by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D.
I have been fascinated with the potential of young children since I was a young child and I have enjoyed studying early child development in great depth for decades now. But it’s only in the past 10 or so years that I discovered Dr. Maria Montessori’s approach and realized how gravely we have been underestimating young children.
I knew I needed to learn more about Dr. Montessori’s approach after I visited an authentic Montessori early education program and witnessed amazingly mature, capable, confident young children directing their own learning. I had studied child development for over 20 years at that point, yet I had no idea such young children could be so capable! I observed children in those classrooms to learn the keys to cultivating great development in young children.
And I studied Dr. Montessori’s teachings. They challenged some long-held assumptions.
- “Children should be separated into single age groupings to learn.” That was how it had always been, right? Actually, no. That’s how it’s been in much of my country in my times, but it’s actually an anomaly and it’s not best for child development.
- “Children potty-train around 3 years old”– right? WRONG. 60 years ago, the average age children were able to use the toilet independently and be dry (at least during that day) was 1 year old. We are seeing a major delay in development in that area now, and it’s not because our children are born less intelligent.
- “Biting, hitting, screaming and tantrums are all normal behaviors for toddlers.” Not exactly. In the Montessori school, some of these behaviors occurred at times, but at MUCH lower rates than in other settings. Observing in the Montessori school, I found young children to be confident and self-directed. They were helpful and considerate. They exhibited grace and courtesy at mealtime. How was this possible?
How was Dr. Montessori able to come up with amazingly on-point approaches to educating young children and bringing out the best in them? A big part of the answer to this question is that she used the scientific method. In other words, she actually observed young children to see what they were interested in and how they behaved under various circumstances.
Unlike other educational approaches, Montessori education developed out of observation of children. This is why it works so much better than other educational approaches which were made up in someone’s head or office.
So Happy Birthday Dr. Maria Montessori (August 31)! On behalf of children, THANK YOU for paying attention! _________________________________________
In honor of Dr. Montessori’s birthday, grab a free copy of my book “Let Me Do It Myself! Secrets to Raising a Capable, Confident & Considerate Toddler” on Kindle August 29 – 31, 2016. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CO1SJ1E