Montessori education is named for Maria Montessori, one of the first female physicians in Italy. She opened the first Montessori school, the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in Rome in 1907. Her studies of children and human development grew into a method of education practiced in schools all over the world, and a global movement for peace and the rights of the child.
Today, tens of thousands of Montessori schools, public and private, serve nearly a million children from birth to age eighteen around the world, with 5000 schools in the U.S. alone.
As a physician and an anthropologist, Maria Montessori observed young children’s spontaneous drives for engagement, focus, and independence, and created lessons and materials to support their natural development. She observed the highest engagement when children chose their own work, and made this the foundation of her method. In Montessori schools, children, led by trained teachers, choose their own activities in carefully prepared environments which support children’s natural curiosity, drive to learn, and developing independence. Montessori curriculum typically goes well beyond public standards, as well as fostering children’s emotional and social development.
Stages of Development
As Montessori continued her work, she observed different learning characteristics in distinct periods of children’s development, and created lessons, materials, and teacher training for these stages.
Birth to Three
Montessori from birth to three focuses on prenatal and young child development. Montessori at this level is practiced in homes, in parent-teacher groups, and in child care centers and schools.
Three to Six
The most widespread form of Montessori education, called “Primary” or “Children’s House”, serves pre-school through kindergarten aged children in mixed-age classrooms. Children at this age explore their world sensorially and experientially, developing concentration and focus. They learn practical life skills, math, reading and writing, music, art, and more.
Six to Twelve
Elementary school Montessori children in mixed-age classrooms explore and learn about the universe and everything in it through Montessori materials, evocative stories, excursions beyond the classroom, and their limitless powers of imagination and curiosity.
Twelve to Eighteen
Montessori is expanding into this age group, with land-based and classroom oriented programs that support adolescents’ social and intellectual development as they transition from childhood to adulthood.
The Montessori Movement
Montessori is a worldwide movement for education, peace, and the rights of the child.