In 1896, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) became the first female physician in Italy. Subsequently in 1907, her interest in children and education led her to open a Children's house in the slums outside Rome. Dr. Montessori put into practice her theory stating that children have a natural tendency towards self-education and self-realization.
According to Montessori children are the constructors of men whom they build, taking from the environment language, religion, customs and the peculiarities not only of the race, not only of the nation, but even of a special district in which they develop. Childhood constructs with what it finds. If the material is poor, the constructor is also poor. In order to build himself, he has to take by chance, whatever he finds in the environment.
Often Montessori repeated "We are not born simply to enjoy ourselves". Between 1896 and 1898 she spent long hours in hospital with mentally defected children. She became convinced that the method she used with deficient children could be applied to normal children and that it would develop or set free their personality in a surprising way.
Montessori stated that the child found a sentence in the special prepared environment which expresses the inner need: "Help me to do it by myself". We must consider the child's form of independence at this age, since it garantees the development of individuality. Real freedom begins at the beginning of life, not at the adult stage.
The child becomes fully conscious and constructs the future man by means of his activities. He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. Thus Montessori discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.
Nowadays, the Montessori Method is well known all over the world.
Association Montessori Internationale (1970), Maria Montessori a centenary anthology
Montessori (1967), The absorbent mind