Among the large number of pedagogical practices accumulated to date, special attention should be paid to the Montessori technique, which is deservedly well known. Pedagogy based on the Montessori value system has a deep focus on cultivating in the child the skills of independence and independence from external sources. The philosophy of Maria Montessori, who gave the world the technique of the same name, was based on the recognition of the child’s need and functional ability to explore the environment independently. Thus, according to this technique, the parent is responsible for shaping a constructive environment in which the child could develop unrestrictedly and unconstrainedly without having to compete for results or get results at all. This essay is a theoretical synthesis of the critical ideas of Maria Montessori’s pedagogical practice and the identification of her philosophy.
A Brief Biographical Summary
When discussing this pedagogical methodology, it is helpful to first briefly analyze Maria’s biography and identify the underlying reasons why the theory was created in the first place. This is important to understand that Montessori was an Italian woman physician who was practicing her profession at the beginning of the twentieth century. On August 31, 1870, Maria was born into the family of an Italian official of the Ministry of Finance and the niece of a famous Italian geologist. The academic background of her parents seems to have seriously influenced the young Maria, so she decided to get her education, which was not common for women of the era in question. There would be revolutionary notes of the struggle for women’s rights in Maria’s future public activities, but the central leitmotif of her professional activities is her work with children with developmental delays.
Maria provided primary medical care to babies who were victims of pathophysiological severe processes and mutations. Children with mental, physical, and cognitive developmental delays required special attention, the provision of which was part of Maria’s professional responsibility. In addition, Montessori often visited orphanages with children suffering from mental disorders as part of her job (The Montessori, 2020). Such babies mainly were lonely, and the medical philosophies of the time did not demonstrate a vital concern for the well-being of such patients. As a result, the children hardly played with each other and had no toys. When Maria brought them some materials (beads, thread, scraps), the children came to life and actively became acquainted with the new environment. Her insights and extensive experience of working with children from their early years eventually led the woman to form an advanced system of pedagogical views oriented toward supporting children with disabilities, the critical value of which was that “the greatness of the human personality begins from the birth of man” (Montessori, 1949, p. 4). However, since Maria’s ideas have significantly spread worldwide, educational techniques and tactics have been adapted to the average child, which means that the essence of Montessori pedagogical practice has been made available for use by absolutely all children.
The Role of the Independent Child
The central core of this educational methodology boils down to the unconditional recognition of the child’s independence as a guarantee of learning success. In particular, the child is taught from an early age to solve any everyday tasks without the direct assistance of an adult (The Montessori, 2020). According to Montessori, children “have a natural urge to perfect their movements” that exists without adult intervention (Montessori, 1946, p. 40). From the child’s side, it seems that they are entirely independent and represent their interests individually: such a child does not need a leader or an intermediary to express his or her thoughts, desires, or ask for help. To put it another way, for the child to develop fully, an adult — caregiver, parent, or guardian — is responsible for giving them the freedom to think, act and feel. In such an environment, the child will engage only in exciting activities and engaging to him or her, without being forced to do arithmetic, language, or critical thinking lessons. On the contrary, the classical approach to pedagogy proves ineffective with the independent child because brought up according to Montessori values; such a child clearly understands what he or she is interested in and should devote time and effort to it.
The Role of the Responsible Adult
In the context discussed, it is essential to emphasize that Montessori practice does not mean complete disinterest in the child’s development. Nor should this pedagogical system be seen as a strategy of total non-intervention, nor should Montessori techniques ever be an excuse for irresponsible inaction on the part of parents or caregivers. On the contrary, the role of the adult in this system is so significant that it is difficult to overemphasize. It is appropriate to view the responsible adult as a shadow participant in Montessori practice, which means that the range of actions he or she provides is barely noticeable by superficial observation: “praise, help or even noticing a child are often sufficient interference to destroy activity” (Montessori, 1949, p. 200). This is true because the parent, caregiver, or guardian is responsible for creating a constructive didactic environment in which the child develops independently. Such a Montessori environment must possess several critical criteria to be effective. One of the essential attributes of a didactic environment is to consider the sensitive periods of a particular child.
Criteria for a Didactic Environment
Sensitive periods refer to the natural age-related changes in a child’s mental and physical health during different years of life. Briefly, Maria identified six such periods and assigned them a time frame as the child matures: “when one knows of them, then the whole attitude toward childhood is bound to change” (Montessori, 1949, p. 29). In reality, the child is more likely to be uninterested. It is important to emphasize that the time limits of periods are not consecutive but partly overlap and overlap. However, the available interval considered in the early learning strategy is from 0 to 6 years old.
Several additional requirements are imposed on the constructive Montessori environment. For example, the environment fully and unconditionally recognizes the child’s partnership and the possibility of participating in any process. In the home context, this means that a five-year-old may very well help cook dinner, clean the room, or walk the dog, if they desire. It is the responsibility of the conscious adult to provide the horizons for the child’s wish to be fulfilled so that the toddler is convinced of their independence. In addition, the adult in the environment should not be in a mentoring or guiding role, giving orders or forcing the toddler to engage in a particular activity. On the contrary, according to Montessori, the adult is a partner and a shadow player with a well-defined spectrum of responsibility.
Freedom and Discipline
It is mistaken to think that the idea discussed postulates complete freedom of action of the child and does not provide for punishment in case of unethical actions. In a prepared environment, there are several rules, the execution of which is mandatory for the child. It follows from this the condition that in the didactic environment shouting and punishment are wholly forbidden because this immediately puts the adult in the role of a supervisor rather than an equal partner: “to tell anyone he is silly, stupid, brave, good or bad is a betrayal of humanity” (Montessori, 1949, p. 187). The absence of a penalty system also characterizes the profound philosophy of allowing the child to make mistakes and have individual experiences. One of them, for example, is that any resources used must be returned to the place from which they were taken. If this practice is carried out within a group of students, a book taken from the shelf should be put back where it belongs so that another student can pick it up later. Generally, it must be said that the Montessori discipline encourages interpersonal interaction and teamwork. For this reason, didactic environments tend to use materials in a single copy, which promotes dialogue between children. In addition, Montessori environments are differentiated by zones, so that science, math, or language lessons are implemented in different areas of the room. This makes it possible to systematize the child’s clear thinking and to keep order. Finally, the pedagogical methodology’s focus on developing fine motor skills is also reflected in the discipline of practice: of the materials available for use in play, most help develops hand manipulation and a confident command of the fingers.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the pedagogical practice of Maria Montessori is deservedly popular all over the world. The unique approach to children’s education qualitatively distinguishes the considered methodology from other systems of early learning. The Montessori method helps to develop autonomy and responsibility for actions and teamwork, systematic thinking, and fine motor skills in the child. A parent who chooses to raise a child using this method should read the rules carefully to create a genuinely effective growth environment.
Montessori, M. (1946). Movement and character [PDF document]. Web.
Montessori, M. (1949). The absorbent mind [PDF document]. Web.
The Montessori method. (2020). Montessori Climber. Web.