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Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents

Maria Montessori

We have added to The Montessori Series this small volume with 11 lectures in which Maria Montessori gives parents an introductory explanation of her vision on education. There always has been a great need on the part of the parent to be as knowledgeable as possible about child development and the essence of Montessori education. Maria Montessori never underestimated the role of the parent, which is why she wrote special lectures for parents during courses and congresses. Recently we found in the pedagogical Archives of Maria Montessori an unpublished coherent set of small writings addressed to parents. We added a small biography of Maria Montessori for those parents who do not know her. Paula Polk Lillard, the internationally respected Montessori author, wrote the Foreword, in which she describes her transition from a traditional public school teacher to a Montessori mother, teacher and trainer.

Selected Quotes from Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents

To give our children a fine start in life we must see that their surroundings satisfy their need for activity and development, remembering at the same time that our own part is not that of instructor and interferer but of helper.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 72
Children develop their brains as well as their bodies through movement, and in the process of concentration, self-discipline, and perseverance with an active interest, the foundations of character are laid.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 72
In our schools we give the children small chairs and tables, so that they may move as masters in their own world instead of wrestling continually with awkward objects in a world specially created for grown-ups.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 72
A child’s needs are simple, and a happy childhood needs only simple surroundings.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 72
So many childish activities seem trivial to grown-ups, but a child’s concentration is not a trivial thing. Break that often enough and he will suffer all his life.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 70
In a child’s surroundings there are always two factors, the human as well as the material one. And it is in the human factor that children with nannies who do everything for them are at such a disadvantage. It is not enough for a child that he shall eat and be dressed; his whole instinct is to feed himself and dress himself.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 70
When a child shows an interest in anything about the house let him have it if you possibly can and perhaps it will keep him occupied for hours; then, once he has exhausted its interest as likely as not he will never ask for it again.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 70
The urge towards growth lies within the child himself – his intelligence and character will grow whatever we may do, but we can help or hinder the growth. The child in the overluxurious nursery with too many toys and distractions and the irksomeness of constant supervision is like a young plant that is overwatered – the soil turns sour and the plant becomes sickly.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 69
If the child is allowed to use his spontaneous activity in a tranquil environment without interference or unasked for help, he is indeed engaged in a most important work: he is building the man he will one day be.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 66
Young children do not have to go to school to work. Playtime for them is a time of learning by practice. Every new movement which a little child makes is tried first of all tentatively and then repeated until the first clumsiness is gradually refined to an exact movement. Every plaything he uses is a tool for his work.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 65
In our schools we allow the children to use their spontaneous activity by offering them objects which call for movements appropriate to their stage of development; in this way they learn through doing. This is their work, and their concentration and perseverance is astonishing.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 65
Have you ever seen a child, flushed with the new accomplishment of putting on his socks and shoes, dеliberately take them off in order to go through the whole performance again?
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 64
Now consider for a moment the work of a small child. His work is to create the man he will be. But he is not conscious of this end, he is conscious only of the means he employs. From a baby’s first kicking through his successive attempts to hold his head up, sit up, grasp his toes, his mother’s finger, and bright colored objects, he is working at his own muscular and mental development. Nobody can give him direct help with this; no mechanical device can save him the labor of co-coordinating his muscles or exercising his mind.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 64
We grown-ups are inclined to think that no one really works but ourselves. It is we who earn a living, it is we who have built us the civilization we live in, we who work looking after our homes and children … What work does a small child do? A few lessons perhaps, a little task to help mother … and the rest–play, an aimless carefree unimportant pastime. Of course, we grown-ups work, I don’t deny that. But I do most emphatically say that a child works quite as hard as we do, but in his own way.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 64
Is it through work alone that a child develops.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 64
Children are so responsive that if you treat your child with kindness and consideration he too will be kind. If you let him pursue his own little affairs and interests undisturbed, you will find that he will be less inclined to disturb yours. Try to interfere with him as little as possible, there is no need to worry about him growing up ignorant or ill-mannered. Instead he will be observant and intelligent, independent and persevering, and these qualities lie at the root of personality.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 61
Because the teacher respects each child and refrains from interference, the children treat one another with the same respect and kindness.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 61
