I’ve been in love with Montessori education for over 40 years now. Yet quotes by Dr. Maria Montessori never grow old. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, caregiver, or teacher, you’ll find inspiration and guidance in these great quotes by Maria Montessori.
Maria Montessori Quotes and Word Art Freebies
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“Others, as a result of careful study, have come to the conclusion that the first two years are the most important in the whole span of human life.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“All that we ourselves are has been made by the child, by the child we were in the first two years of our lives.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed. But not only his intelligence; the full totality of his psychic powers.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“Development is a series of rebirths.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“I have found that in his development, the child passes through certain phases, each of which has its own particular needs. The characteristics of each are so different that the passages from one phase to the other has been described by certain psychologists as ‘rebirths’.” (Four Planes of Education)
“….the tiny child’s absorbent mind finds all its nutriment in its surroundings. Here it has to locate itself, and build itself up from what it takes in. Especially at the beginning of life must we, therefore, make the environment as interesting and attractive as we can. The child, as we have seen, passes through successive phases of development and in each of these his surroundings have an important – though different – part to play. In none have they more importance than immediately after birth.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“Let us leave the life free to develop within the limits of the good, and let us observe this inner life developing. This is the whole of our mission.” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook)
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook)
“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“He absorbs the life going on about him and becomes one with it, just as these insects become one with the vegetation on which they live. The child’s impressions are so profound that a biological or psycho-chemical change takes place, by which his mind ends by resembling the environment itself. Children become like the things they love.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“It follows that the child can only develop fully by means of experience on his environment. We call such experience “work”.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“The child has a different relation to his environment from ours… the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“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.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“It comes for a moment but its benefits last for a lifetime.”
“The children of three years of age in the “Children’s Houses” learn and carry out such work as sweeping, dusting, making things tidy, setting the table for meals, waiting at table, washing the dishes, etc ., and at the same time they learn to attend to their own personal needs, to wash themselves, to take showers, to comb their hair, to take a bath, to dress and undress themselves, to hang up their clothes in the wardrobe, or to put them in drawers, to polish their shoes . These exercises are part of the method of education, and do not depend on the social position of the pupils; even in the “Children’s Houses” attended by rich children who are given every kind of assistance at home, and who are accustomed to being surrounded by a crowd of servants, take part in the exercises of practical life . This has a truly educational, not utilitarian purpose . The reaction of the children may be described as a “burst of independence” of all unnecessary assistance that suppresses their activity and prevents them from demonstrating their own capacities. It is just – these “independent” children of ours who learn to write at the age of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their progress in arithmetic.” (From Childhood to Adolescence)
“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities which they can perform themselves and which keep them from being a burden to others because of their inabilities. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs in a way that is clearly understood, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence.” Maria Montessori (The Discovery of the Child)
“The reaction of the children may be described as a “burst of independence” of all unnecessary assistance that suppresses their activity and prevents them from demonstrating their own capacities. It is just these “independent” children of ours who learn to write at the age of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their progress in arithmetic. These children seem to be precocious in their intellectual development and they demonstrate that while working harder than other children they do so without tiring themselves. These children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying: ‘Help me to do it alone!'” (The Discovery of the Child)
“How does he achieve this independence? He does it by means of a continuous activity. How does he become free? By means of constant effort. …we know that development results from activity. The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“A child who has become master of his acts through long and repeated exercises, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.” (The Discovery of the Child)
“The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.” (The Discovery of the Child)
“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.” (What You Should Know About Your Child)
“But in our specially prepared environments we see them all at once fix themselves upon some task, and then their excited fantasies and their restless movements disappear altogether; a calm, serene child, attached to reality, begins to work out his elevation through work. Normalisation has been achieved.” (The Discovery of the Child)
“Now the little child who manifests perseverance in his work as the first constructive act of his psychic life, and upon this act builds up internal order, equilibrium, and the growth of personality, demonstrates, almost as in a splendid revelation, the true manner in which man renders himself valuable to the community. The little child who persists in his exercises, concentrated and absorbed, is obviously elaborating the constant man, the man of character, he who will find in himself all human values, crowning that unique fundamental manifestation: persistence in work. Whatever task the child may choose it will be all the same, provided he persists in it. For what is valuable is not the work itself, but the work as a means for the construction of the psychic man.” (The Advanced Montessori Method)
“We must learn how to call upon the man which lies dormant in the soul of a child.”
