THE DISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE MONTESSORI SYSTEM
If education is to be reformed, it must be based upon the children. No longer is it enough to study great educators of the past, such as Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel; the time for that is over. Further I protest against myself being hailed as the greatest educator of this century because what I have done is merely to study the child, to take and express what I have done is merely to study the child, to take and express what he has given me, and that is called the Montessori Method. My experience is based on forty years beginning with the medical and psychological study of defective children whom I tried to help. There were found to be capable of so much, when approached from the new standpoint of co-operation with their subconscious minds, that it was decided to extend the experiment to the normal, and Houses of Children were started in some of the poorest districts of Rome for little ones from three years of age.
Visitors to these houses were amazed to find children of four years writing and reading , and would as a child, “Who taught you to write?” The little one would answer, looking up in wonder at the question “Taught? No one has taught me; I did it myself!”
For some time I shared that belief, but extended experiments soon proved that all children possessed these powers and that the most precious years were being wasted and development was largely thwarted by fallacious idea that education was possible only after six.
Reading and writing are the basic items of culture, for it is impossible to acquire other items without them, and neither is natural to man as the spoken language is. Writing especially is generally considered so arid a task as only to be given to older children.
But I gave the letters of the alphabet to four-year-old, repeating upon normal children experiments first tried on defectives. I had found that just presenting single letters in contrast, day after day, made no...