Teacher Education

Types of Montessori Teaching

In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori discovered the child’s true nature by observing young children in their free activity with self-teaching materials. Her further research revealed this nature as consisting of various normal qualities, such as spontaneous self-discipline, love of order and perfect harmony with others. Discovering this fundamental truth logically provoked Dr. Montessori to study how to consistently allow this to emerge in practice. In time, this practical scientific research was referred to as “Montessori teaching”.

Soon after 1907, however, Dr. Montessori found she could not fully bring about her original experience of true normal being in a consistent, reliable manner. Montessori teaching, therefore, came to be largely understood in a conventional context of personality, culture, or other ideas that fundamentally distorted its original experience, purpose, and effect.

Experience and Wisdom
Over time, true normal being was lost and confused with other ideas, the experience of or rejected entireley as an impossible fantasy, practitioners forgot or distorted any experience of the child’s true nature according to an understanding and knowledge that developed and became rigidly fixed thereafter. Experiencing absolute truth, however, requires a quality of natural wisdom and humility that extends far beyond any particular body of knowledge or understanding on the subject.

Dr. Montessori, therefore, gradually abandoned her original experience and scientific approach to true normal being, establishing in its place a relatively fixed understanding built around curriculum, materials, and certain broad general concepts, such as observation, preparation of the environment, and individual liberty. She conveyed this restrictive type of Montessori teaching through training courses for teachers, issuing certificates to graduates to qualify them for setting up schools using the name “Montessori”.

In her later years, Dr. Montessori established an official organization, known as Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), to exclusively represent and support her work by granting Montessori teacher certification, recognizing schools, and publishing her books and writings. Unfortunately, this activity became less about research and learning through new experiences, and more about defending a fixed understanding and body of knowledge associated with prescribed certification, curriculum, and specific learning materials.

Before Dr. Montessori died in 1952, E. M. Standing wrote an impressively detailed biography, “Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work”. In this book, he attempted to explain the underlying philosophy and scientific foundation of Montessori’s discoveries. After 1952, however, no one seriously followed up on Standing’s line of research until the current writer started his own investigation into the subject in 1969.  Through classroom teaching and later by training Montessori teachers, he came to suddenly discover how Montessori teaching brings about true normal being. In 1979, the International Montessori Society (IMS) was established to help people learn and practice this unique type of true natural Montessori teaching. However, it was widely misunderstood, challenged as invalid, or trivialized as irrelevant due to its fundamental difference with the conventional experiences, practices, and understanding of others.

What Would Dr. Montessori Say?
People wonder what Dr. Montessori might say now to new experiences and discoveries about her original approach with children. Among the few people still living who knew her personally, one claimed she would be “exasperated” by anyone asserting new knowledge about her approach, viewing it as unnecessary or insignificant. For example, Dr. Montessori might argue that "Skilled teachers already know how to conduct my approach” or "You really don't understand it". In the end, she would probably urge the persistent researcher to enroll into one of her authorized training courses to obtain a proper understanding of her approach.

Objective Research and Science
Conventional educators often speak most highly in favor of objective, scientific research in the study of children and education. However, in practice, they tend to quickly reject any findings that contradict their own strong beliefs on the subject. For example, conventional educators tend to view true natural Montessori teaching as antiquated, saying, “We know so much more since the time of Dr. Montessori. The library is full of more up-to-date research.”

In the 1980’s, the International Montessori Society (IMS) presented its true natural Montessori teaching for government approval to operate a training course in the state of Maryland. In the process, government officials submitted the course curriculum to conventional educators for their evaluation. The response was almost total uniform rejection, stating for example, that the course was “lacking structure”, “unclear”, and “not theoretically developed”.

Conventional Montessori educators also rejected the IMS course as well. For example, the American Montessori Society (AMS) found the course was not approvable, in part, because “The assignments are irrelevant to the Montessori classroom.” The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) rejected it also, stating only briefly that “We find this program to be of a far too superficial level…” Since there was no further explanation or discussion about these remarks, the question remains: “What is the key distinction between these various types of Montessori teaching?”

Distinguishing the Types
The AMI type of Montessori teaching views Dr. Montessori’s personal endorsement as official and final authority on all issues in the field. The idea here is, for example, “Whatever is not offered through AMI cannot be authentic Montessori teaching.” In this context, the AMI perspective is the same fixed understanding of Dr. Montessori in her later years, which is essentially a commitment to her personality. In practice, AMI implements this personality type of Montessori teaching through the judgment, authority, and control of Dr. Montessori’s biological heirs and long-time personal associates.

AMS subscribes to a different type of Montessori teaching, viewing the surrounding culture as the final basis of authority and truth in the matter. This culture type of Montessori teaching views the child’s true nature as dependent on the surrounding conditions in society. For example, the child in America is fundamentally different from the child in India. In this context, Montessori teaching must ultimately conform to the limiting beliefs, values and understanding of truth in the surrounding conventional society.

By contrast, IMS represents Montessori teaching as a scientific way of being to bring about the child’s true nature as Dr. Montessori discovered it in 1907. This true natural type is committed to infinite, eternal, and absolute laws of nature, which do not vary according to personality or culture. In 2003, a special technology emerged to greatly simplify the practice of this true natural Montessori teaching in a highly objective and reliable manner.

Choosing your Type
Human nature makes it relatively easy and logical to choose the conventional types of Montessori teaching, following either personality (AMI) or culture (AMS). However, neither of these types lead to the child’s true nature. