Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and the founder of the Montessori method, which is the teaching method used at Arbor View Montessori School here in Roseville California. She was born in Chiaravalle, northern Italy in 1870, the only child of middle class parents. Maria wanted to become a physician, and she was accepted as the first female to attend Rome University. She graduated with honors, and she was the first Italian, female graduate in 1890. She returned to the University to do post-graduate research work in biology, anthropology and psychology, and she became a lecturing professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.
Since her special interest was children, she was asked to observe a group of children with challenging behavior. She realized that these children were lacking sensorial learning. This interest led her to study and follow the work of two French psychologists, Jean Itard (1775-1838) and Edouard Seguin (1812-1880). She adapted some of their sensorial material and observed the children’s reactions to the material, and then she designed her own. Edouard Sequin was a student of Itard. He developed a series of graduated exercises to aid motor development. Both Itard and Sequin were influenced by the ideas and philosophy of Jean Rousseau who believed that the key to learning is within the individual child’s training of the senses.
In 1907, Dr. Montessori started the first House of Children child care in San Lorenzo, Rome, and she called it Casa De Bambini. She was able to test her theories of learning, and she designed and had manufactured a set of teaching materials based on the sensory learning theories of Itard and Sequin. Maria continually improved and refined her materials through observing the children and fulfilling their needs. She became famous. Kings, queens and even ministers flocked to see what she was doing with these children. They did not believe her when she said: “I just follow the child.” Montessori was so successful that she became better known and recognized as an educator than as a physician. She had great love and respect for her students. Montessori designed the materials to be self-correcting so that mistakes made would be easily apparent to the children. She designed them in this manner so the children would gain a feeling of confidence. Also, materials were designed to introduce one concept at a time.
Mussolini came into power at this time, he thought Montessori was just the right person he needed to help him to brain wash the children of Italy to become fascist in their views, but Dr. Montessori refused to cooperate with him. He asked her to leave the country, so she moved to Barcelona, Spain. In 1932, she opened her school in Spain. She started her travels to many countries to lecture and became known as the world’s foremost female educator.
As a result of the interest, Montessori developed a training course in 1909 and published the first book about her methods and philosophy of education.
When World War II started, she was in India. In 1945, she returned to Holland to establish the Association Montessori International (A.M.I.) Training center, which is the certification we have here at Arbor View Montessori (AVM Director Lydia Saadeh is a graduate of the Maria Montessori Training Center in San Francisco CA). In 1948, Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with Education for Peace, and she came to New York to address the United Nations on the topic of Montessori for Peace. She had come earlier in 1915, at the invitation of Graham Bell who wanted her to bring her educational philosophy and methodologies to the United States. She also was in San Francisco at the Pan America expedition for her working model of children. She left and didn’t return for many years. By that time, John Dewey’s methods were adopted in the United States. However, versions of Montessori’s teaching strategies had started and had developed all over the United States.
Maria Montessori continued to work and to teach until 1952 when she died at the age of 82 in Holland. Her son Mario continued with A.M.I. until his death in 1990.
Lydia Saadeh the owner and Director of Arbor View Montessori School in Roseville California received her MA in Early Childhood Education from Sacramento State University in 1997 and A.M.I. accreditation from the Maria Montessori School of the Golden Gate in San Francisco in 1991. The late Dr. Ursula Thrush, Ph.D. phil. Founder of Maria Montessori School of the Golden Gate studied under Mario Montessori and instilled the tradition of Maria Montessori’s methods and philosophy in her students. Arbor View Montessori School is a nurturing preschool in Roseville offering quality educational child care to kids and infants 6 weeks to kindergarten with the approach, philosophy and methods of Maria Montessori.