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.