Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maria Montessori's birthday

Dr. Maria Montessori, 1870-1952

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori

I and my five Marlin siblings, born 1934-1945 and all living, were brought up largely by my mother (Hilda van Stockum) and grandmother (Olga Boissevain) until we went away to school. 

Both of them were trained directly by Dr. Montessori, so in a way the family was a mini-Montessori Pre-School.

My sister Sheila O'Neill for decades has headed up several  Montessori Schools in the UK, notably High Elms Manor School.

I am reminded today by Lake Wobegon's Garrison Keillor, in his daily newsletter, that it is her birthday.

Here is what he says about her.


It's the birthday of Maria Montessori (books by this author), born on this day in Chiaravalle, Italy (1870). She was a bright student, and she wanted to study engineering. So when she was 13, against her father's wishes, she entered a technical school, where all her classmates were boys. After a few years, she decided to pursue medicine, and she became the first woman in Italy to earn an M.D. degree. 
As a doctor, she worked with children with special needs. And through her work with them, she became increasingly interested in education. She believed that children were not blank slates, but that they each had inherent, individual gifts. It was a teacher's job to help children find these gifts, rather than dictating what a child should know. She emphasized independence, self-directed learning, and learning from peers. Children were encouraged to make decisions.
During World War II, Montessori was exiled from Italy because she was opposed to Mussolini's fascism and his desire to make her a figurehead for the Italian government. She lived and worked in India for many years, and then in Holland. She died in 1952 at the age of 81. She wrote many books about her philosophy of education, including The Montessori Method (1912) and The Absorbent Mind (1949).

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