Why Montessori?

Montessori History

According to the American Montessori Society, “Montessori education dates back to 1907, when Maria Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a low-income district of Rome. Her unique philosophy sparked the interest of educators worldwide, and in the following decades Montessori schools opened throughout Europe, in North and South America.”

To learn more about the growth of Montessori, including the spread of Montessori to the United States in two “waves”—the first in 1911, the second starting in 1960— visit the History of Montessori Education pages of the AMS website.

Research

This video was created as part of the documentary film project, Building the Pink Tower (www.buildingthepinktower.org).

As Maria Montessori herself was passionate about scientific discovery, it should come as no surprise that the Montessori community promotes empirical research as an important way of knowing and learning about our education practices. Here, we offer a few examples of recent research which support Montessori philosophy.

Dr. Angeline Lillard presents a variety of research studies discussing eight insights which form the basis of Montessori education. Lillard goes on to describe how Montessori educators apply these important insights within the classroom:

Lillard, Angeline (2008). Montessori: The science behind the genius. USA: Oxford University Press.

Lillard and Nicole Else-Quest report on some positive differences in outcomes found between the Milwaukee public Montessori and conventional Elementary school programs. Scores in both academics and social relationships are examined:       

Else-Quest, Nicole & Lillard, Angeline (2006). The early years: Evaluating Montessori education. Science, 313(5795), 1893-1894. DOI: 10.1126/science.1132362 

Adele Diamond and Kathleen Lee discuss Montessori education in relationship to the development of “executive functions”. Executive functions are those cognitive-control abilities exercised by the brain’s prefrontal cortex, including cognitive flexibility, planning, self-control, problem-solving and directing one’s attention. These skills are considered essential skills for success throughout life and in all areas:

Diamond, Adele & Lee, Kathleen (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4–12 years old.  Science, 333(6045), 959–964. DOI: 10.1126/science.1204529

Further Reading

The American Montessori Society website at www.amshq.org, the Association Montessori Internationale website at www.amiusa.org, and the North American Montessori Teachers Association at www.montessori-namta.org are all great resources to deepen your understanding of Montessori.

Also, the school’s parent resource library is stocked with all sorts of books on child development and Montessori theory and practice. Some are more research-oriented, while others are easy-to-digest information for parents hoping to get some practical guidelines to use at home. Some of our favorite titles include:

  • Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, by Angeline Lillard features an in-depth look at recent research supporting key ideas in Montessori education.
  • Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard discusses fundamentals of Montessori education across the development of the child.
  • Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood by Paula Polk Lillard is a fun-to-read, excellent resource about the Elementary years in the Montessori classroom.
  • Montessori Learning in the 21st Century: A Guide for Parents and Teachers by M. Shannon Helfrich gives an overview of both Montessori philosophy and 21st century understanding of children’s learning and development. In easy-to-understand terms, she explains why Montessori education, developed decades ago, continues to connect with the forefront of neuropsychological research.
  • How to Talk So Kids Can Listen and Listen So Kids Can Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is a fantastic, worthwhile guide for any parent on how to have meaningful, two-way communication with your child in both high-stress and everyday situations.