Maria Montessori


Italian Educator, Physician and Humanitarian, Creator of the Montessori Method

Author Quotes

We give the name scientist to the type of man who has felt experiment to be a means guiding him to search out the deep truth of life, to lift a veil from its fascinating secrets, and who, in this pursuit, has felt arising within him a love for the mysteries of nature, so passionate as to annihilate the thought of himself. The scientist is not the clever manipulator of instruments, he is the worshipper of nature and he bears the external symbols of his passion as does the follower of some religious order. To this body of real scientists belong those who, forgetting, like the Trappists of the Middle Ages, the world about them, live only in the laboratory, careless often in matters of food and dress because they no longer think of themselves; those who, through years of unwearied use of the microscope, become blind; those who in their scientific ardour inoculate themselves with tuberculosis germs; those who handle the excrement of cholera patients in their eagerness to learn the vehicle through which the diseases are transmitted; and those who, knowing that a certain chemical preparation may be an explosive, still persist in testing their theories at the risk of their lives. This is the spirit of the men of science, to whom nature freely reveals her secrets, crowning their labors with the glory of discovery. There exists, then, the "spirit" of the scientist, a thing far above his mere "mechanical skill," and the scientist is at the height of his achievement when the spirit has triumphed over the mechanism. When he has reached this point, science will receive from him not only new revelations of nature, but philosophic syntheses of pure thought.

We recognize the immense power, the unconscious forces existing in the child on the threshold of life. For many years we have been proclaiming that it is necessary to educate the child from the moment of birth. We have traced, through study and practical experience, the ideal path leading to the world of children, of these beings whose social status has as yet not been determined, whose rights have not been recognized and who nevertheless represent the men of tomorrow.

The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth. From this almost mystic affirmation there comes what may seem a strange conclusion: that education must start from birth.

The novelty lies, perhaps, in my idea for the use of this open-air space, which is to be in direct communication with the schoolroom, so that the children may be free to go and come as they like, throughout the entire day.

The studies which have been made of early infancy leave no room for doubt: the first two years are important forever, because in that period, one passes from being nothing into being something.

The teacher's mission has for its aim something constant and exact, bearing in mind the words, "He must grow while I diminish."

There is in every child a painstaking teacher, so skillful that he obtains identical results in all children in all parts of the world. The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!

The hands are the instruments of man?s intelligence.

The objects that are used for practical life have no scientific purpose. They are the objects used where a child lives and which he sees employed in his own home, but they are especially made to a size that he can use. The number of these objects is not determined by our method, but depends upon the resources of a school, and especially upon the length of time that a child spends in the school each day. If the school has a garden attached to it, the care of the paths, the weeding of plants, or the gathering of ripe fruit, and so on, will make up part of a child's practical occupations. If the daily schedule is very long, dinner will also form a part of them. Of all the exercises of practical life this is the most difficult, exacting and interesting. It includes such things as setting the table with great care, serving the meals, eating properly, washing the cups and plates, and putting away pots and pans.

The study of love and its utilization will lead us to the source from which it springs, The Child.

The teacher's task is no small or easy one! He as to prepare a huge amount of knowledge to satisfy the child's mental hunger, and he is not, like the ordinary teacher, limited by a syllabus.

There is in the child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him, and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life. He does it in virtue of an unconscious power that exists in childhood?.The first period of the child?s life is one of adaptation. It is the child?s special adaptability that makes the land into which he is born the only one in which he will ever want to live.

The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.

The observation of the way in which the children pass from the first disordered movements to those which are spontaneous and ordered -- this is the book of the teacher; this is the book which must inspire her actions.

The study of the child? may have an infinitely wider influence, extending to all human questions. In the mind of the child we may find the key to progress.

The teacher's task is not a small easy one! She has to prepare a huge amount of knowledge to satisfy the child's mental hunger. She is not like the ordinary teacher, limited by a syllabus. The needs of the child are clearly more difficult to answer.

There is in the soul of a child an impenetrable secret that is gradually revealed as it develops.

The infant in arms has far greater mental energies than are usually imagined.

The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!

The task of teaching becomes easy, since we do not need to choose what we shall teach, but should place all before him for the satisfaction of his mental appetite. He must have absolute freedom of choice, and then he requires nothing but repeated experiences which will become increasingly marked by interest and serious attention, during his acquisition of some desired knowledge.

The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.

There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest.

The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.

The organization must be determined because it is necessary to develop the power of self-adjustment to the environment as it is found, and this adaptation results in cooperation and a happy social life that will facilitate individual progress. The environment must make the free choice of occupation easy, and therefore eliminate the waste of time and energy in following vague and uncertain preferences. From all this the result will be not only self-discipline but a proof that self-discipline is an aspect of individual liberty and the chief factor of success in life. A very important matter is the fundamental order in the succession of occupations during the day, and the times for the change-over. This should be experimental at first and develop into an established thing; necessities will arise and will have to be dealt with and this will tend to create an organization. But it is necessary to consider not only the active occupations but the need for solitude and quiet, which are essential for the development of the hidden treasures of the soul.

The task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility and evil with activity, as often happens in the case of the old-time discipline. And all this because our aim is to discipline for activity, for work, for good; not for immobility, not for passivity, not for obedience.

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Italian Educator, Physician and Humanitarian, Creator of the Montessori Method