Montessori History and Overview
- Montessori is a method for educating children from infancy through high school, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori (Aug. 31, 1870-May 6, 1952) the first female physician in Italy.
- The first Casa dei Bambini for children ages 3-6, opened in the slums of Rome in 1907. As Dr. Montessori’s slum children outperformed their middle-class peers on school entrance exams, the method quickly drew attention in Italy and abroad. Montessori schools soon opened across Europe and America, where the approach spread quickly after Dr. Montessori made it visible by operating a “glass classroom” at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco.
- Dr. Montessori was a scientist, who developed her method over 50 years, observing thousands of children on three continents, and fine-tuning her approach based on how children reacted to the pedagogy and curriculum offered to them.
- An estimated 4,500 schools in the US practice some form of Montessori, and possibly as many as 20,000 world-wide.
It’s important for parents to know that Montessori isn’t a trademarked term and Montessori schools vary widely in the quality of programs they offer, with some offering a fully-implemented, high-fidelity Montessori programs, while others may just include a few Montessori materials in an otherwise non-Montessori classroom. As a parent, if you want the full benefits of a Montessori education for your child, you’ll need to educate yourself on what to look for in a Montessori school—for example, by reading this article, or by exploring further with the books we recommend below.
What the research says about high-quality Montessori programs
“Children in Classic Montessori programs, as compared with children in Supplemented Montessori and Conventional programs, showed significantly greater school year gains on outcome measures of executive function, reading, math, vocabulary, and social problem solving, suggesting that high fidelity Montessori implementation is associated with better outcomes than lower fidelity Montessori programs or conventional programs.”
—Angeline S. Lillard, Journal of School Psychology 50 (2012) (View the research article)
Good books on Montessori for further reading: