Montessori: A Philosophy of Education

Times have changed, and science has made great progress, and so has our work; but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.” (From the foreword to “The Discovery of the Child”, Poona 1948)

Many who observe the daily peacefulness in a Montessori classroom wonder at how an idea born at the turn of the century can be so relevant today. Many of the “progressive models” of current education have adopted components of the approach and methodology employed by Dr. Montessori in her first schools. Our schools remain relevant for the 21st century child because Montessori was both a visionary and a practical scientist.

I believe that this truth grows from Montessori philosophy based on the principle of community. The multi aged grouping of the Children’s House community is built upon respect for oneself, for peers and for the community at large. In this community values are lived, grace and courtesy are routine, and a common spirit of love and sharing, hospitality, cooperation, help, and assistance binds the community in noble work.

This is an educational community for children in which each child has the time, means and scope of activity to fully develop and realize his/her potential.

In the Children’s House the necessary time is dictated by the child’s need for exactness and repetition. There is time for process, and the fixing of one’s attention on a key experience that engages a unique concentration and promotes the necessary repetition to imprint the experience within the personality. In this way knowledge is learned with enthusiasm and guided through hands-on experience. Inspiration and motivation is intrinsic in the experience.

This community has breadth of content that insures the child has the richness of scope and understanding to interrelate and apply knowledge. In this way the children learn quickly and with such enthusiasm that new knowledge sparks and renews the learning process, creating the “touchstone effect”. Content and process merge, interrelationships become clear, and sensibilities are solidified.

Mutual respect allows for a freedom of activity that develops responsible independence and encourages diversity. This aids the child to look beyond his own needs and see those of others and the world around him. He ponders the wondrous nature of all things with enough imagination to explore his part in the universal order. He discovers that knowledge unlocks the keys to the universe and his mind expands. He learns to respect and admire the achievements of others, both around him and in history. All of this leads to a naturally well-developed child attune to his culture and the ecology of life.

In the Children’s House community the child understands that each one of us is dependent on others and each must make a contribution for the betterment of all. Participation in this model learning community enables the child to eventually adapt to society, knowing that each individual’s adaptation takes the highest form by the special contribution he can make to his fellow man. This membership is both personally satisfying and socially rewarding. The educational outcome guides the child to their vocation, the place where the world’s needs and their talents intersect.

This community provides the means for the individual uses to acquire knowledge and experience which comes through special work, or relevant and important activity, where the personality is nourished and allowed to develop without constant adult imposition. In the youngest, human nature guides the individual to do those things that are naturally good for him or herself.  Respect is given to the child’s unconscious prompts or urges, eventually encouraging the development of the individual will and self-discipline.  The special Montessori content for the older children in this educational community is the means by which they gain an admiration towards their culture. They are inspired with pride and a sense of privilege in belonging to humanity. This sentiment is aroused in the child by showing him the interrelatedness of all things in nature, but especially in the world of man.

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