History of Montessori
Dr. Maria Montessori 1870 – 1952
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. She was a math prodigy, a physicist, an anthropologist. At 25 she was one of the first women to graduate from the medical school in Rome. She was a pragmatist and a visionary and a humanitarian; a friend of Gandhi’s and Thomas Edison’s; a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Her face is on Italy’s 1000 lire bill. Today, we know Maria Montessori best for the educational method that bears her name.
Maria Montessori came to education in a roundabout way. She grew up in a time when teaching was one of the few professions open to educated women. Her father, an accountant, urged her to take that path, but her mother supported Maria’s insistence, at age 12, that she attend a technical school to study mathematics. In her teens, Maria further tested her father’s patience by considering becoming an engineer. She gave that up only because she decided to be a doctor. University officials finally surrendered to her persistence, but Maria’s fellow medical students shunned her, and she was allowed to perform dissections only at night, alone, because it was unthinkable that men and women would view a naked body together. In 1896, at age 25, Maria completed her medical degree. “So here I am: famous!” she wrote to a friend. “It is not very difficult, as you see. I am not famous because of my skill or my intelligence, but for my courage and indifference towards everything.”
She was a doctor in a Rome psychiatric clinic, her wards were children from orphanages and asylums across the city. At the asylum, she came in contact with children labeled “deficient and insane,” though most were more likely autistic or learning impaired. She saw her young patients first and foremost as human beings, and searched for ways to help improve their mental and spiritual (as well as physical) health. Locked all day in barren rooms, they would scuffle over crumbs of bread on the floor. Observing them, Montessori realized that the children were starved not for food but for stimulation. Mental deficiency, she decided, was often a pedagogical problem. Experimenting with various materials, she developed a sensory-rich environment, designing letters, beads and puzzles that children could manipulate, and simple tasks such as mat weaving that prepared them for more challenging ones. After working with Montessori for two years, some of the “deficient” children were able to read, write and pass standard public-school tests. In trying to reach their minds, she made discoveries so fascinating that she left her medical practice to focus on learning more. She applied what she learned, testing and refining her ideas throughout the rest of her long life.
Maria Montessori was interested in the end-result of education, not its method. She cared about developing “a complete human being, oriented to the environment and adapted to his or her time, place and culture.” She came to her work with no preconceived ideas about how young people should be taught. She simply observed them, gathering evidence about how their minds worked and formulating tools that responded to their needs. Her observations contained groundbreaking insights into human development and cognition—insights that are largely upheld by research today. They also contain luminous descriptions of the potentialities of children in the tender process of self-formation. Perhaps most moving: the picture her writings paint of a world made better by the way we adults touch those unfolding personalities.
She maintained, each child must be free to pursue what interests him most at his own pace but in a specially prepared environment. Montessori’s chance to act on her philosophy came in 1906 when a group of real estate investors asked her to organize a program for the children in Rome’s downtrodden San Lorenzo district so that the children, whose parents were off working all day, would not deface building walls. The investors gave Montessori a room in one of the buildings and 50 preschoolers, ages 2 to 6. Her medical colleagues were amazed that she would involve herself in something as mundane as day care, but Montessori was undeterred. She asked society women to contribute money for toys and materials and hired the daughter of the building’s porter to assist her.
The Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, opened January 6, 1907. At first, Montessori just observed. She noticed that the children came to prefer her teaching materials to toys and would spend hours putting wooden cylinders into holes or arranging cubes to build a tower. As they worked, they became calmer and happier. As the months passed, Montessori modified materials and added new activities, including gardening, gymnastics, making and serving lunch, and caring for pets and plants. Children who misbehaved were given nothing to do.
The children soon started asking Montessori to teach them to read and write. So she devised sandpaper letters that they could touch and trace, pronouncing the sounds as they did so. One day during recess, a 5-year-old boy cried excitedly, “I can write!” and wrote the word mano—hand— with chalk on the pavement. Other children began writing, too, and news of the miraculous 4- and 5-year-olds who taught themselves to write traveled quickly.
Acolytes from around the world flocked to Rome to sit at Montessori’s knee, and soon Montessori schools were popping up in Switzerland, England, the United States, India, China, Mexico, Syria and New Zealand. Alexander Graham Bell, who had started his career as a teacher of the deaf, was fascinated by Montessori and in 1912 established a Montessori class in his Washington, D.C. home for his two grandchildren and a half-dozen neighborhood kids. A Montessori class, taught in a glass-walled classroom, would be one of the most popular exhibitions at the 1915 Panama– Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. But success proved more than even Montessori could handle. Though she had resigned her university chair to concentrate on the schools, she found herself overwhelmed by the demands for lectures, training and interviews. She complained bitterly about books describing her program and insisted that only she was qualified to train teachers. The fact that she had patented her teaching materials irked more than a few critics, one of whom decried the act as “sordid commercialism.”
Today, Dr. Montessori’s legacy is alive and thriving. Montessori schools exist on all continents and in almost every country serving hundreds of thousands of children each school day. Go Like the Wind Montessori School is dedicated to continuing her legacy and work by providing an authentic Montessori education and experience to each of the children we serve.
History of Our School
In order to honor the past, we pause a take a grateful look back to where it all began. Our school was founded by Karl and Teri Young in 1987. This husband and wife team had a dream to open an authentic Montessori school that also fostered Christian values. Karl shared his truly heart touching story of how the school came to be with the staff during a farewell brunch.
A PRAYER ANSWERED
Karl told us that he would keep a notepad in his pocket in order to jot down ideas. All of his attempts to start a school were met with road blocks. Until one day, he gave up and prayed. He knew he couldn’t do it on his own. He asked God, that if He wanted this school, then He would need his help to make it happen. It was actually an answer to a prayer that the funding for the school came through. A phone number written in his notepad was the connection.
Karl was impressed with a computer math program and how children were learning very fast. Learning quickly like the wind and the symbolism of the Holy Spirit, or Breath of God, led to the naming of the school; Go Like the Wind.