In school the teacher stands by, she does not correct or interfere with the child’s work. When something goes wrong she waits to be asked for help, but most often a child persists until he himself does it right. This is perseverance, the beginning of will power which is so important a part of personality.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 60-61
In this school everything has its place and is kept there, because I have observed over and over again that children have a feeling for orderliness. Your child will learn to know where he may find things and he will put them back of his own accord when he has finished with them.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 59
The child who has to sit still listening to a teacher is in the worst possible state of mind and body for learning. Likewise, the child whose life at home is strictly ordered according to the convenience of grown-ups without knowledge or consideration of the natural movement and active interest of childhood is in the worst possible state of mind and body, either for obedience or good manners.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 52
The child who has to sit still listening to a teacher is in the worst possible state of mind and body for learning. Likewise, the child whose life at home is strictly ordered according to the convenience of grown-ups without knowledge or consideration of the natural movement and active interest of childhood is in the worst possible state of mind and body, either for obedience or good manners.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 52
In the old way the teacher made the children learn the multiplication tables by heart and then taught them to do the sums. Today children handle rods of different lengths and learn the proportions they bear to one another by arranging them accurately. This method leads them in a natural way from practice to principle.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 51
Among the school material small children enjoy most are the frames with two pieces of cloth – some have buttons and buttonholes, others ribbons, hooks and eyes, and shoe buttons – and it is delightful to watch the toddlers doing up buttons and tying bows with tremendous concentration.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 49
We do not teach the children these things [practical life activities] to make little servants of them, but because we have observed that of their own accord children actually take the greatest interest in perfecting all the movements of daily life.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 49
The children love to do these things [practical life activities] for themselves and they learn to be careful and precise in their movements. This is both education of movement, because there is a refinement of muscular co-ordination when the work is carefully done, and education through movement, because these activities involve judgement and will, self-discipline, and an appreciation of orderliness.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 49
When they arrive in the morning, there are many things to attend to. The children look after the classroom. They sweep with their own small brooms and dust and scrub and polish. Then there is their personal cleanliness. When a child’s hands are dirty, we do not take him to the basin and wash his hands or hold his face while we do the washing. The children learn to do these things for themselves as a matter of course.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 48-49
The greatest help you can give your children is the freedom to go about their own work in their own way, for in this matter your child knows better than you.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 45
If we change our whole attitude and say to ourselves, ‘My child knows what is best for him. Let us of course watch that he comes to no harm, but instead of trying to teach him our ways let us give him the freedom to live his little life in his own way,’ then perhaps, if we are observant, we shall learn something about the ways of childhood.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 44-45
We say that we correct them for their own good, and a great deal of the time we honestly believe it. But it is strange how often what we feel to their good amounts to the same thing as our own comfort.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 43
If you interfere impatiently and stop some absorbing occupation, you will destroy your child’s concentration and perseverance – valuable lessons he is teaching himself –, he will be dissatisfied and filled with a sense of disappointment and restlessness, and may very likely find an outlet in deliberate mischief.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 42-43
It is often not enough for children to do a thing once or twice, but they will perform the same simple action over and over again until they seem to have satisfied some inner urge.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 42
This young life that we are trying to mould needs no forcing and squeezing, no correcting or faultfinding to develop its intelligence and character. Nature looks after children in the same way as she sees that the tadpole grows into a frog when the time is ready.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 42
Our part is to give help when we are asked. If we are careful not to interfere with a child’s activities and interests as long as they are not harmful, nature will see to his development.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 40
We call our schools Children’s Houses, and in them the children are masters of the house. When we have visitors we do not allow them to behave as though the children are objects on display to be questioned. Our visitors come as guests to the Children’s House, and we expect them to respect our children as guests respect their hosts.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 39
We are completely on the wrong track when we believe that expensive toys should keep a child happy, or that the child who has a nanny to do everything for him is particularly fortunate.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 33
A child’s work is based on doing things for their own sake. There is an end towards which his work is taking him: through his work he is building the man he will become. But the child doesn’t know this; he only knows that he takes delight in doing certain things. This is his work.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 32-33
We make learning difficult for children by trying to teach them by means of grown-up methods; the natural and happy way for children to learn, however, is by touching and moving solid objects, not by trying to memories rules.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 32
The wise mother will remember that play time is never wasted. So long as the children are busily absorbed, they are working at their own development – for children would rather work than play.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 34
Grown-ups think of play as a purposeless occupation that keeps children happy and out of mischief, but actually when children are left to play by themselves very little of their activity is purposeless.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 31
You will be surprised when I tell you that the greater part of what you call ‘play’ is really work.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 31
The spontaneous urge towards development, which is within the child, dictates its own pace. It is the part of a wise and loving parent to stand by, to watch the little one’s activities, to observe his growth rather than to try to force it.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 28
I do say that ‘don’ts’ are far less effective – indeed they are often definitely harmful when they fill a young child with fear or resentment – than providing him with some alternative activity at which he may work joyfully, forgetting all about the previous activity or behaviour which you were anxious for him to stop.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 28
We can love our children so dearly that it makes us blind to what is best for them. We can desire so eagerly that they shall grow into fine men and women that we correct and frustrate them at every turn without once realising that they have within themselves the power of their own development.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 28
It is on this principle of the development of the child through handling interesting objects that I have built up my method of education.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 27
It is tremendously important that we should understand the spontaneous way in which the child develops himself. We are so anxious to help, to us it seems the burden of growth and development is so great that we must do all we can to make the pathway easy. And so our love may easily overreach itself and by providing too many urges, too many cautions and corrections.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 26
I have said enough if I have persuaded you to undertake for yourself the interesting experiment of a visit to one of our schools to watch the happy little ones at work.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 23
Just as we cannot directly help the child’s body to grow into manhood, so we cannot form his mind or character for him. But we can supply his mental needs as we supply his bodily ones and both should be treated in an equally scientific way.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
Through concentration important qualities of character develop. When the concentration passes, the child is inwardly satisfied, he becomes aware of his companions in whom he shows a lively and sympathetic interest.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 22
From three to six years, children have a real ‘sense hunger’, they love to touch things, to fit different shapes together, to grade colours and musical sounds. The material is carefully gradated to satisfy the child’s every need, and once the child has fixed his attention, he becomes a little individual, no longer an imitator.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 22
There is no punishment or reward in our schools to interfere with the joy in the work itself. The only reward is in the completion of the work – it is at this time that internal discipline establishes itself, and the foundations of character are laid.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 22
When the child is finished [working] he is eager to share his joy, to help the little ones, and because the others have respected his work he never thinks of interfering with those who are still at work.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 22
Children of three or four will concentrate for an hour at a time without effort, and we are careful not to destroy this new power by the arbitrary demands of a fixed timetable.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 22
As the child learns to handle the materials carefully his delight grows, and eventually he can be trusted to dust the cupboard with the fragile glasses inside. There is no need to worry about his ungainly movements [...] they will vanish of their own accord.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
During many years of experiment and observation, I discovered that children learn naturally through activity, and that their characters develop through freedom. But these are general principles, which require practical application, and the Montessori materials have been evolved to meet this need.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
The teacher shows the child how to use the materials, how to wash himself, but it is the child who handles the material, perfects himself in his exercise, and keeps his face clean of his own accord. Thus he is both active and free, and from these two factors is created that vital quality of a strong character: internal discipline.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
We give the child nourishing food so that his little body may grow, and in just the same way we must provide him with suitable nourishment for his mental and moral growth.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
On every teacher and every parent, I urge not great instruction, but humility and simplicity in dealing with small children. Their lives are fresh, without rivalry or external ambitions, it takes so little to make them happy, to let them work in their own way towards the normal development of the men and women they will be.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 18
The adult must not interfere, must not act instead of the child. Give him the means and let him act: his freedom consists of this.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 18
We say this to the teachers in training who enter the Children’s House. ‘Stand by, remain silent, and do not speak a word to the children, do not make any noise. Here the children are in their own world, you must observe simply by looking, you must not wish to judge, correct, or teach. It is only in this way that you can enter into the spirit and practice of the teacher.’
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 17
The great benefit we can bestow on childhood is the exercise of restraint in ourselves.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 18
We do not know this spontaneous being: the child who tries to work constantly. If we did not recognise him as such before, it was because we put obstacles in his path.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 16
You may say that you know how to respect the child, and that perhaps is true but in a moral and theoretical way. I mean it literally: children must be respected as social, human personalities of the first order.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 16
We give the child nourishing food so that his little body may grow, and in just the same way we must provide him with suitable nourishment for his mental and moral growth.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
To understand the needs of the child and to supply these so that his life develops fully, that is the aim underlying my method.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
Those who say it is our duty to keep the child in blind obedience, that we have a right to correct, and that in consequence the child will become intelligent, good, and instructed, are deceiving themselves.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 17
We give the child nourishing food so that his little body may grow, and in just the same way we must provide him with suitable nourishment for his mental and moral growth. Just as we cannot directly help his body to grow into manhood, so we cannot form his mind or character for him. But we can supply his mental needs as we supply his bodily ones and both should be treated in an equally scientific way.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
I have been observing the child at work for many years and have provided for him in the school a new world for his activity. In his school environment he finds objects which he can handle easily, small chairs and tables which he can manage himself, materials that satisfy his inner urge to work and teach him through his own initiative.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 18
In the home, the ideal environment for the child should also contain child-sized furniture, and utensils which he can handle himself.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 18
To understand the needs of the child and to supply these so that his life develops fully, that is the aim underlying my method.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 20
Here we are mistaken. We treat these children as objects, ordering them about, placing them here and there, and forcing them to fit into our world without the slightest consideration of the lives they live in a world of their own.
Great evils are not resolved by alleviating a collective error. Take the case of woman’s emancipation: it is not a question of giving women a few more rights, but of recognizing a human personality full of vigor, capable of giving a great and sure contribution to the progress of humanity.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 15
We, as adults, must play a new role – we must understand that instead of helping the child we only hinder him if we try to mold him directly.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 16
Adult and child work in entirely different ways. The adult works on the environment and transforms it to suit himself with definite ends in view. The child works to become a man; by an inner force which urges him to continual activity he acquires little by little his mature characteristics.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 16
Do we really need to take for granted any method of education which involves suffering? Perhaps we, educationalists and parents alike, are going together, urged by love, along an enclosed path without an exit. Perhaps we ought rather to turn back and try another road.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 15
Children develop their brains as well as their bodies through movement, and in the process of concentration, self-discipline, and perseverance with an active interest, the foundations of character are laid. To give our children a fine start in life we must see that their surroundings satisfy their need for activity and development, remembering at the same time that our own part is not that of instructor and interferer but of helper and friend.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 51
So many childish activities seem trivial to grown-ups, but a child’s concentration is not a trivial thing. Break that often enough and he will suffer all his life.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 50
What if this child knows nothing of the end he will achieve? If he is allowed to use his spontaneous activity in a tranquil environment without interference or unasked-for help, he is indeed engaged in a most important work: he is building the [person] he will one day be.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 46
Is it through work alone that a child develops.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 44
Children are so responsive that if you treat your child with kindness and consideration he too will be kind. If you let him pursue his own little affairs and interests undisturbed, you will find that he will be less inclined to disturb yours.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 41
The child who is handling specially designed materials at school, the child at home who is allowed to dress himself, help lay the table, in fact carry on the hundred and one activities that interest him and harm nobody, is in reality busily at work on his development – and the method of his learning is through movement.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 34
Your little sons and daughters are men and women in the making. Let them keep their childish secret and you will have the satisfaction of having them turn to you for help when they need it, and you will see over the years how the secret of their childhood grows into adult firmness of character and a fine independence.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 24
A child does not know why he is interested in a particular object or movement at a particular moment – the important thing is that he is interested, and that it is natural for his mind to grow just as his body does, therefore what interests him at the moment is appropriate for his needs.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 23
A child without a secret becomes an adult without personality.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 21
Grown-ups think of play as a purposeless occupation that keeps children happy and out of mischief, but actually when children are left to play by themselves very little of their activity is purposeless.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 17
When a child is tirelessly trying to make patterns with his blocks simply because he is interested, there is no need for outside discipline, the child is disciplining himself.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 13
The great benefit we can bestow on childhood is the exercise of restraint in ourselves.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 5
These children are not to be treated as in other schools, where we begin by examining how they are taught, whether they understand, and if they are disciplined. We have on the contrary to learn something else, essential and fundamental, something we should learn from the first day: how to respect the child.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 3
The child works to become [an adult]; by an inner force which urges him to continual activity he acquires little by little his mature characteristics.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 2
With regard to the social question of the child, the wrongs are due to a fundamental error. It is a question of reforming the reformers: we all need to be changed. We are the adults and the child depends on us; his sufferings, in spite of our good intentions, come from us. If, owing to an error on our part, these evils occur, then it is necessary that the adult’s attitude should be reformed.
Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, p. 2