The Discovery of the Child

This summer I re-read Dr. Maria Montessori’s book The Discovery of the Child. She discusses the history of her educational method, movement and education, lessons, writing and speech, and more. In honour of her birthday I am posting my favourite quotations and concepts:

“No one who has ever done anything really great or successful has ever done it simply because he was attracted by what we call a “reward” or by the fear of what we call a “punishment”. p. 15

“We claim that an individual is disciplined when he is the master of himself and when he can, as a consequence, control himself when he must follow a rule of life.” p. 49

“A system of education that is based on liberty ought to aim at assisting a child in obtaining it, and it should have as its specific aim the freeing of the child from those ties which limit its spontaneous manifestations.” p. 55

“The strength of even the smallest children is more that we imagine, but it must have a free play in order to reveal itself.” p. 69

“One of the most important practical aspects of our method has been to make the training of the muscles enter into the very life of the children so that it is intimately connected with their daily activities. Education in movement is thus fully incorporated into the education of the child’s personality.” p. 79

“This then is the first duty of an educator: to stir up life but leave it free to develop.” p. 111

“The objects in our system are, instead, a help to the child himself. He chooses what he wants for his own use, and works with it according to his own needs, tendencies, and special interests. In this way the objects become a means of growth.” p. 149

“The end to be obtained is the orderly stabilization of a child’s spontaneous activities….[T]he student through his own efforts much reach this perfection by himself, so here in like manner, a child must perfect his own sense perceptions and must in general further his own education.” p. 161

“One who follows my method teaches little, observes a great deal, but rather directs the psychic abilities of the children and their physiological development.” p. 162

“The greatest triumph of our system of education will always be to obtain the spontaneous progress of a child.” p. 168

“Just as a child has learned to put everything in its place…he succeeds through the education of his senses in ordering his mental images. This is the first act of ordering in his developing mind, and it is the point of departure since the psychic life develops by avoiding obstacles. The conquest of the external world through sense impressions will now be easy and orderly. This sense of order that has been acquired early is of the utmost importance for later life.” p. 173

“In order to help one learn how to write, we must first analyze the various movements required, and we must strive to develop these separately in a way that is independent of actual writing.” p. 205

“Work cannot be presented in an arbitrary manner, and this is what lies behind our method. It must be the kind of work that a man inwardly desires and for which he has a natural inclination, or which he can accomplish bit by bit. This is the kind of work that gives order to a person’s life and opens up to it infinite possibilities of growth.” p. 305

“A child who exercises himself in perceiving isolated stimuli with his various senses learns how to focus his attention and gradually perfects his psychic reactions….He is thus not limited to psycho-sensorial activities, but lays the foundation for a spontaneous association of ideas, for reasoning processes based upon positive knowledge, and for mental stability. This secret training is the reason for those psychic explosions which bring so much joy to a child.” p. 312

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