Many people know about the popular charter school model called Montessori.
This education system is attractive to most parents because of its “whole child” approach.
It is no wonder that some of the most influential people, who are well known for their initiative, self-confidence and creativity, attended Montessori schools.
For example, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Peter Drucker, Prince William and Hurry as well as Beyoncé.
What you likely don’t know is that this amazing education system is named after an Italian lady named Maria Montessori.
She’s the pioneer of the Montessori education philosophy.
Let me share with you some interesting facts about Maria Montessori.
21 Maria Montessori Facts You Didn’t Know
At 13, Maria Enrolled in an All-Boys Technical School
When Maria was born in 1870, girls were not allowed to go to school.
Girls were treated as properties that belonged to their fathers, uncles and brothers, and later on to their husbands after marriage.
It’s only when she was around 7 that Italy opened its doors for women to enroll in public schools.
At 13, she joined the all-boys technical school with the hopes of becoming an engineer.
Maria got Permission from the Pope to join Medical School
After enrolling in the all-boys technical school for engineering course, Maria changed her mind and decided to instead become a doctor.
She had to write an application letter to the University of Rome Medical School.
Unfortunately, she was rejected the first time, but Pope Leo XIII later endorsed her.
At the university, she was also the only girl, but she graduated with flying colors – Honors.
Maria was the First Woman Doctor in Medicine in Italy
Who would’ve thought that Montessori, a pillar in the education sector, was a Doctor in Medicine?
Well, at 26, Maria was the first lady to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School.
Because of this, she was the first female doctor in Italy.
She later completed a Degree in Education, Experimental Psychology and Anthropology at the same university, which introduced her to the education world.
Maria Montessori’s Passion for Education Emerged after Working with Children with Special Needs
Immediately after her graduation, Maria worked in an Italian institution that specialized in educating mentally differently abled children.
Under her coaching, several 8-year-old kids at the institution passed with above-average grades in state exams.
They got the same results as normally-developing kids!
Surprised by these amazing results, Maria began to evaluate her teaching philosophy and its effect on children with learning disabilities.
Montessori Set Up the “Children’s House” in 1907
This was the first school that implemented the Montessori philosophy of education.
It advocated for teaching kids how to develop their own skills at a pace each child sets for themselves.
The success of Montessori’s school started the journey for opening up many other schools for all children around the world with Montessori’s education philosophy.
Maria was a Single Mother
At the time, being an unwed-mom was a taboo, so her only child was raised by her family outside Rome.
The boy, named Mario, only came to know about his mother in adolescence.
When the boy turned 15, he joined his mom in Rome, supporting her career all through.
Maria’s Work was also a Family Affair
I know this might be confusing, but it is what it is…
The Montessori family have been greatly involved in carrying on the tradition of Montessori education.
Mario traveled with his mother as she worked in different countries around the world.
He actually established one of the largest Montessori schools in California.
Together with his mom, the duo pioneered the Association Montessori International (AMI) to provide guidance and oversight to schools that implement the Montessori educational philosophy.
The generations that follow are still involved in the family’s educational philosophy.
Maria Went to the US for the First Time in 1912
She had resigned from teaching and private medical practice to focus on education and her education philosophy was fast-developing.
There were schools in England, Paris and around Europe that implemented her philosophy.
So, she traveled to the US to speak in an education conference because there was a lot of interest in her approach to education.
By 1913, there were over 100 Montessori schools in America.
Maria’s Portrait was Featured in Italy’s Banknotes and Coins
Maria had such a strong legacy that her portrait was featured in coins and banknotes in Italy.
The portrait was also on stamps of India, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives.
Together with her Son, Maria Went on Exile from Italy for Refusing to Cooperate with the Nazis
The Nazis put Maria under pressure to turn her schools into child-soldiers training facilities!
An idea she turned down vehemently.
The Nazis reacted by banning the Montessori education philosophy in Germany. Italy did the same thing.
All the Montessori schools were closed and the books and models burnt down.
So, Maria was sent into exile by Mussolini.
She went with her son to Spain, India and finally the Netherlands where she died.
Who was Maria Montessori’s Husband?
