It is Inspirational Women Wednesday! This week we are going to be talking about the inspirational Maria Montessori. I didn’t get a post up last Wednesday, but if you want to check out my previous post from two weeks ago about Joan Beauchamp Procter you can read it here.
“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.” -Maria Montessori
Inspirational Women- Maria Montessori
Birth and Early Years
Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy on August 31, 1870. Alessandro Montessori, her father, was an official of the Ministry of Finance and he worked in the local state-run tobacco factory. Montessori’s mother, Renilde Stoppani, was considered educated for the time period and her great-uncle was Antonio Stoppani, the well known Italian geologist and paleontologist. Although, Montessori didn’t have a particular mentor, however, her mother was extremely encouraging. She was close to her father, but he disagreed with her choice to continue her education.
The Montessori family moved to Rome in 1875, which is where Maria started school. However, early on, her early school record was not overly noteworthy. At the age of 13, Maria entered secondary school. This is where she began focusing on Italian, algebra, geometry, accounting, history, geography, and different sciences. She graduated in 1886 with good grades and exam scores. As a result, of her loves of math and science, she continued her education at a technical institute. Initially, Montessori planned on a degree in engineering. However, she decided on medicine by the time she graduated from technical school.
Montessori was strongly discouraged from entering medical school because female doctors were almost non-existent at this time. Nonetheless, in 1890 she enrolled in the University of Rome.
Montessori was met with harassment in medical school. It was considered inappropriate for her to be around a naked body with the rest of the men in her classes. Consequently, she was required to perform her dissections of cadavers alone, after hours. Montessori began smoking tobacco to cover up the smell of formaldehyde. Despite, all her trials, Montessori graduated medical school in 1896. She found employment as an assistant at the University hospital and started a private practice.
Early Career and Family
From 1896 to 1901, Montessori focused on working and studying children that had some form of mental retardation, illness, or disability. Furthermore, Montessori began to establish herself as an advocate for women’s rights and education for mentally disabled children.
Her only child, Mario Montessori, was born on March 31, 1898. Her son was born out of a love affair with Giuseppe Montesano, a fellow doctor. Consequently, if Montessori would have married she would have been expected to stop working. Therefore, she decided to keep her relationship with Montesano secret with the condition that neither would get married, so that she could continue her work. However, that promise wasn’t able to be kept. Montesano fell in love and got married. Leaving, Montessori to feel betrayed and alone. As a result, she left the hospital and placed her son into foster care. However, she would eventually be reunited with her son and he would prove to be a great assistant.
In 1900, Montessori was appointed co-director of a newly opened Orthophrenic School that trained teachers in educating mentally disabled children. While there, she developed methods that she would later use for other children. She only spent two years at this school, but it played a huge role in the development of her future methods. From 1901 to 1906, Montessori spent time furthering her education. She even enrolled in a philosophy course at the University of Rome and published many articles at this time on the topic of pedagogy, the method and practice of teaching.
Montessori was invited to oversee the education and care of a group of children in a new apartment building for low-income families in Rome. She saw this as an opportunity to try out her new methods on children without specials needs, to see if the same methods could work for them as well.
Based on her observations, Montessori implemented a number of practices that became hallmarks of her educational philosophy and method. Montessori’s finds were very interesting. She found that if the children were given a free choice of activity, they showed more interest in practical, day to day activities than in toys. As time went on, she began to see self-discipline emerge. This led to Montessori to expand the range of activities to include things like sweeping, personal care, exercises, flower planting, hand washing, taking care of pets, etc…
The core belief of the Montessori Method is that children could reach new levels of autonomy and become self-motivated to reach new levels of understanding by working independently. She strongly believed in treading each child as an individual.
What is Montessori Education?
“Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms, children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.” Montessori.org
Montessori in the United States
The first Montessori school in the United States was opened in Tarrytown, New York in October 1911. By 1913 there were more than 100 Montessori schools in the country.
From 1946- 1952, Montessori spent time traveling in Europe and India, giving training courses and opening up training institutes. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. On May 6, 1952, Montessori passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 81 in the Netherlands.
“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” -Maria Montessori
See you next week for another Inspirational Women Wednesday!
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31