On this day (August 31), 1870, Maria Montessori, pedagogue, scientist, doctor, psychiatrist, philosopher, psychologist, feminist and humanist, was born in the small town of Chiaravalle, Italy.
The Montessori family moved to Florence in 1873, then to Rome in 1875 because of her father's job. Montessori entered a public elementary school at the age of 6 in 1876. Her early school record "was not particularly remarkable."
In 1890 she graduated at the age of 20, with a certificate in physics and mathematics, she had decided to study medicine, a most unlikely activity given the cultural norms of the time.
she was met with hostility and harassment from some medical students and professors because of her gender. Because her attendance at her classes with men in the presence of a naked body was deemed inappropriate, she was asked to perform cadaver dissections on her own, after hours. In her last two years, she studied pediatrics and psychiatry, and worked in the pediatrics office and emergency department, becoming an expert in pediatric medicine.
From 1896 to 1901, Montessori worked with and researched children called "phrenasthenics," in modern terms, children experiencing some form of cognitive delay, disease, or disability. She also began to travel, study, speak and publish nationally and internationally, rising to prominence as an advocate for women's rights and the education of children with mental disabilities.
In 1900, the National League opened the Scuola Magistrale Ortofrenica, or School Orthophrenic, a "medical-pedagogical institute" for training teachers in the education of children with mental disabilities with an attached laboratory classroom. Montessori was appointed co-director. 64 teachers enrolled in the first class, studying psychology, anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, anthropological measurements, causes and characteristics of mental disability, and special methods of instruction. During her two years at the school, Montessori developed methods and materials that she later adapted for use with children in general.
In 1906 Montessori was invited to oversee the care and education of a group of children of working parents in a new apartment building for families low-income in the district of San Lorenzo in Rome. Montessori was interested in applying her work and her methods to children without mental disabilities and she agreed. The name Casa dei Bambini , or Children's House, was suggested to Montessori, and the first Casa se opened on January 6, 1907, enrolling 50 or 60 children between the ages of two or three and six or seven.
In her book she describes a typical winter day of lessons, starting at 09:00 am and ending at 04:00 pm:
- 9-10. Entrance. Greeting. Personal hygiene inspection. Practical life exercises; helping each other take off and put on their aprons. Check the room to see that everything is dusted and in order. Language: Conversation period: The children recount the events of the previous day Religious exercises.
- 10-11. Intellectual exercises. Object lessons interrupted by short rest periods. Nomenclature, meaning exercises.< /li>
- 11–11: 30. Simple gymnastics: ordinary movements gracefully performed, normal body position, walking, line marching, salutes, attention-getting movements, graceful placement of objects .
- 11:30-12. Lunch: Brief prayer.
- 12-1. Free games.
- 1-2. Guided games, if possible, outdoors. During this period the older children in turn perform the exercises of practical life, cleaning the room, dusting, putting things in order. General cleanliness inspection: conversation.
- 2-3. Manual work. Modelling, design, etc. clay
- 3-4. Collective gymnastics and singing, if possible in the open air. Exercises to develop foresight: Visit and take care of plants and animals.
She felt that by working independently, children could reach new levels of autonomy and become self-motivated to reach new levels of understanding. Montessori also came to believe that recognizing all children as individuals and treating them as such would lead to better learning and full potential in each individual child.
The first Casa dei Bambini was a success.
As a curiosity, comment on Montessori's words at UNESCO;
"Remember that people do not start at twenty, ten or six, but at birth. In their efforts to solve problems, do not forget that children and young people constitute a large population, a population without rights that is being crucified on school benches everywhere, that - for everything we talk about democracy, freedom and human rights - is enslaved by a school order, by intellectual rules, which we impose. We define the rules that must be learned, how they must be learned and at what age. Children are the only population without rights. The child is the abandoned citizen. Think about this and fear the revenge of this population. Because it is his soul that we are suffocating. It is the living powers of the mind that we are oppressing, powers that cannot be destroyed without killing the individual"