A few months back we detailed the history of Montessori education and scientific methods that Maria Montessori used into order to help kids learn. We told you about the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Italy where she took poor children and taught them in a mixed-age preschool environment.
As both a scientist and an educator, Maria Montessori published more than a dozen books that were translated into many languages both during her lifetime and after her death. These not only helped to spread her teaching style but also detailed her theories and methods so that they could be properly reviewed and repeated by other scientists and teachers.
When you write over a dozen books, there are obviously going to be some good quotes that come about! Today we’re going to take a look at some of Dr. Montessori’s most famous quotes and discuss what they mean to us here at Peaceful Valley Montessori Academy.
“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.’”
In many ways, this sums up a good deal of Montessori’s work. Montessori found that the best way for young children to learn was to take part in what they are most interested at the moment, to enjoy the thrill of discovery. While a teacher might have more knowledge than a child on every given subject, a child who discovers the information on their own is more likely to “own” the information.
Legos, while certainly not Montessori exclusive, are a good example. If you give a child a fully-constructed lego set, they might play with it for a bit and put it on their shelf. But if they build it from scratch by following the instructions a teacher gives them, they’ll be much more proud of it when it’s on display. Not only that, but they’ll be able to repair it if it ever falls off the shelf, something they wouldn’t be able to do if you simply presented it to them fully built.
(For this next quote, please remember that the “he” Montessori is referring to could be any gender. Montessori worked with boys and girls, and the pronoun “he” is an artifact of both the translation and the writing norms of the time.)
“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”
While parents often think about their children’s futures, they often don’t think about the role their children will play in future societies. Every child ends up impacting the world in some way. It is our goal as Montessori educators to give as many children the skills they need to grow up and impact the world in a positive way.
It might sound a bit trite at first, but the fact is that the future belongs to the children of today. The children of today become the world of tomorrow. We’re always looking for the way that each child learns so that they can make the most of what’s inside of them. Montessori’s quote is more apt today than it was when she wrote it, because a child’s potential to learn and adapt will serve them well as technology changes at a faster pace than it ever has before.
“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
When you as an adult are doing something you love, there’s often a lot of concentration involved. If you play golf, your mind is focusing on the grip you use, the lay of the land, and the memory of the videos you’ve been watching about how to improve your swing. If you’re a photographer, you’re constantly surveying the world in order to find the shot you’re looking for, whether it’s a mountain or a bug. You choose to engage in these hobbies and concentrate on them because it makes you happy. Are you necessarily smiling at every moment you’re engaged? No.
The same is true with children, except that all of the world is their hobby! They don’t need to work in the traditional sense, and their minds are ready to absorb the information that is put in front of them. This might mean seeing how a dandelion is put together or how to kick a ball that’s placed before them. Their minds are figuring out the world, which is one of the most noble endeavors there is.
With concentration comes quirks, of course. Some children in our Montessori preschool might wrinkle their foreheads, others might blink a little less (or more) often. And, of course, there’s always the tongue that sticks out when using scissors! What we’re saying is, it’s important to remember that happiness doesn’t always mean a laughing or smiling child; sometimes they’re just as happy with a determined scowl on their face!
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
As a parent, you want to help your child. Bravo, that’s the right instinct to have! You want to instill in them the right way to live, how to avoid danger, how to eat healthily, and how to treat others.
But in our efforts to help our children, we often go too far.
Part of the reason we help children too much is our own ego. After all, we’re often put into situations where we don’t know the answer, whether it’s a question from the boss, what’s going to be had for dinner, or simply watching Jeopardy! So when a child asks you “how does the cricket make that sound?” it can be easy to just throw the answer at them. But because the answer came so easily, there was no thrill of discovery for the child.
Now, back to that quote from Maria Montessori. If a child believes that they can do something by themselves, let them. Don’t get in their way. They can clean their room by themselves, and even though you could do it better, that’s not the point. The point is that they will be able to point to their room and enjoy their accomplishment.
Should you help at all? Well, if the organization of their room requires additions of mounted shelving, sure you can help. And they can help you help. The next time they need shelves, maybe you’ll let them handle it on their own with minimal supervision. After all, a few holes in the wall can always be repaired and are worth it for a confident child.
With so many books to her name, Maria Montessori certainly said many other inspiring things. While the above are four of our favorites, we’ll be back in future blogs to discuss more of them and how they affect our teaching methods on a daily basis in our Montessori preschool and daycare. To learn more about our Montessori school, contact us here to schedule a tour!