Montessori education is not a system of teaching but a method of helping children in the total development of their personalities during the fundamental period of development. The child must have freedom in order to develop his or her personality to the fullest – a freedom that is achieved through work, order, and self-discipline.
In the early 1900s, in Rome, Italy, Dr. Maria Montessori developed what she called the “prepared environment” which already possesses a certain order and disposes the child to develop at his/her own speed, according to his/her own capacities and in a noncompetitive atmosphere. The structure of Montessori learning involves the use of many materials with which the child may work individually. At every step of his/her learning, the material is designed to test understanding and to correct errors. Each child works at his or her own pace.
Dr. Montessori recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. The director/directress prepares the environment, programs the activity, functions as the reference person and the exemplar, and offers the child stimulations, but it is the child who learns and who is motivated through the work itself to persist in his or her chosen task. This is the core of the Montessori educational philosophy.