Dr. Maria Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori founded her first “Casa Dei Bambini” in Rome, Italy in January 1907.  After graduating as the first female doctor in Italy, Dr. Montessori began her life’s work as an educator.  She applied the diligent observational skills and ceaseless quest for truth that she had learned in her scientific training to her interest in children.  Throughout her life Dr. Montessori traveled the globe, studying children of all cultures and social strata and developed a universal education, today known as the Montessori Method.

There are two main concepts which Dr. Maria Montessori developed with regard to the child's development and growth. These developments are the most basic essentials of her philosophy. These are the concepts of the Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive periods.

Absorbent Mind

Dr. Montessori observed that the first six years of children's lives are directed by their absorbent minds. She divided this six- year time span into two three- year periods. The first three years she calls unconscious learning and the second three years conscious learning.

During the first three years of life children absorb and take in all that is around them in their environment. They absorb impressions from the environment, creating themselves. Dr. Montessori said, "the child takes in his whole environment, not with his mind but with his life". The task of adults around the child in this stage of development is not to intervene but to provide a safe rich environment for the child.

As children grow into consciousness they focus on what their bodies are doing. This focusing results in the development of conscious effort. At about the age of three, children respond in a more conscious way to the natural urge within themselves, to be more active. They use their hands with more purpose and direction. Dr. Montessori calls the children's hands the instruments of their brains. During this time period from age three to six children develop their wills and their memory. They now reach out and purposefully gain further impressions from their environment. Adults, by preparing the environment, can direct the children and help them to focus their attention on aspects of the whole environment which they have previously absorbed unconsciously.

Sensitive Periods

Dr. Montessori saw in her observations of children that certain sensitive periods occur; these sensitive periods are related to certain elements in the environment to which children are irresistibly drawn. Children are attracted only to certain elements in the environment for a short time, as one sensitivity recedes another sensitivity arises to take its place.

The purpose of each sensitive period, which is actually an inner sensibility possessed by children, is to help them acquire a certain skill or characteristic necessary for their growth. As they acquire the skill or characteristic, their sensitivity for it decreases and another sensitivity increases.

All sensitive periods are related in that each provides a foundation for the next. Together, the sensitive periods help children to make sense out of what they and the work around them are all about.

Some examples of sensitive periods in each child's development are:

Sensitivity To Movement

Children, ages 2 to 4, possess a sensitivity to movement; they have to move about in their environment in order to learn.

Sensitivity To Order

The sensitivity to order of the child of two to three relates to order in time and space. Children at this age are very aware of irregularities in their environment; they notice things that are out of place. They cannot live in disorder because they are constructing themselves from elements in their environment. Order is the child's foundation for making sense out of his or her environment.

Sensitivity To Language

One of the longest-lasting sensitive periods is that of the sensitivity to language. First, out of all the sounds in their environment infants are attracted to human sounds; from these they learn to speak their native language. Later, a child moves to sensitivity to the construction of language.


Sensitivity To Sensory Impressions

The sensitivity to sensory impressions occurs as children spontaneously investigate and reach out to their world. They see, they touch, they feel, they smell, they taste, they hear. They seek to find out about their world by using, developing, and refining their powers of sensory discrimination.