Nearly 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician, inspired the birth of a worldwide educational movement. Drawing upon her scientific background and clinical understanding, Dr. Montessori observed how young people learned best when engaged in purposeful activity rather than simply being fed information. She recognized that children’s cognitive growth and development required the construction of an educational framework that would respect individuality and fulfill the needs of the “whole child.”
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person. He must do it himself or it will never get done. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years he spends in the classroom because he is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate his own natural desire to learn.
In the Montessori classroom this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his own choice rather than by being forced; and second, by helping him to perfect all his natural tools for learning, so that his ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. The Montessori materials have this dual long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.
(from A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom by Aline D. Wolff)
On the Barbara Walters ABC-TV Special "The 10 Most Fascinating People Of 2004" Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the popular Internet search engine Google.com, credited their years as Montessori students as a major factor behind their success. When Barbara Walters asked if the fact that their parents were college professors was a factor behind their success, they said no, that it was their going to a Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori education allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests.
It is quite an interesting collection of people throughout history who have gone to Montessori schools, sent their children to Montessori schools, or supported this method of education in one way or another. The short list includes: Alice Waters, Friedrich Hundertwasser, Julia Child, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Sigmund Freud, Buckminster Fuller, Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, John Holt, Ann Frank, the Dalai Lama, Jacqueline Kennedy, Prince William and Prince Harry of the English royal family, Cher Bono, Yul Brynner, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Yo Yo Ma.