Maria Montessori was born on the 31st August 1870 Chiaravalle, Italy to a well-educated family who supported her aims to continue her education, despite it meaning she would need to break down the barriers against women in education. Her initial focus was on engineering, joining an all-male technical college but eventually switched to medicine.
Montessori was a physician who was met with hostility when she attempted to study at a medical school and so after obtaining a degree in natural sciences, she managed to join the medical programme at the University of Rome and graduated from there with honours in 1896. Her initial work and research focus was with the psychiatric department and in particular, children who were deemed to be mentally disabled.
She then switched her focus once more to that of children and education, going back to study philosophy and in 1906, opened her first Children’s Home, a school for the care and education of children between the ages of 2 and 6. This led to her developing theories of education that form the basis for the concepts still used today in many schools around the world and she is widely held as an inspiration to those wanting to improve the education and care of young children.
1. Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul.
2. We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.
3. It is surprising to notice that even from the earliest age, man finds the greatest satisfaction in feeling independent. The exalting feeling of being sufficient to oneself comes as a revelation.
4. The child is not an empty being who owes whatever he knows to us who have filled him up with it. No, the child is the builder of man. There is no man existing who has not been formed by the child he once was.
5. To confer the gift of drawing, we must create an eye that sees, a hand that obeys, a soul that feels; and in this task, the whole life must cooperate. In this sense, life itself is the only preparation for drawing. Once we have lived, the inner spark of vision does the rest.
6. It would be so simple to allow children, when tired of sitting, to rise, and when tired of writing, to desist, and then their bones would not be twisted.
7. If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.
8. We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master.
9. Now, what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission.
10. If education is protection to life, you will realize that it is necessary that education accompany life during its whole course.
11. The purpose of life is to obey the hidden command which ensures harmony among all and creates an ever better world. We are not created only to enjoy the world, we are created in order to evolve the cosmos.
12. Travel stories teach geography; insect stories lead the child into natural science; and so on. The teacher, in short, can use reading to introduce her pupils to the most varied subjects; and the moment they have been thus started, they can go on to any limit guided by the single passion for reading.
13. To aid life, leaving it free, however, that is the basic task of the educator.
14. The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.
15. Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.
16. One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.
17. At three years of age, the child has already laid the foundations of the human personality and needs the special help of education in the school. The acquisitions he has made are such that we can say the child who enters school at three is an old man.
18. The study of expression ought to form a part of the study of psychology, but it also comes within the province of anthropology because the habitual, life-long expressions of the face determine the wrinkles of old age, which are distinctly an anthropological characteristic.
19.The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’
20. The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; he will reveal himself as the greatest marvel of nature
21. Every one in the world ought to do the things for which he is specially adapted. It is the part of wisdom to recognize what each one of us is best fitted for, and it is the part of education to perfect and utilize such predispositions. Because education can direct and aid nature but can never transform her.
22. Early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society.
23. Personal health is related to self-control and to the worship of life in all its natural beauty – self-control bringing with it happiness, renewed youth, and long life.
24. If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?
25. Observation, very general and wide-spread, has shown that small children are endowed with a special psychic nature. This shows us a new way of imparting education!
26. Indeed there are powers in the small child that are far greater than is generally realized, because it is in this period that the construction, the building-up, of man takes place, for at birth, psychically speaking, there is nothing at all – zero!
27. With man, the life of the body depends on the life of the spirit.
28. The possibility of observing the developments of the psychical life of the child as natural phenomena and experimental reactions transforms the school itself in action into a kind of scientific laboratory for the psychogenetic study of man.
29. The consciousness of knowing how to make oneself useful, how to help mankind in many ways, fills the soul with noble confidence, almost religious dignity.
30. When the child begins to think and to make use of the written language to express his rudimentary thinking, he is ready for elementary work; and this fitness is a question not of age or other incidental circumstance but of mental maturity.
31. We await the successsive births in the soul of the child. We give all possible material, that nothing may lack to the groping soul, and then we watch for the perfect faculty to come, safeguarding the child from interruption so that it may carry its efforts through.
32. We cannot create observers by saying ‘observe’, but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses.
33. When you have solved the problem of controlling the attention of the child, you have solved the entire problem of its education.
34. Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.
35. Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.
36. The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!
37. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.
38. The child’s mind is not the type of mind we adults possess. If we call our type of mind the conscious type, that of the child is an unconscious mind. Now an unconscious mind does not mean an inferior mind. An unconscious mind can be full of intelligence. One will find this type of intelligence in every being, and every insect has it.
39. The adolescent must never be treated as a child, for that is a stage of life that he has surpassed. It is better to treat an adolescent as if he had greater value than he actually shows than as if he had less and let him feel that his merits and self-respect are disregarded.
40. Many people must have noticed the intense attention given by children to the conversation of grown-ups when they cannot possibly be understanding a word of what they hear. They are trying to get hold of words, and they often demonstrate this fact by repeating joyously some word which they have been able to grasp.
41. The person who is developing freely and naturally arrives at a spiritual equilibrium in which he is master of his actions, just as one who has acquired physical poise can move freely.
42. The task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility and evil with activity.
43.The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.
44. The child, merely by going on with his life, learns to speak the language belonging to his race. It is like a mental chemistry that takes place in the child.
45. The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative work, and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence. Suddenly, the child becomes very sensitive to the rudeness and humiliations which he had previously suffered with patient indifference.
46. Moral Education is the source of that spiritual equilibrium on which everything else depends and which may be compared to that physical equilibrium or sense of balance, without which it is impossible to stand upright or to move into any other position.
47. In the first three years of life, the foundations of physical and also of psychic health are laid. In these years, the child not only increases in size but passes through great transformations. This is the age in which language and movement develop. The child must be safeguarded in order that these activities may develop freely.
48. How can any one paint who cannot grade colors? How can any one write poetry who has not learnt to hear and see?
49. If an educational act is to be efficacious, it will be only that one which tends to help toward the complete unfolding of life. To be thus helpful it is necessary rigorously to avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks.
50. Noble ideas, great sentiments have always existed and have always been transmitted, but wars have never ceased.
51. The selfsame procedure which zoology, a branch of the natural sciences, applies to the study of animals, anthropology must apply to the study of man; and by doing so, it enrolls itself as a science in the field of nature.
52. Woman was always the custodian of human sentiment, morality and honour, and in these respects, man always has yielded woman the palm.
53. Speech is one of the marvels that characterize man, and also one of the most difficult spontaneous creations that have been accomplished by nature
54. The respect and protection of woman and of maternity should be raised to the position of an inalienable social duty and should become one of the principles of human morality.
55. We all know the sense of comfort of which we are conscious when a good half of the floor space in a room is unencumbered; this seems to offer us the agreeable possibility of moving about freely.
56. The social relations which are the basis of the reproduction of the species are founded upon the continuous union of parents in marriage.
57. Temptation, if it is not to conquer, must not fall like a bomb against another bomb of instantaneous moral explosions, but against the strong walls of an impregnable fortress strongly built up, stone by stone, beginning at that distant day when the foundations were first laid.
58. There are two ‘faiths’ which can uphold humans: faith in God and faith in oneself. And these two faiths should exist side by side: the first belongs to one’s inner life, the second to one’s life in society.
59. Through machinery, man can exert tremendous powers almost as fantastic as if he were the hero of a fairy tale. Through machinery, man can travel with an ever increasing velocity; he can fly through the air and go beneath the surface of the ocean.
60. The ancient superficial idea of the uniform and progressive growth of the human personality has remained unaltered, and the erroneous belief has persisted that it is the duty of the adult to fashion the child according to the pattern required by society