love most potant montessori

Maria with her son Mario at one of her schools

Did you know this? I didn’t. Maria formulated her ingenious teaching methods in 2 years of WORKING EXCLUSIVELY with kids like ours, children with developmental delays. She taught them daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., at which time they returned to the insane asylum for adults; that’s where they lived. Maria was horrified when she first saw their plight, began a school for them, and the rest is history. The story blows my mind, and I hope it does yours, too.

Educating-the-workers-685wAfter Opening The School and Teaching Our Children…

…Maria had the glorious nerve to enter a number of her “special” students in the Italian State Examinations, without indicating in any way on paperwork that they were “idiot children” (don’t get upset; that was the ignorant terminology of the day.) So what happened? They all passed the examination, which focused on reading and writing. Some of them even did better than their typical peers, which caused quite an uproar, and at that point, education the world over began to change under Maria’s influence.

In The Beginning

Those two years teaching our children capped her study of 40 years of work done on the topic of developmentally delayed children by French doctors Itard and Séguin.  Maria was also an M.D. (the first female physician in Italy; she later earned two additional doctorates, in both Anthropology and Psychology), and had made a profound study of the work of the French doctors, even to the extent of translating and handwriting 600 pages of an unavailable text. In her words,  “For 10 years I not only made practical experiments according to their methods, but through reverent meditation absorbed the works of these noble men…” The work of the French doctors had been previously dismissed as ineffective, but Maria knew better. She knew the educators hadn’t understood how to implement the doctors’ work–but she understood and knew how.

10MP_DIVYA_MONTESSO_159711g“Meditating and absorbing” pretty much encapsulates Maria’s intuitive and ingenious approach to education. She observed. She watched, thought, felt, intuited. That was her genius. Here is a picture of Maria teaching at one of her first schools in India. What is she doing? Watching. Observing. Understanding.

Don’t we best teach our children by doing the exact same thing? As their parents, if we go into “observe mode,” we are able to intuit so much of what our children can understand/can’t understand, how to reach them, how to excite their little learning antennae so the information gets in and stays.

Well, Why Not Teach Typical Children the Same Way?

That was Maria’s next thought after she saw typically developing children tank on the State Exams. “Why aren’t these children learning?” So of course the Montessori Method was brought into the broad arena of international education.

What About Teaching Reading?

Montessori letters

Montessori Sandpaper Letters Today

We finally get to my heart here…if you’ll watch the BBC documentary on the link below, you’ll hear this: Maria taught reading by teaching the child letter sounds as the child traced a sandpaper letter on wood slates. “She provided no other instruction,” and the children learned to read as if they had taught themselves. “This was unheard of,” continues the documentary.

We should pay attention to this; my own son Jonathan (30, DS) learned to read by a 3-way approach: sight words, letter sounds, and letter shapes. He, like the vast majority of typically developed adult humans on the planet, learned to decode naturally, through experience. http://bbcbentomatics.lunchbox.pbs.org/extraordinary-women/ (Choose “Maria Montessori”)

Maria’s Thoughts

“Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants – doing nothing but living and walking about – came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child’s way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.” -Maria Montessori (quote: www.caminomontessori.com)

I’ve begun to study Maria’s own books, and already feel like she’s a heart-sister. Her understanding of how children learn is legendary, began with our children, and–no surprise–still works today.

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