Maria Montessori, a Woman Ahead of Her Time
Born in Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870, Maria Montessori exhibited a strong personality during her childhood. At a young age, she aimed to become an engineer and attended an all-boy technical school, even though her father did not approve. She went on to attend the University of Rome, studying medicine. Obviously ahead of her time, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome La Sapienza Medical School and in 1896 became the first female physician in Italy.
As a member of the University of Rome’s Psychiatric Clinic, Montessori went on to work in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She developed an interest in the treatment and education of children with special needs and mental challenges. She was appointed by the Italian Minister of Education to direct the Scuola Ortofrenica, an institution dedicated to children labeled mentally retarded. While testing her own theories of education, the children under her care improved remarkably in the areas of reading and writing, and even surpassed normal achievement scores.
Montessori was soon asked to direct a school in a low-income housing project in Rome. Opening in January of 1907, the now famous Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, became a revolutionary experiment in Maria’s career. Maria was focused on creating an environment where children could learn and develop their skills at their own pace, a principle which Montessori called “spontaneous self-development.” The teacher’s role in the classroom changed dramatically to discover the potential of each individual child and follow the lead of the child in the process of learning. Word of the ability of the children to absorb knowledge and concentrate on learning soon spread around the world, and the Casa dei Bambini became the basis for what is now known as the Montessori Method.
The impressive results of the natural learning method founded by Montessori soon brought fame and invitations to travel. Dr. Montessori visited the United States for the first time in 1913. She had strong supporters in America including Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Helen Keller. In 1915, she spoke at Carnegie Hall and was subsequently invited to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where she set up a glass-walled classroom for four months. Spectators were invited to observe the 21 children who were in the classroom, all of whom were new to the Montessori method. The exhibit earned two gold medals for education and the attention of the world was now focused on Montessori’s visionary method of developing the innate potential of the child.
Dr. Montessori began conducting teacher training courses and speaking to internationally known educational organizations. Societies were formed to promote her methods. She was invited to open a research institute in Spain in 1917. In 1919, she began teaching training courses in London. Although she remained highly regarded in Italy, she was forced to leave in 1934 because of her opposition to the fascism of the Mussolini regime. After initially traveling to Spain, she subsequently lived in the Netherlands and continued on to make her home in India in 1939, at the invitation of the Theosophical Society of India. Although detained in India because of the war, Montessori went on to develop a series of training courses and create a strong foundation for the Montessori method in India. Her son Mario, born in 1898, assisted her to develop and conduct these classes in India.
In her later years, Dr. Montessori conducted training courses in Pakistan, London and the Netherlands. Montessori traveled worldwide for over 40 years, establishing training courses, lecturing, writing and promoting her principled method of learning.
She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. She moved once again to the Netherlands in 1949 and lived out the remainder of her years there, passing away in Noordwijk aan Zee in 1952.
Dr. Montessori leaves behind not only an outstanding body of research work and observation of children and their abilities to grow and learn, but also a system of education which promotes the freedom of the child to become more concentrated, creative and imaginative as he develops intellectually and emotionally. Her lifetime work studying child development and education remains well known internationally, numerous organizations promote her methods and Montessori schools are prevalent in both the United States and many other countries.
On January 6, 2007, the ascended lady master Maria Montessori spoke through David C. Lewis to spiritual seekers about the education of the children of the seventh root race:
When I contemplated all that was inspired unto me in the way of discerning how the inner truths of the soul may be brought forth in a very ordered pattern through materials and through an environment that allowed the inner genius and creativity of the child-man-in-becoming/the child-woman-in-unfolding [to blossom, I saw the] miracle whereby through the guided instruction naturally presented to that child, the very Christic patterns of [that one’s] own soul could harmonize with that which [her] own Higher Self would bring forth. Therefore, blessed ones, it is not so much a teaching or an impartation of wisdom as a natural unfolding of that innate wisdom from within the one for whom the teacher is a servant.
Each of you may take the very principles that I was privileged to encapsulate in what has been called the Montessori method and apply them in other areas of your life-in business, in commerce and even in the organization of your Hearts Centers and the establishing of your communities. For these principles are universal in nature and when fully embraced and understood will allow that floral gift of virtue and of the Buddhic pathway to emanate through all that you do, all that you perceive, blessed ones.
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