Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician.She was a medical doctor, an anthropologist, and an educational researcher. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment”. Children could freely choose from many age-appropriate activities designed to teach specific skills. She felt that tactile exploratory learning opportunities would form a strong foundation for later abstract learning (such as math facts, reading, science exploration, etc.). She theorized that teachers should instead become “directors” and actually “quietly follow the child” in order to discern their interests, strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, a teacher would then know how best to reach their students through appropriate individualized learning experiences that would stimulate true growth and learning. She developed a plan of education that would respect and follow the child’s inner guide to development and work in harmony with the child’s own natural tendencies towards independence and learning. The goal is to prepare children for a lifetime of creative thinking and learning.
In 1929 Dr. Montessori established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to support the swell of Montessori schools, teacher education programs, and national organizations around the world.
One hundred years after the first casa dei bambini (“children’s house”) opened in Rome, Montessori schools for children of all ages are found around the world. There are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States and about 7,000 worldwide. Over 200 public school systems in the U.S. have Montessori programs.
On the Barbara Walters ABC-TV Special “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004”, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the popular Internet search engine Google.com, credited their years as Montessori students as a major factor behind their success. When Barbara Walters asked if the fact that their parents were college professors was a factor behind their success, they said no, that it was their going to a Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori education allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests.
There is also quite an interesting collection of people throughout history who have gone to Montessori schools, sent their children to Montessori schools, or supported this method of education in one way or another.
These people are Montessori educated:
- Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google
- Sergey Brin, Co-Founder of Google. Recently, this article· was written which describes how Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, remembers his Montessori experience.
- Peter Drucker, Management Guru
- Prince William and Prince Harry, English royal family
- George Clooney, Academy Award-winning actor
- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
- Anne Frank, famous diarist from World War II
- Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian painter and Architect
- Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia
- Will Wright, designer of The Sims
- Katherine Graham, former owner-editor of the Washington Post. “The Montessori method—learning by doing— once again became my stock in trade…” from Personal History by Katharine Graham
- Sean Combs, Sean ‘P.Diddy’ (formerly known as Puffy) Combs, RAP mega-star
- Julia Child, famous chef, star of many TV cooking shows and author of numerous cookbooks Chef
- Helen Hunt, Academy Award-winning actress
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winner for Literature
- Joshua Bell, American violinist, owner of Stradivarius violin
- Lea Salonga, multi-awarded Filipino-American singer and Broadway actress
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, former editor, former first lady (John F. Kennedy)
- Berry Brazelton, noted paediatrician and author
- Kami Cotler, actress (youngest child on long-running series The Waltons)
- Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actors
- Beyonce Knowles, singer and actress
Famous people who chose Montessori schools for their own children:
- Stephen J. Cannell, TV writer-producer-director (The Rockfor Files and many other)
- Patty Duke Austin, actress
- Bill and Hillary Clinton, Former President and New York Senator
- Cher Bono, singer, actres
- John Bradshaw, psychologist and author
- Yul Brynner, former actor
- Marcy Carcy, TV producer
- Michael Douglas, actor
- Shari Lewis, former puppeteer
- Yo Yo Ma, cellist
- Willie Nelson, musician, has a Montessori school on his ranch
- Elizabeth Berridge, actress
- David Blaine, street magician
- Jennifer Granholm and Daniel Mulhern, Governor of Michigan
Others with a Montessori connection:
- Bruno Bettelheim, noted psychologist/author, was married to a Montessori teacher
- Thomas Edison, noted scientist and inventor, helped found a Montessori school
- President Wilson’s daughter trained as a Montessori teacher. There was a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during Wilson’s presidency.
- Erik Erikson, anthropologist/author, had a Montessori teaching certificate
- Jean Piaget, noted Swiss psychologist, made his first observations of children in a Montessori school. He was also head of the Swiss Montessori Society for many years.
- Mister Rogers, children’s TV personality, strong supporter of Montessori education
- Alexander Graham Bell (inventor) and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Education Association in 1913. They also provided financial support directly to Dr. Maria Montessori and helped establish the first Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States.
- Alice Waters, restaurateur and writer, is a former Montessori teacher