Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Highlight of Montessori's approach to early years practice part I

Have read this book 'Bringing the Montessori approach to your early years practice' in the last two weeks and found it really interesting and think it is my idea of early education should be today, however it isn't very popular in England.

I made notes on the background of Montessori and the Montessori early years curriculum plus how it links to the foundation stage, however due to my poor English so I only did it in author's own words - Barbara Isaacs and I will reference the book in the end.

Maria Montessori's own life is closely linked with the political, social and economic changes that resulted from the unification of Italy in the year Montessori was born, 1870. Maria joined the public school in Via de San Nicola da Tolentino at the age of six, in 1876, the year before primary education had become compulsory in Italy. By the time Montessori graduated at the age of twenty she was interested in biological sciences and was determined to study medicine, a path not followed by a woman in Italy before. Having achieved the Diploma de License in the spring of 1892 with the high grade of 8 out of 10. Montessori was eligible to study medicine at the University of Rome. Montessori's years of study were challenging in every aspect: her father disapproved, she was ridiculed by her fellow students and she also hated dissection, which she had to perform in the evenings. In the last year of her studies, like the rest of her fellow students, she gave a lecture to the class, it was attended by her father. Montessori's success had ended six years of rejection and criticism. In 1897 she was asked to visit Rome's asylums, and this led to meeting the 'idiot children' who were to change her life. Montessori's experience of these children collecting crumbs from the floor once they had eaten had led her to consider the fact that perhaps they behaved in this way because they were bored. They had nothing to play with! In 1900, Montessori again enrolled to study at the University of Rome. She continued her interest in psychology and prusued Seguin's theory of educating the senses through concrete experiences. In Naples in 1902 she presented her own ideas about the possibility of the education of 'unteachable children'. she made links between the two theories exploring the notion of training of the senses and the importance of approaching abstraction through concrete forms a child could see and touch (Kramer, 1976). This was the basis for later development of the Montessori apparatus and sensorial materials that she called 'materialised abstractions'.

The first Montessori nursery

In 1906 Montessori was asked to look after children of migrant workers who lived in the tenements of the San Lorenzo district of Rome. Her work with these children laid a foundation for what we know today as the Montessori approach to education. In 1907 Montessori observed the children's reactions to their new environment without any pre-conceived ideas of what would happen. These observations provided opportunities to understand better the children and the materials themselves - this was, what we call today, action research. Montessori's observations gave her a further insight into the nature of children and formed the basis of the discoveries explained in her first book The Montessori Method, which was published in Rome in 1912. In this book Montessori described children as:

  • being capable of extended periods of concentration
  • enjoying repetition and order
  • revelling in the freedom of movement and choice
  • enjoying purposeful activities (preferred work to play)
  • self-motivated, displaying behaviours that did not require wither punishments or rewards
  • taking delight in silence and harmony of the environment
  • possessing personal dignity and spontaneous self-discipline
  • being capable of learning to read and write

It was these discoveries that made Montessori believe that these characteristics represented the potential of humanity. She advocated that all children should be given the opportunity to 'reveal themselves' in a developmentally appropriate environment that would facilitate their natural growth and development.

Between 1907 and 1914, when World War 1 broke out, interest in Montessori education flourished and many opportunities were opened to Montessori to promote her unique view of children and their learning. By 1914 there were hundreds of Montessori schools established in Europe, North and South America as well as India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. She died in the netherlands at the end of the summer of 1952 wanting to be known as a citizen of the world.

cited from: Isaacs, B. (2007). Bringing the Montessori approach to your early years practice. David Fulton. Oxon