Montessori is an approach to early education that focuses on the immense capacity of children to absorb information when given the freedom and independence to learn at their own pace, and takes into account how children’s thought processes differ from those of adults.

Her insight and approach to child development have been enormously influential all over the world, both through what has become the Montessori movement and through mainstream education, which has gradually accepted many of her practices.

Let us look at some of the key Principals of Montessori education:

Children learn through exploration with their senses and through movement.

They need freedom within a structured environment in order to do this.

They need the opportunity to make constructive choices of activities and to learn through repeated experiences.

Learning skills for daily living develops independence and self esteem.

Self-discipline is developed through the framework of acceptable ground rules for behavior.

Close contact with reality and nature is encouraged to allow the child to understand his/her place in the world.

Diversity is embraced and explored.

When allied to an availability of specially developed materials in a favorable environment, and under the close observation and guidance of a Montessori-trained directress/teacher, this leads to an enormously powerful, confidence-building approach to learning.

The benefits of a Montessori education:

By understanding how children learn, and providing them with tools and opportunities tailored to the way they experience the world around them, the Montessori approach allows children to learn through understanding, rather than through being told. From understanding comes confidence and a joy in learning.

The national and global reach of Montessori education:

The Montessori approach has proved so successful that it has been adopted all over the world and continues to influence ‘mainstream’ educationalists thinking everywhere.

Maria Montessori

Born in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first woman to qualify as a medical doctor in Italy. Montessori’s strong belief in observation coupled with her scientific background, led her to gain remarkable insight into children’s learning patterns. This knowledge underlies the Montessori philosophy and the design of the accompanying teaching materials. She pioneered an approach to education that focuses on children’s innate desire to learn and their enormous capacity to do so when provided with an environment and guidance that is conducive to their natural development.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Maria Montessori

Montessori vs. Traditional



Child sets own learning pace to internalize information

Instruction pace usually set by group norm or teacher

Child works as long as he or she wishes on chosen project

Child generally given specific time limit for work

Child formulates own concepts from self-teaching materials

Child is guided to concepts by teacher

Teacher has unobtrusive role in classroom activity; child is an active participant in learning

Teacher has dominant, active role in classroom activity; child is a passive participant in learning

Child chooses own work from interests and abilities

Curriculum structured for child with little regard for child’s interests

Mixed age grouping

Same age grouping

Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate and help each other

Most teaching is done by teacher and collaboration is discouraged

Child can work where he or she is comfortable, moves around and talks at will (yet disturbs not the work of others); group work is voluntary and negotiable

Child usually assigned own chair; encouraged to sit still and listen during group sessions

Child spots own errors through feedback from the material

If work is corrected, errors usually pointed out by teacher

Learning is reinforced internally through the repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success

Learning is reinforced externally by rote repetition and rewards/discouragements

Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to each student’s learning style

Instruction, both individual and group, conforms to the adults teaching style

Environment and method encourage internal self-discipline

Teacher acts as enforcer of discipline

Emphasis on cognitive structures and social development

Emphasis on rote knowledge and social development

Multi-sensory materials for physical exploration

Fewer materials for sensory development and concrete manipulation

Organized program for learning care of self and environment (polishing shoes, cleaning the sink, etc.)

Less emphasis on self-care instruction and classroom maintenance

Famous Montessorians

The Boyd School (theboydschool.com)

Montessori education has been linked to many famous personalities throughout the years:

Larry Page and Sergej Brin: Co-founders of Google.

Jeffrey Bezos: Founder of Amazon.com.

Jimmy Wales: Founder of Wikipedia.

George Clooney: Academy award-winning actor.

Helen Hunt: Academy award-winning actress.

Katharine Graham: Former owner/editor of the Washington Post

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: Former US First Lady.

Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs: Rapper, Actor, Record producer & Entrepreneur

Anne Frank: Author of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Nobel Prize winner for Literature.

Princes William and Harry: English Royal Family.

Julia Child: Chef and author.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser: Austrian painter and architect.


Other notable people connected to Montessori include

Alexander Graham Bell – Inventor

Alexander and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Education Association in 1913. They also provided financial support directly to Dr. Maria Montessori and helped establish the first Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States.

Thomas Edison, Scientist & 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.

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.