“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” (Education for a New World)
“The child’s development follows a path of successive stages of independence, and our knowledge of this must guide us in our behaviour towards him. We have to help the child to act, will and think for himself. This is the art of serving the spirit, an art which can be practised to perfection only when working among children.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“These very children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying : ‘Help me to do it alone!'” (From Childhood to Adolescence)
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
“Independence, in the case of the adolescents, has to be acquired on a different plane, for theirs is the economic independence in the field of society. Here, too, the principle of “Help me to do it alone!” ought to be applied.” (From Childhood to Adolescence)
“Our experience with children in elementary schools has shown us that the age between six and twelve years is a period of life during which the elements of all sciences should be given. It is a period that, psychologically, is especially sensitive and might be called the “sensitive period of culture” during which the abstract plane of the human mind is organized.” (From Childhood to Adolescence)
“The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative work and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.” (From Childhood to Adolescence)
“The adolescent must never be treated as a child, for that is a stage of life that he has surpassed. It is better to treat an adolescent as if he had greater value than he actually shows than as if he had less and let him feel that his merits and self-respect are disregarded.” (From Childhood to Adolescence)
“Let us treat them [children], therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook)
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” (Education and Peace)
The instructions of the teacher consist then merely in a hint, a touch—enough to give a start to the child. The rest develops of itself. (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook)
“Among the revelations the child has brought us, there is one of fundamental importance, the phenomenon of normalisation through work. Thousands and thousands of experiences among children of every race enable us to state that this phenomenon is the most certain datum verified in psychology or education. It is certain that the child’s attitude towards work represents a vital instinct; for without work his personality cannot organise itself and deviates from the normal lines of its construction. Man builds himself through working. Nothing can take the place of work, neither physical well-being nor affection, and, on the other hand, deviations cannot be corrected by either punishment or example. Man builds himself through working, working with his hands, but using his hands as the instruments of his ego, the organ of his individual mind and will, which shapes its own existence face to face with its environment. The child’s instinct confirms the fact that work is an inherent tendency in human nature; it is the characteristic instinct of the human race.” (The Secret of Childhood)
“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.”’
Sometimes both parents and educators think of the Montessori method as more structured than Maria Montessori probably intended. I think it’s important to remember this quote from Maria Montessori Her Life and Work by E.M. Standing (p. 307): “I give very few lessons on how to give lessons, lest my suggestions – becoming stereotyped and parodied – should turn into obstacles instead of help. The directress is dealing with different personalities; and it therefore becomes more a question of how she should orient herself in what is for her a new world, rather than of any rigid or absolute rules.” Maria Montessori
“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“. . . 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 old-time discipline . . .
A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and voluntarily, without committing any rough or rude act, would seem to me a classroom very well disciplined indeed.” (The Montessori Method)
The teacher … must have a kind of faith that the child will reveal himself through work. (The Absorbent Mind)
“‘Wait while observing.’ That is the motto of the educator.“
“… we have learnt from him certain fundamental principles of psychology. One is that the child must learn by his own individual activity, being given a mental freedom to take what he needs, and not to be questioned in his choice. Our teaching must only answer the mental needs of the child, never dictate them. Just as a small child cannot be still because he is in need of co-ordinating his movements, so the older child, who may seem troublesome in his curiosity over the why, what and wherefore of everything he sees, is building up his mind by this mental activity, and must be given a wide field of culture on which to feed.” (To Educate the Human Potential)
“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.” (To Educate the Human Potential)
“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.” (To Educate the Human Potential)
The instructions of the teacher consist then merely in a hint, a touch—enough to give a start to the child. The rest develops of itself. (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook)
“The child has to acquire physical independence by being self-sufficient; he must become of independent will be using in freedom his own power of choice; he must become capable of independent thought by working alone without interruption. The child’s development follows a path of successive stages of independence.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“Praise, help, or even a look, may be enough to interrupt him, or destroy the activity. It seems a strange thing to say, but this can happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched. After all, we too sometimes feel unable to go on working if someone comes to see what we are doing. The great principle which brings success to the teacher is this: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Naturally, one can see what he is doing with a quick glance, but without his being aware of it.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“Education is the best weapon for peace.” (1937 lecture by Dr. Montessori in Copenhagen)
“The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity. He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being. We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline, and self-control develops within them…. The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” (Education and Peace)
“The child whose attention has once been held by a chosen object, while he concentrates his whole self on the repetition of the exercise, is a delivered soul in the sense of the spiritual safety of which we speak. From this moment there is no need to worry about him – except to prepare an environment which satisfies his needs, and to remove obstacles which may bar his way to perfection.” (The Absorbent Mind)
“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”
Maria Montessori (from the Little People, Big Dreams series) is a lovely, understandable biography for preschoolers through second graders!
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