteen, the
child's education becomes more traditional: books, computers, and the
tools of the place where he may be apprenticing or doing social work.
This is transition to adult life during which time the child learns to
function in the real world. The environment now includes the farm, the
public library, the work place, the large community.
At all ages, since the adult's special interests usually
lie in one or two areas of study, we must be sure to introduce him to
materials and lessons in all areas, all kinds of experiences, and not limit
him to our own interests. In the words of the famous music educator Dr.
Shinichi Suzuki, "What does not exist in the cultural environment will not
develop in the child."
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