Montessori: A Brief History

Remember when Jay Leno hosted the Tonight Show and one of his funniest routines (in my opinion) was to ask people on the street random geography questions:  Where are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?  How many oceans are there?  What is the third planet from the sun?  Sadly, people were often clueless when it came to the right answer.  Such is often the case with Montessori.  The name itself continually gets misspelled and mispronounced.  Those who can say it and spell it often misinterpret it:  “Oh, Montessori is too rigid!” or, “Montessori is way too permissive for my child!” or – my favorite – “Montessori, isn’t that a religious cult?”  So, here I am to help set the record straight; to share what I know about something I am passionate about.  My information may not always be 100% correct and, for that reason, I welcome your comments and questions so that, together, we can reach Montessori Mastery.


For starters, here is a brief introduction to the woman behind the name. For more detailed information, I encourage you to read “Maria Montessori:  Her Life and Work” by E. M. Standing.


Maria Montessori was born in the province of Ancona, Italy, in 1870.  Ironically, she never intended to create an educational system that would endure for more than a century and continue to expand worldwide even today.  She actually refused to follow the path of most women of her time and place – teaching – and became instead the first female medical doctor in Italian history.  But Fate stepped in, and after a series of “stepping stones”, Dr. Montessori found herself in charge of a small group of “defective” children in the Roman slums know as San Lorenzo.  Equipped with keen powers of observation, a strong scientific mind, and loving compassion for life, Dr. Montessori began to discover the “secret of childhood” and used this as the basis for what we know today as Montessori education.

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