When the young child does not have regression characteristics, he or she is clearly and energetically pushed towards functional independence. Development is therefore a push towards ever greater independence; like the arrow thrown by the bow, it goes straight, safe and strong.
The conquest of independence begins with the beginning of life; as the being develops, improves and overcomes every obstacle found in its path, a vital, active force guides it towards its evolution.
This force has been called “Horme”… this vital force of evolution stimulates the child towards activities of all kinds.
Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Maria Montessori has dedicated her life to the human being. Her choice to become a doctor will be a determining factor in the great mission of his life. She managed to break into the secret universe of childhood, and studied the physical and psychological development of the child from birth.
Its many conferences will be a spiritual stimulus and will allow the emergence of more and more schools all over the world.
Discovering pedagogy: who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, near Ancona, Italy. In 1896, she became one of the first female doctors in Italy.
In Rome, Maria Montessori continues her research as part of a team that includes doctors, scientists and researchers. She studies the behaviour of mentally retarded children through internships in children’s medical services.
It draws on the work of Jean-Marc Gaspard ITARD and Edouard SEGUIN, who have developed special educational methods for children with disabilities and have developed a new approach to mental illness.
During this period, on March 10, 1898, she gave birth to a boy whom she named Mario.
In 1907, at a time when workers were working in difficult conditions, their children who lived there did not know what to do and they destroyed what surrounded them.
Maria Montessori heard about these children for whom one was looking for a care system, so she decided to take care of them. The same year she opened the first children’s house “la casa dei Bambini” in San Lorenzo, Rome, which would welcome young children. She uses this experience to develop and implement educational materials that children can use.
The latter will quickly invest and appropriate the use of this equipment. It is a success.
From the beginning Maria Montessori considered that children deserve love. To help her, she worked with an untrained girl who was instructed not to disturb the children who were working and concentrated.
In 1909, in Italy, Maria Montessori gave the first training course in her pedagogy, attended by about a hundred teachers. She also publishes Volume I of Scientific Pedagogy, a book in which she explains her method and origins.
Between 1910 and 1912 the first Montessori schools opened in the United States, Paris and Boston.
In 1913 she published Volume II of Scientific Pedagogy.
From 1913 onwards, Maria Montessori travelled the world to promote the principles and practice of this pedagogy.
During this period she was accompanied by her son Mario. Together, they created the International Montessori Association as a supervisory body to oversee the activities of the schools. This work extended all over the world and included the supervision of teacher training.
During the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945 Maria Montessori was under house arrest in India, where she founded several 3/6 year old schools, where she studied the main principles of 6/12 year old pedagogy.
In 1945, Maria Montessori returned to Europe.
Later, accompanied by her son Mario, Maria would continue to travel around the world to share and divulge her teaching method. She gave courses and conferences in London, Scotland, Rome, Berlin, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, the Netherlands and France. Mario and Maria Montessori have been involved in the opening of many schools.
Maria died on May 6, 1952 in the Netherlands, at the age of 82.
After Maria Montessori’s death, Mario continued his dissemination work, working for the Montessori movement. He would continue to actively lead the training courses. Montessori pedagogy has inspired thousands of teachers around the world, leading to the creation of many nursery and primary schools, colleges and high schools.
There are many Montessori schools in France, mainly composed of classes for children from 3 to 6 years old and children from 6 to 12 years old. Some schools also accommodate children aged 2 to 3 years.
These schools are most of the time out of contract and therefore entirely private.
I will now introduce you to the concrete daily life in a Montessori school, which may differ quite a bit from traditional education. This typical day is directly inspired by my professional experience.
Discover Montessori schools: a typical day
Soft start, no punctuality drama …
In 3/6 year old classes, children arrive between 8:15 and 8:45.
In 6/12 year old classes, children arrive between 8:15 and 8:30.
Upon arriving in the morning, the child is greeted by the educator who “offers him/her a hello”! It is an individualized welcome that allows the adult to pay particular attention to each child from the beginning of the day.
The child then enters the cloakroom, he can take off his coat, his shoes, put on his slippers, put away his bag in his place, take his notebooks or books if he has them according to the 3/6 years or 6/12 years atmosphere. He is now ready to enter the classroom where he is usually greeted by an English or French-speaking assistant or other educator.
The child goes independently to a shelf and chooses the activity he or she wants to do.
In a Montessori class, the child must have the freedom to choose his or her working partners.
He chooses his work independently. The only constraint is that this material and its use must have been presented to her beforehand by the educator.
Whether in a of 3/6 years old atmosphere or in a of 6/12 years old atmosphere, we will be able to observe a child working with language equipment right next to a child who makes an addition, or next to two children who explore geography, etc.
The duration of the activities is unlimited. Mornings and afternoons are not interrupted by breaks: the child must have the opportunity to choose a long job and be able to complete it!
To enable the work of Man, it is necessary to offer each child an environment prepared and adapted to each environment. The equipment is placed on shelves adapted to the size of the children and freely accessible.
There is no designated place in a Montessori atmosphere, some children will work on the floor on carpets, others will be seated at a table adapted to their size, etc.
The wooden material is attractive, beautiful and always clean. Children respect this material and do not break it.
When children work in a concentrated way, they normalize, aggressiveness no longer exists, the desire to work increases.
There is no punishment. No praise either, the reward is the child’s personal joy in his or her work. There is no competition or performance measurement.
