What is Montessori Education?

The classroom

Montessori’s outlook was inspired by a deep respect for all aspects of life and creation, she had a holistic philosophy and was interested in the unity of the personality and the universe.  She saw Education as fundamental in the formation of humans during all four planes, as a means for the personality to develop, with (positive early experiences vital in easing the path to mature adulthood and maximising its potentials), she saw it as an ‘aid to life’.

The materials assist in this by challenging the child’s intelligence. The Prepared Environment bridges the gap between the world of the child and the world of the adult, stimulating interest and providing experiences relevant to each plane and the the whole person (spiritual, ineffectual, social and physical).  Each plane is different and prepares for the next, physically and psychically, while building on the previous one and preparing for the next we are careful to maximise this moment in this plane as once a plane is over the characteristics are no longer operative expect through great exertion.  The creative work of the individual is motivated and focused by special sensitivities (Sensitive Periods) which in conjunction with the social context (family, school, region) respond to the child’s needs and tendencies to act on them, building a personality adapted to their time and place.

The Montessori adult works with the child indirectly, ‘The mind works by itself, moved by a power within’ (Maria Montessori), what is asked of the educator…is to set each individual’s mind working to give it the possibility of developing on its own, to allow it the freedom to follow its own path’ (Mario Montessori).

The Cosmos

Humans mark the beginning of a new type of life – ‘mind life’- in that they are ‘special agents of creation’, the lack of a biologically fixed guide is presented as a positive characteristics, humans can adapt to any environment, unbound by climate and preferences, it gives a special responsibility to be responsible for our own choices. Montessori urges us to , observe the behaviour of men which contribute to our Earth.  Man modifies nature, leaving an “enchanted path”, distributing water and animals, uncovering coal, producing new species and designing architecture (The Child, Society and World, p.107).  The spiritual aspect of man is the most important, she argues, because the spirit has driven our evolution evolution, we have evolved less physically that psychically, with intangible creations of our language, number systems.  The Cosmic Task of may is to use our prepared environment to create and transform our environment, creating the Supanatura. 

The right use of education, according to Montessori is to help them contribute to a new world, built on global peace, in which humanity exists together, balancing practical needs and spirituality for the good of all.  If we work with the natural laws of development she believes that this is an inevitable outcome for humanity.  Having survived the tragedies of the first half of the twentieth century her ideas go beyond personal development and dedication to the movement for Global peace and she was nominated for the nobel peace prize.  Her collection of essays in, ‘Education and Peace’ is vital in understanding her practical suggestions for an education which is in harmony with the development of an individual and society.

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