Maria Montessori and her philosophy
Maria Montessori was born in 1870. She becomes at the age of 26, one of the first women medical doctors of Italy at a time when women did not have access to this proession. She is given the responsibility of the Speech Therapy School of Rome. She represents her country in various feminist congresses and speaks out against child labor.
She studies and translates the works of the two renowned French doctors, Itard and Seguin. The first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) is inaugerated in a popular neighborhood of San Lorenzo, Rome, on January 6, 1907.
Over the following year, several Children’s Houses are opened in Italy and Maria Montessori begins training teachers in her new method of education. In 1917, year of the Great Exhibition, Maria Montessori is invited to the United States to participate in Congresses there.
In studying social and human development, she puts all of her efforts in the mission in favor of education. Between 1932 and 1939, she gives numerous conferences exposing her analysis of probems linked to world peace, her moral defense of humanity.
When the Second World War threatens Europe, she leaves Italy and goes to Spain in 1934. The Spanish Civil War breaks out and she is welcomed in England and then moves to Holland.
In the beginning of the WW II she leaves Holland for India where she stays until 1946. She continues to train teachers there and meets Gandhi. Her European reputation spreads worldwide. In 1949, she receives the Legion of Honor at the Sorbonne in Paris. She dies on May 6, 1952 and is buried in Holland.
A large number of universities, organisations and associations in a multitude of countries throughout the world , all united for world peace and the will to reform human society propose and nominate Maria Montessori for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1951 . This is to say the impact she had throught the world.
Montessori is one of the education methods supported by UNESCO. It is the only teaching method which continues to prosper throughout the world which makes Maria Montessori’s scientific pedagogy the most reliable and permanent educational method in the world.
A quote from Maria Montessori : « The establishment of long lasting peace is the main goal of education. »
It is a scientific pedagogy which lasts and inspires more and more in today’s world…68 years after her passing. We know today that Maria Montessori had anticipated the major research developments in child psychology. Doctor Paul Harris, professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education said that Dr Montessori must a deserved place, center stage concerning the debate of « how are we to educate the child, today ? » Angeline Stoll Lillard, a renowned international research scientist and professor specialised in the psychology of cognitive development, very clearly shows in her book « The Science Behind the Genius » written in English in 2005 (translated into French in 2018 entitled "Une révolution pédagogique soutenue par la science" that Maria Montessori’s theories as well as her pedagogical practices were visionary in respect with today’s education and modern cognitive developmental research.
In his book, l'Ecole de la Vie (The School of Life) edited in 2014, Jean-Michel Blaquer the present Minister of National Education, wrote five pages of the first chapter on Maria Montessori in the 21st century. In his last book l'Ecole de Demain (Tomorrow’ s School) edited in 2016, he starts off with a quote from Maria Montessori « Schools must allow the free development of the child’s activity in order to allow scientific activity, this is the educational reform which is necessary.» This quote is found in Maria Montessori’s book the Scientific Pedagogy written and translated from Italian to English in 1912 at the request of Professor Homes of Harvard University in which Holmes wrote the forward. The Scientific Pedagogy was translated into French in 1958.
To quote Maria Montessori : « Education today has taken on an unsuspected significance : it is not only evolving within the school itself but way behond to combine with science and sociology…The terms of « new education, of scientific pedagogy » apply to an enthousiastic movement for reform which is the result of a profound aspiration experienced by all of humanity…Yes, the child has shown us a new world and has revealed a better man. This better man not only needs to be taught but we need to defend him as the most precious gift humanity can offer. ; and we must serve him so he can reveal all of his potential because we need him more than anything. »
Maria Montessori considered that the progress made by education should not only make schools better but should also make civilisation better and improve man through the child. She believed that the most positive contribution to social peace resided in the education of the child.
Maria Montessori spoke of redefining the concept of peace, she never ceased to speak of « science of peace ». One of her intuitions was that the contruction of peace could only begin by the construction of harmony between the adult and the child. We, at E.M.I.T., are in perfect accord with Maria Montessori in supporting the idea that the child is both hope and promise for the future.
As far as we are concerned here at the International Montessori Trilingual School of Nogent-sur-Marne, we strive to respect Maria Montessori’s philosophy in order to allow the child to reveal his full potential. This is our mission and our daily concern towards the children we are responsible for . We can clearly state that 68 years after Maria Montessori’s passing, we are the bridge alongside the tens of thousands of Montessori schools around the world of the task she had assigned to herself. We are constantly referring to her writings.
« I am convinced that humanity can hope for a solution to it ‘s problems - of which the most urgent are those of Peace and togetherness – only by concentrating our energy on the discovery of the child and on the development of the immense potentialities of the human personality during its construction. » The Discovery of the Child, by Doctor Maria Montessori
The school's philosophy
Our staff remain true to and develop even further the following beliefs of Dr. Maria Montessori :
- to respect the child as an individual
- to respect the sensitive periods of development
- to encourage the child's natural pattern of development
- to view education as the development of the whole child as well as his intellectual development
- to develop interests in his surrounding world rather than the simple transmission of facts
- to use a method of scientific observation to determine the learning environment that best meets the nature and needs of the child
- to allow the child to grow in a school environment where he will be surrounded by three languages every day
We respect the international criteria set by the Association Montessori Internationale.
- The Toddler Community : children aged 2 to 3 and a half
- The Children’s Houses: children aged 3 to 6
- The Elementary Class: children aged 6 to 12
- A teaching staff trained and certified AMI
- To allow a certain flexibility for the passage from one class to another
- Between 17 and 25 children per teacher
- In each class, the children work individually for minimum two and a half hours in the morning and minimum two and a half hours in the afternoon. During this period, the teachers give individual lessons
Another observation of Dr. Montessori's which has been reinforced by modern research, is the importance of the sensitive periods for early learning. These are periods of intense fascination for learning a particular characteristic or skill, such as going up and down steps, putting things in order, counting or reading.
It is easier for the child to learn a particular skill during the corresponding sensitive period than at any other time in his life. The Montessori classroom takes advantage of this fact by allowing the child freedom to select individual activities which correspond to his own periods of interest.
Our pedagogy emphasizes the importance of Montessori insights for children and adults of all ages. Although children traditionally begin Montessori education at age three, the principles of self-motivated learning apply to all learning experiences. Modern learning research has confirmed the validity of the Montessori principle of programmed learning and the non-teacher (who does not distort or inhibit the learning experience). Many public and private elementary and secondary schools are now utilizing this approach. If we want our children to fully thrive, lets us create the favorable surrounding conditions for harmonious development.
Through her scientific observations, Maria Montessori discovered the existence of sensitive periods of development and the respect of these periods should help us in the world of education.
What are the sensitive periods in a human being before the age of 6 ?
- The sensitive period for language from birth to 5/6 years of age
- The sensitive period for language from birth to 5/6 years of age
- Mouvement from 7 months to 5 years
- Sensorial perception from birth to 6 years
- Social relations from 3 to 6 years
- Order from birth to 3 and a half years
- Attention to minute details from 8 months to 3 years
All of this before the age of 7!
At what ages ?
At what ages ? The classes are organized by age 'cycles' and not by years. The constructive mix of the youngest groups (2 - 3 years), (3 - 6 years) to the oldest groups (6 - 12 years). Children integrate into the following levels progressively.
The harmony created by this age mixture is very rarely experienced in traditional classrooms and favors the child's social integration.
Optimum results cannot be expected either for a child who misses the early years of the cycle, or for one who is withdrawn before he finishes the basic materials described here.
The Montessori materiel
The classroom space is very organised. The furniture is adapted to the children’s varied sizes, it is light weight and denounces abrupt movements. The shelves are low and the material has a specific place in order to help the child work his memory. The trays of activities are organised from left to right and set up in order of use. In this way the child absorgbs a specific organisation and builds on his logical thinking. It is the outside order which builds up on the inside order.
Each class has a complete set of material adapted to each level. The material is used wisely according to the AMI training institutes and used by free choice.
Through the use of the scientific pedagogical materiel invented specifically as a response to the child's stages of development, the child, between the ages of 2 and 12 years, will be free to work the following themes :
- Practical life;
- Language (grammar, spelling, conjugation, literature);
- Mathematics (units of measure, geometry);
- Culture (history, geography, geophysics, botany, animal and human biology, science experiments);
- Arts and crafts;
- Trilingualism (all of these activities are proposed in the three languages);
- A Reading Corner & Library in the elementary class;
- Use of the computer in the elementary class;
The child learns by using his hands and using concrete material before moving on to abstract concepts. This concrete period of creative learning is of significant influence to help build his cultural awareness.
The children learn songs and rhymes in French, English and LSF with their teachers in class. The children prepare and bake bread, participate in kitchen workshops, field trips, art and creativity workshops.
French, English and L.S.F. (French Sign Language) are used in the classroom and everywhere else in the school on a daily basis. All pedagogical material is in both French and English. Our trained Montessori (A.M.I.) staff has been researching and creating educational material for L.S.F. since 2010.
Each class has a French speaking Montessori teacher, an English speaking Montessori teacher and an L.S.F. Montessori assistant (all A.M.I. trained) . Each adult speaks only in their maternal language. The children evolve in a classroom environment similar to that of the multilingual/multicultural family where one parent speaks one language.
In the Toddler Community and Children's Houses the written material in French is in lower case cursive and the written material in English is in lower case print. This gives a excellent point of reference for the young child. It also helps them to adapt easily if they leave our Montessori for a traditional school. In France, children that integrate into the traditional first grade must write in cursive and in most Anglophone countries the children write in print and learn cursive letters around the third grade level.
For the 2-5 year olds, the children are exposed to English (and French for the Anglophones) through a long term process of progressive mastery of skills dependant on the child's ability and aptitude: listening and speaking followed by reading and writing for the 5-12 year olds. As of the age of two, the toddler is in constant contact with the LSF Montessori assistant. We have observed that toddlers and young children easily communicate verbally and by using the proper gestures when they can resort to the L.S.F.
The use of songs, games, rhyme verses, as well as cultural (geography, history, botany, anatomy, etc.) elements make language learning enjoyable. Each French and English speaking Montessori teacher as well as the LSF Montessori assistants work individually and in small groups with the children. This makes learning three languages a lot of fun !
The project to turn our school into a trilingual learning environment by adding L.S.F. to the already bilingual (French and English) environment took place in August 2010. Our deaf assistants followed the A.M.I. Montessori assistant's training and started their work with the existing teaching staff, the children and their families as of the toddler community. Our school is ready to integrate deaf children as well as C.O.D.A. children (raised by deaf parents) into the Toddler Community and Children's Houses. Through our experience teaching L.S.F., we plan to put a scientific evaluation into place.
Maria Montessori used the term 'machinery' in her book , The Absorbant Mind, to describe the ability to physically reproduce the sounds of a particular language, "In a foreign country, we adults cannot even detect all the sounds we hear , far less reproduce them vocally. We can only use the 'machinery' of our own language; no one but a child can construct his own 'machinery' and so learn to perfection as many languages as he hears spoken around him."
WE KNOW THAT THE CHILD WILL GREATLY BENEFIT FROM A TRILINGUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. This will make his adaptation into future schools and societies easier. Our past students go on to learning a fourth and fifth language with tremendous ease. .