In a Montessori class, children need to move around. They do it when necessary, in a calm atmosphere, without disturbing the comrades.
Children speak in whispers, the limits to this are actually respect for others!
At 11:20, each child tidies up his work, he gets ready to go out in recess. During recess time, some children, including those aged 3 to 6 years old, may stay in class for a little extra time and help an adult set the table, etc.
At 12:30 it is lunchtime.
At the end of the meal, in the 6/12 year old atmosphere, the children will clear and clean their tables, sweep the floor, tidy up their class so that it will be beautiful and clean again to start the afternoon. Children are committed to doing all this. Some schools do not have a canteen room, the children have lunch in their own atmosphere.
At 1:30 pm, after the meal, it is back to classes. At the children’s house, for the youngest it is nap time, the older ones listen to the story told by the educator, then they go back to work.
As for the children in the 6/12 year old class, it is time for a quiet time with an individual and silent reading, then they choose a new activity.
Around 4:00 p.m., the teacher rings a bell, it is time to stop work to start tidying up or preparing for the realization of responsibilities for primary school children. In 3/6 year old classes, it is so much to help the teachers to tidy up the classroom and get dressed, prepare to meet the parents.
Maria Montessori advocated large mixed age groups in the classes. Montessori atmospheres often include between 35 and 40 children per class. This large number of children but also the age mix encourages emulation and mutual support.
Generally speaking, 3/6 year old classes operate with a French-speaking Montessori educator, an English-speaking Montessori educator and a French-speaking Montessori assistant.
The 6/12 year old atmospheres work most of the time with a French-speaking Montessori teacher and an English-speaking Montessori teacher.
Specific features of the Montessori Children’s Home
Most of the time, the educator makes her presentation to only one child. The presentation time is short, between 5 and 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the other children are working independently or with the English-speaking assistant or educator!
There are no toys in a class from 3 to 6 years old. However, the children are not bored!
- They will be able to discover practical life exercises. These allow children to take care of themselves by practicing the art of dressing, buttoning a jacket, tying shoelaces, etc.
They are also activities of daily life that they have already observed at home such as dusting, waxing small wooden boxes, cooking, folding fabrics, carrying a chair, walking around a carpet, carrying a carafe, squeezing a sponge, washing clothes. They will also do exercises of grace and courtesy!
These activities aim to help them adapt to their environment, to coordinate their movements, they also respond to the very strong impulse of their independence.
Every day, one or more children peel and cut fruit for the morning snack.
- Children also have sensory equipment at their disposal. Maria Montessori was inspired by the work and research of Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin. Between the ages of three and four, the child finds himself in “sensitive periods” during which he is able to appropriate the finest nuances of his environment through the senses.
Maria Montessori has thus created material that allows the child to explore gradation, the difference in height and width, the grip, the refinement of the chromatic sense, the 5 senses, etc.
- The children will also repeat written and oral language exercises with many tools and materials …
- They will practice mathematics with adapted equipment to discover and deepen the four operations, count to 1000 or more, discover the decimal system.
- Children will be able to discover geometry, biology, geography and history through themselves!
These exercises are fundamental to support the child’s physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological and social development.
In this way, the child unites his mind and body in inner harmony. Through his or her efforts and deployment, the child will reach the state we call “concentration”.
Specific features of Montessori primary school
The teacher makes a presentation to a child alone or in a group depending on the subject (mathematics, geometry, language, history, geography, biology, etc.). The presentation does not exceed 20 minutes. While one or more children are with the teacher, the rest of the group works independently or with the English-speaking educator.
Once the children have “received” a presentation, they are free to pick up the material immediately or later to rehearse independently.
As in the children’s home, the 6/12 year old atmosphere has only one copy of each material in the classroom.
Life rules are established jointly by the teacher and the children. These rules dictate expected and appropriate behaviour in class, at recess, in the canteen, during a presentation, etc. Everyone must respect these rules, children and adults alike!
If we see that the child is not doing his job properly with the material, we do not disturb him but we invite him another time to another presentation individually using different terms.
In the classroom, children are free to move around. They are free to work with one or more classmates.
When a child has finished a job, he or she can take a book to read freely for a short time, then choose another job.
Children aged 6/12 years particularly appreciate the opportunity to freely have a small snack, a glass of water or a hot drink! A small but important detail: children can go to the toilet alone and without asking permission!
The teacher must have planned these presentations for at least 3 days in advance, so have 30 planned presentations. He must also think about saving time for observation.
All academic subjects are taught in primary classes. They are done with specific material through what is called “cosmic education”. The main goal is the development of the imagination, it is to nourish the understanding and discover the cosmos, the internal functioning of things, the social consciousness.
In primary school, once a week, a class meeting time is set up, either on the initiative of children or adults. It is the children’s advice, we then sit in a circle, and we start a discussion on a previously chosen theme (difficulties encountered in class, in recreation, in the row, projects, outings, etc.)
Each child chooses a responsibility on Monday morning from a list of tasks to be completed so that the class is neat and tidy at the end of the day.
At the very beginning of the year, these tasks are presented!
If children want to do a big job that requires space, they can sit on carpets on the floor.
Children aged 6 to 12 are already very independent. They have responsibilities for the cleanliness of the classroom, it makes sense to them, they are proud of it (watering plants, feeding animals, dusting shelves, sweeping the floor, sharpening pencils, rolling carpets, etc.).
Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind