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Books by Maria Montessori

The Secret of Childhood

Maria Montessori

This book outlines the Montessori educational method, focusing on early childhood development and the relation of the child to society. The book shines a light on the new-born child, a spiritual embryo with latent psychic capacities. Montessori unlocks these secrets, showing adults how they can learn from the children, observing, helping, and presenting. Providing a prepared environment, following the child's interests, and offering choices, creates concentration, without the need for punishments and rewards.

Selected Quotes from The Secret of Childhood

... she had been absorbed in concentration such that her ego had withdrawn itself from reach of any external stimulus. That concentration was accompanied by the rhythmic movement of the hands, evoked by an accurately made, scientifically graduated object.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 125
The human personality forms itself by itself, like the embryo, and the child becomes the creator of the man, the father of the man.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 31
The child strives to assimilate his environment and from such efforts springs the deep-seated unity of his personality.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 31
But the child too is a worker and a producer. If he cannot take part in the adult's work, he has his own, a great, important, difficult work indeed - the work of producing man.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 200
The most pertinent, which seemed like a magic touch opening the gates to an expansion of normal characteristics, is a consistent activity concentrated on a single work, an exercise on some external object, where the movements of the hands are guided by the mind. And here we find the unfolding of characteristics which plainly come from an inner impulse, like the "repetition of the exercise" and "free choice of objects". It is then that the true child appears, aglow with joy, indefatigable because his activity is like the psychic metabolism to which life and hence development is attached.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 146
Here is the aim of the truly new education; first of all to discover the child and effect his liberation.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 106
It was about six months later that they began to understand what reading meant, and they did so only through associating it with writing. Their eyes followed my hand as it traced the signs on paper, and they grasped the idea that thus I was expressing my thoughts as if I were speaking.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 140
One day a child began to write. He was so astonished that he shouted aloud, "I've written! I've written!" Other children rushed up to him, full of interest, staring at the words that their play-fellow had traced on the ground with a piece of white chalk... The discovery of being able write appeared as an unexpected event.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 139
With the profound interest of one who has made a discovery, he had understood that each of these sounds corresponded to a letter of the alphabet. Indeed, what is alphabetical writing, if not the correspondence of a sign with a sound?
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 138
This means that it is not enough to set the child among objects in proportion to his size and strength; the adult who is to help him must have learned how to do so.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 208
Now what we need to know is the character of the child's work. When a little child works he does not do so to attain an outward end. The aim of his work is the working, and when in his repetition of an exercise he brings it to an end, this end is independent of external factors... his work is the satisfaction of an inner need, a phenomenon of psychic maturation.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 204
But the child too is a worker and a producer. If he cannot take part in the adult's work, he has his own, a great, important, difficult work indeed - the work of producing [an adult].
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 200
Among the revelations the child has brought us, there is one of fundamental importance, the phenomenon of normalisation through work.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 195
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.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 162
Nature conditions the child otherwise than the young of animals. She leaves the realm of movement free from the imperious despotism of instinct. Instinct withdraws; the muscles wait, strong and obedient, for a new order; they await the command of the will to co-ordinate them in the service of the human spirit. They must express the characteristics not of a mere species, but of an individual soul.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 29
(in response to a baby being brought into the classroom) At once the children sat still, controlling even their breathing, and so they remained, with the serene, intense look of those engaged in meditation. Little by little in that impressive silence little noises were heard, a drop of water falling in the distance, the far-off twitter of a bird. This incident was the origin of the silence exercise.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 130
They repeated the performance again and again without having any longer an external aim in doing so. It was by an inner need that they went on washing their hands that were already clean. The same thing happened on many other occasions; the more accurately an exercise was taught in all its details, the more it seemed to become a stimulus to an endless repetition of the same exercise.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 126
Thus by preparing an open environment, an environment suited to this moment of life, natural manifestation of the child's psyche and hence the revelation of his secret should come about spontaneously.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 106
The true educator is the man who rids himself of the inner obstacles which make the child incomprehensible to him; he is not simply the man who is ever striving to become better. Our instruction to educators consists in showing them what inner dispositions they need to correct...
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 107
There is thus a secret in the soul of the child, impossible to penetrate unless he himself reveals it as little by little he builds up his being.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 16
There are harsh and insistent changes that summon the unconscious to the consciousness; all spiritual development is an achievement of consciousness, which assumes into itself what was once outside it. It is thus, indeed, that civilisation advances, by successive discoveries.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 10
I would not be able to cite a single example of a conversion taking place without an interesting task that concentrated the child's activities. There are wide varieties of conversions that have occurred in this way. Children of a nervous temperament have become calm. The depressed have regained their spirits, and all have advanced together along the path of disciplined work, making progress through the outward manifestation of an inner energy which has found a means of expressions.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 147
The study of the child… may have an infinitely wider influence, extending to all human questions. In the mind of the child we may find the key to progress….
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 3
The new-born child does not come into a natural environment, but into the civilised environment of the life of men. It is a “supranatural” environment, built up above and at the expense of nature, through the urge to procure all that will assist the life of man in all its details and make it easier for him to adjust to himself. But what providence has prepared a civilisation to assist the new-born babe, man who must achieve the greatest of all efforts of adjustment, when he passes by birth from one life to another?
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 18
If the baby has not been able to work in accordance with the guidance of its sensitive period, it has lost its chance of a natural conquest....
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 39
A child is an eager observer and is particularly attracted by the actions of the adults and wants to imitate them. In this regard an adult can have a kind of mission. He can be an inspiration for the child's actions, a kind of open book wherein a child can learn how to direct his own movements. But an adult, if he is to afford proper guidance, must always be calm and act slowly so that the child who is watching him can clearly see his actions in all their particulars.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 93
The adult must find within himself the still unknown error that prevents him from seeing the child as he is.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 11
What is to be particularly noted in these child conversions is a psychic cure, a return to what is normal. Actually, the normal child is one who is precociously intelligent, who has learned to overcome himself and to live in peace, and who prefers a disciplined task to futile idleness. When we see a child in this light, we would more properly call his 'conversion' a 'normalisation'
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 148
There is a part of a child's soul that has always been unknown but which must be known. With a spirit of sacrifice and enthusiasm we must go in search like those who travel to foreign lands and tear up mountains in their search for hidden gold. This is what the adults must do who seeks the unknown factor that lies hidden in the depths of a child's soul. This is a labour in which all must share, without distinction of nation, race, or social standing since it means the bringing forth of an indispensable element for the moral progress of mankind.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 10
...a teacher should never forget that he is a teacher and that his mission is one of education.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 153
The first thing required of a teacher is that he be rightly disposed for his task.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 149
It is plain that nature exercises a powerful supervision over this awakening, this fulfilment. The aim of the mother's care is higher than purely physiological. Through her affection and her tender care, she awaits the birth of the latent instincts. And for men we might say by analogy that, through delicate care of the new-born babe, we should await the spiritual advent of man.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 24
We must be taught and we must be willing to accept guidance if we wish to become effective teachers.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 149
In each sphere there is essential work to be done; the work of the adult and the work of the child are both essential for the life of humanity.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 198
He needs not only to touch things and to work with them, but to follow a sequence of actions to its completion, and this is of the greatest importance in the inward building-up of his personality.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 175
And thus the new-born child is not only a body ready to function as a body, but a spiritual embryo with latent psychic capacities. It would be absurd to think that man alone, characterised and distinct from all other creatures by the grandeur of his mental life, should be the only one with no pattern of psychic development.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 16
No one could have foreseen then that the child held within himself a secret of life, able to lift the veil from the mysteries of the human soul, that he represented an unknown quantity, the discovery of which might enable the adult to solve his individual and social problems. This aspect may prove the foundation of a new science of child study, capable of influencing the whole social life of man.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 4
The child does not grow weary with work, but increases his strength. He grows through work and that is why work increases his energies. He never asks to be relieved of his labours, but on the contrary he asks to be allowed to perform them and to perform them alone. The task of growth is his life, he must truly either work or die.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 208
The feeling we should have towards the new-born baby is not the compassion that we have for the sick or weak, but reverence before the mystery of creation, the secret of an infinite taking bounded form.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 24
In all diseases, physical as well as mental, the importance of events that have occurred in infancy is now recognised.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 4
But the study of the child, not in his physical but in his psychological aspect, may have an infinitely wider influence, extending to all human questions. In the mind of the child we may find the key to progress and who knows, the beginning of a new civilisation.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 3
... the environment is fundamental, it must facilitate the expansion of the being in process of development by a reduction of obstacles to a minimum, and must allow free scope for a child's energies, by offering the necessary means for the activities to which they give rise.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 96
A child learns to adjust himself and make acquisitions in his sensitive periods. These are like a beam that lights interiorly or a battery that furnishes energy. It is this sensibility which enables a child to come into contact with the external world in a particularly intense manner. At such a time everything is easy; all is life and enthusiasm. Every effort marks an increase in power. Only when the goal has been obtained does fatigue and the weight of indifference come on.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 40
The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 267
As soon as children find something that interests them they lose their instability and learn to concentrate.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 145
Sometimes very small children in a proper environment develop a skill and exactness in their work that can only surprise us.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 87
The word education must not be understood in the sense of teaching but of assisting the psychological development of the child.
Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 28