Maria had a revelation

by Needra de Silva
(Sri Lanka)

In 1897 Maria Montessori had a revelation. "I felt that mental deficiency presented chiefly a pedagogical, rather than mainly a medical, problem." The children she was working with could not be treated in the hospitals, they needed to be trained in schools. Given her new insight she began to transfer her time towards perfecting education. She wanted to use nature in the school in order to meet the real needs of children.


She developed an educational theory, which combined ideas of scholar Froebel, anthropologist Giuseooe Sergi, French physicians, Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin, with methods that she had found in medicine, education, and anthropology.

In 1900 she began to direct a small school in Rome for "challenged" youth. The methods she employed were both experimental and miraculous.

It was in 1907 that Montessori began to assert her theories and methods of pedagogy. She began by directing a system of day care centers for working class children in one of Rome's worst neighborhoods.

The children entered her program as "wild and unruly." Much to her surprise they began to respond to her teaching methods. She always held them in the highest regard and taught her teachers to do likewise. From the beginning amazing things happened. Children younger than three and four years old began to read, write, and initiate self-respect. The Montessori method encouraged what Maria saw as the children's innate ability to absorb culture.

To some, Maria's success would indicate the triumph of science, to others, a miracle of love.

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