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Montessori education, a child-centred approach

I’ve always been allergic to labels, methods, guilds and uniforms.

I can’t stand “one size fits all” education.

I feel slightly annoyed when people identify me as a “Montessori teacher” but I love this “family” too much to really care; they are the teachers who are taking care of all my 4 children, all attending a Montessori public school: from nursery to primary (and I was one of those who made it possible).

Thanks to my work with the Montessori Foundation I coordinate ten schools in my province and I also try to help several other schools and parents who want to start using the innovative Montessori method in other parts of Italy.

Innovative, yes.

Did you smirked when you read it?

Only three years ago I would have raised an eyebrow if someone had presented me as innovative the teaching method of that old lady wrapped up in long skirts, who had lived before my parents were even born (my father was born the year of her death).

I had always considered Montessori schools like golden niches for rich families who didn’t want their offspring to socialize with the kids of common people in public schools.

But I was wrong, because it’s in free and popular public schools that the method can represent the best and only alternative to the traditional ones.

I wanted to know more about it. It all began three years ago when I started considering to homeschool my children and leave my teaching job; I felt that I didn’t belong to the traditional school anymore and I didn’t want to put my daughters in there.

While reading about the Montessori method, I found words and pictures and revolutionary voices on education, so different when compared to the silence, the passivity, the fog which seemed to permeate the job of so many colleagues of mine.

Our schools is still, as of today, the same it was before Maria Montessori but for the coat of modernity given by the introduction of new technologies.

But the real novelty is elsewhere:

The new teacher takes pride in being the one who helped the child to help himself, preparing the tools for him to use and  removing the obstacles that could have prevented him to learn

Children are naturally inquiring, they can learn without anybody teaching them provided they live in the right environment and can have the right tools to do so.

Also Maria Montessori was aware that what she was suggesting, especially when saying that children don’t need someone to “teach”, wasn’t so easy to accept.

How modern are these words:

Those who have followed this educational movement know that it has always aroused  much discussion, especially in view of  the reversed roles of adult and child: the educator who does so little actual teaching , with the child the center of activity, learning by himself, free in his choice of occupation and in his movements.This, when it was not considered an utopia, was held to be an exageration.

This was, for me, a revelation: not because it expressed a completely new concept but because I was finally able to see how this could be done and not only imagined.

A school where the children and their freedom are central, where children are trusted as capable being who can do, be and learn with an adult who’s not the one to decide and judge.

A school without marks and rewards and punishments.

The natural motivation to learn and to live in harmony it’s something that must be kept alive, it’s not something to be considered lost or nonexistent or that can be trained by a teacher.

Maria Montessori died in 1952.

While she was still alive and after her death, there have been many important studies on active learning, so what are we going to do with her teachings?

Freedom of choice, autonomy, self correcting materials within a learning and stimulating environment, unobtrusive teachers who know and respect each developmental stage.

These are the foundations, or pillars, of the doctor from Chiaravalle and I believe they could go hand in hand with other methods that propose to have a child-centered approach, rather than a teacher-centered one.

This is the school of my dreams.

A school where freedom is the means to discuss, observe and learn for both children and teachers.