Maria did not have a husband.
Her child was born after a romantic relationship with a fellow medical doctor, but the couple never married.
What were the Most Significant Achievements of Maria Montessori?
Maria Opened the First Montessori School in 1907
It was called the Children’s House, or the Casa dei Bambini based in Rome.
Maria opened the school to provide education to children from low-income families in Rome.
While other schools employed traditional teaching methods, Maria chose to implement her own child-centered educational approaches.
The school was exceptional. Every child was educated depending on their developmental stage.
Children also took ownership of their learning experience.
Teachers made individualized education plans based on every child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Maria Published Books in Child Development
Dr. Maria published over 20 books on the mental, social, emotional and physical development of children.
Some of the most famous readings include “The Secret of Childhood”, “Discovery of the Child”, “Education for a New World” and “The Montessori Method”.
Maria Won Awards for Needlework and Crafts
Maria’s mom taught her how to knit from an early age, which explains her proficiency in needlework.
She was also known for her kindness and respect to everyone, even the poorest and “un-teachable” in the society.
Maria helped them master skills other people thought were beyond their abilities.
Maria was Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize Thrice
Yes, three consecutive years.
1949, 1950 and 1951.
Maria was named among the Top 100 Women of the Year in 2020
More than 65 years after her death, Maria made it to the list of Top 100 Women of the Year by the American news magazine, Time.
Dr. Montessori is the Name Behind Montessori Education Philosophy
This is the biggest achievement that this gorgeous lady is remembered for, to date.
Let’s now delve deeper into her education philosophy.
The Fundamental Principles of Maria Montessori Theory
Dr. Montessori believed that “children learn naturally through activity and their characters develop through freedom”.
The Montessori education philosophy upholds that, in the learning process, every child should be treated as an individual in their own right.
The fundamental principles of this philosophy include:
A teacher should never help a child at a task that the child feels they can succeed in on their own.
Just provide the environment, materials and guidance for the child and let them complete the task on their own.
This is Montessori’s ultimate goal.
b. An Absorbent Mind
Dr. Montessori believed that kids aged 0-6 years have an absorbent mind.
They can absorb information about their culture, the world and different languages without having to be taught.
Simply put, kids learn by experiencing or just being part of the environment.
c. Correcting Children
When children make mistakes, instead of over-reacting, raising your voice or blatantly pointing out the mistake, teach them calmly how to do it right.
For example, if they can’t pronounce a word correctly, the teacher should just pronounce the word rather than make a big deal out of it.
d. Following up on the Child
According to Dr. Montessori, educators should follow the child to know what the child needs to do, and the learning areas they need to improve in.
For example, if your child wants to climb, let them do so.
All you have to do is ensure they’re safe when climbing; don’t be over-protective.
e. A Prepared Environment
This is the other name for a Montessori classroom.
Everything in the learning space has a place and a purpose.
There’s a discrete sense of order that helps kids through a logical thought process.
Dr. Montessori believed that order in the learning environment translated into order in the child’s brain/mind.
f. Educating the Whole Child
Montessori’s philosophy focuses on a child’s education beyond the intellectual dimension of Math, sciences and languages.
It goes on to explore kids’ physical, social and emotional development through education on culture and practical life.
When is Maria Montessori’s Birthday?
Maria Montessori was born on 31st August, 1870.
What was Maria Montessori’s Birthplace?
Dr. Montessori was born in a little-known town of Chiaravalle, Ancona Province, Italy.
Who were Maria Montessori’s Parents?
Maria’s father was a civil servant working as an accountant and former soldier.
He had a very traditional mindset and was not fascinated with his daughter’s decision to break out of traditional gender restrictions to attend an all-boys technical school.
The mother, on the other hand, was a modern woman who was well-read than the average woman at the time.
She was Maria’s motivation to pursue education to the highest levels, knit and help the poor.
It is no wonder that the first Montessori school was meant for children from low-income families.
What’s the Date and Cause of Maria Montessori’s Death?
Maria Montessori passed away on 6th May, 1952 in the Netherlands.
The cause of death was established as a cerebral hemorrhage.