What is Montessori ?

The exercises of practical life are the foundations of the Montessori philosophy for future academic learning. They encompass a great diversity of activities to help the child develop greater concentration and independence.

In the Montessori classroom the child has the opportunity to participate in caring for the environment, e.g., sweeping, dusting, washing tables, caring for plants etc. The child also learns to care for him/herself; washing hands, preparing and serving snack, folding classroom towels, dressing etc. These activities, designed sequentially, enable the child to come to realize order and logic in the classroom environment. Concentration, attention, order, independence and muscular coordination originate with this work. The child may repeat the sequence of each activity independently to develop these qualities.

Who is Dr. Maria Montessori ?

Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator, a noted humanitarian and devout Roman Catholic best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name. Her educational method is in use today in public and private schools throughout the world.

Born in Chiaravalle in the Province of Ancona in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy, having graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was in touch with young children and became profoundly interested in their development. Through careful and exhaustive scrutiny, she realized that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment. She also observed the manner in which they learned as they spontaneously chose and worked with the auto didactic materials she provided.

Her approach to education stemmed from a solid grounding in biology, psychiatry and anthropology. She studied children of all races and cultures in many countries around the world, soon seeing the universality of the laws of human development played out before her. She continued her observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding until her death in 1952.

Life’s Work

Maria Montessori opened her first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in one of the very poorest areas in Rome, the then notorious Quartiere di San Lorenzo.

“It was January 6th (1907), when the first school was opened for small, normal children of between three and six years of age. I cannot say on my methods, for these did not yet exist. But in the school that was opened my method was shortly to come into being. On that day there was nothing to be seen but about fifty wretchedly poor children, rough and shy in manner, many of them crying, almost all the children of illiterate parents, who had been entrusted to my care”… “They were tearful, frightened children, so shy that it was impossible to get them to speak; their faces were expressionless, with bewildered eyes as though they had never seen anything in their lives.”… “It would be interesting to know the original circumstances that enabled these children to undergo such an extraordinary transformation, or rather, that brought about the appearance of new children, whose souls revealed such radiance as to spread a light through the whole world.”

Indeed it was as though this radiance had been caught in a stream of consciousness, for a mere six months after the opening of the Casa dei Bambini, people from all walks of life, from every continent came to see Maria Montessori’s miracle children.

Maria Montessori was a scientist, and as a good scientist, she was earth-bound and highly spiritual in her pursuit of truth. She studied medicine, specializing in psychiatry and anthropology. She was also an outstanding mathematician. Although she would never have considered being a teacher, she studied educational methods for many years and found them wanting, possibly because none of them took into account the two seemingly paradoxical extremes which are at the center of her pedagogy: the universal characteristics of the human child, and the child as a unique, unrepeatable, respectable and admirable individual to be unconditionally accepted as one of life’s most marvelous expressions.

Famous Montessorians

Famous PEOPLE Educated at Montessori schools:
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin – founders of Google
  • Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon.com
  • Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis – former first lady (John F. Kennedy)
  • Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs – singer
  • Prince William and Prince Harry
  • T. Berry Brazelton – pediatrician and author
  • Julia Child – author, chef, TV cooking shows
  • Elizabeth Berridge – actress
  • Kami Cotler – actress
  • Melissa and Sarah Gilbert – actors
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Nobel Prize winner for Literature
  • Katherine Graham – ex-owner of the Washington Post
  • Anne Frank – author, diarist from World War II
Many familiar people who were Montessori educated:

The famous individuals most obviously influenced by Montessori are former Montessori students. Many of these individuals are known for their initiative, creativity, and self confidence.

  • Peter Drucker, Management Guru
  • Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google
  • Sergey Brin, Co-Founder of Google
  • Jeffrey Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com
  • Mark Zuckerberg – the co-founder of Facebook was apparently educated at a Montessori school.
  • Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
  • Katharine Graham, Owner/Editor of the Washington Post. “The Montessori method—learning by doing— once again became my stock in trade…” from Personal History by Katharine Graham
  • Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, Editor, Former First Lady
  • Sean ‘P. Diddy’ (formerly known as Puffy) Combs, RAP mega-star
  • Anne Frank, Author of The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winner for Literature
  • Prince William and Prince Harry, English royal family
  • T. Berry Brazelton, Pediatrician and Author
  • Julia Child, Chef, Star of many TV Cooking Shows, and Author
  • Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian painter and Architect
  • Elizabeth Berridge – actress
  • Kami Cotler – actress
  • Melissa and Sarah Gilbert – actors
  • David Blaine – a magician
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber and Hugh Grant, who both went to Wetherby, a Montessori school in London (the same school as Princes William and Harry)
  • Lea Salonga, from the O.B.Montessori Center, Phil. Inc., the famous Filipino singer and Broadway Actress. She is the star in the famous Broadway musical “Miss Saigon” and now “Cinderella” which is being shown in the Philippines stage.
Many famous people chose Montessori schools for their own children

Montessori education is a well-thought-out choice for many famous people who are looking for a school providing individualized instruction and the opportunity for their children to achieve their potential.

  • Stephen J. Cannell, TV Writer-Producer-Director
  • Patty Duke Austin, Actress
  • Cher Bono, Singer and Actress
  • John Bradshaw, Psychologist and Author
  • Yul Brynner, Actor
  • Susan St. James – actress
  • Marcy Carcy, TV producer
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton, Former President and New York Senator
  • Michael Douglas, Actor
  • Shari Lewis, Puppeteer
  • Yo Yo Ma, Cellist
  • Jennifer Granholm and Daniel Mulhern, Governor of Michigan
Other famous people connected to Montessori

A number of famous individuals are linked through Montessori simply as supporters of the method.

  • Alexander Graham Bell (inventor). He and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Education Association in 1913. They also provided financial support directly to Dr. Maria Montessoriand helped establish the first Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States.
  • Fred Rogers, children’s TV personality, was a strong supporter of Montessori education.
  • Thomas Edison, scientist and inventor, helped found a Montessori school.
  • President Wilson’s daughter trained as a Montessori teacher. There was a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during Wilson’s presidency.
  • Alice Waters, restaurateur and writer, is a former Montessori teacher.
  • Bruno Bettelheim, noted psychologist/author, was married to a Montessori teacher.
  • Erik Erikson, noted anthropologist/author, had a Montessori teaching certificate.
  • Jean Piaget, noted Swiss psychologist, made his first observations of children in a Montessori school. He was also head of the Swiss Montessori Society for many years.
  • Robert Frost – Poet Laureate. One of America’s best read poets.
  • Montessori has influenced many people, famous or not, who have grown to see the world in a new way and to follow their own leading. Nobel Laureate in Literature and former Montessori student Gabriel Garcia Marquez eloquently describes Montessori’s influence:
    “I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”

“Montessori taught me the joy of discovery…It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori—if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design.” -Will Wright, Computer Game Designer and Original Designer of The Sims.