Dr. Maria Montessori is the founder of the Montessori method of education. This method is in use today in private and public schools around the world.
Birth and Family
Montessori was born in 1870 in Italy. Montessori’s mother, Renilde Stoppani was well educated and had a great passion for reading. Her father, Alessandro Montessori was a military man. He strongly disagreed with his daughter’s choice of career.
In 1875 Montessori was enrolled in the local state school in Rome. In 1883, she entered a technical school for boys. At the age of fourteen she was very interested in mathematics. Montessori’s parents suggested she take up teaching, the only career open to women at the time but she refused to consider it. From 1886 to 1890 she studied at the Regio Instituto Technico Leonardo Da Vinci. She wanted to be an engineer, but she became more interested in studying medicine. Everyone was surprised when Montessori got accepted into medical school. A woman studying medicine was unheard of at the time. Montessori’s father was so angry and embarrassed when he found out his daughter was going to enter medical school that he refused to speak to her for months. In 1896 she graduated from the University of Rome. Montessori was the first woman in Italy to graduate with a medical degree.
After graduating in Rome, Montessori began working and researching at the University’s psychiatric clinic. She became a voluntary assistant there in 1897. She visited and observed children with mental disabilities at asylums in Rome. She was able to learn which teaching methods worked best for these children with developmental difficulties. Montessori noticed that they focused on even the tiniest new object like a fallen breadcrumb that came into their environment. She also discovered that the children built themselves from what they found in their environment. These observations became an important part of her future educational work. Montessori began reading what others had published about working with children with disabilities. She became very interested in the work of three men: Edouard Seguin, Jean-Marc-Gaspard Hard and Jacob Rodrigvez Periera. Montessori was also interested in exploring other ideas about educating children in general. The following educators influenced her: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Pestalozzi, Robert Owen and Friedrich Frobel. In 1889, Montessori began teaching at a college for the training of female teachers, where she discussed and explored ideas about education. In 1900 an Orthophrenic School opened, where teachers trained in educating mentally disabled children. Montessori was the co-director of the school. Montessori developed methods and materials that were later used with normal children. In 1902, Montessori enrolled in a philosophy degree at the University of Rome.
The First School: Casa dei Bambini
In 1907, Casa dei Bambini, also known as Children’s House opened. Children between the ages of two and seven were enrolled at the school. Montessori observed the behaviors in the young children, which formed a foundation of her own educational method. While working with the children she made many discoveries.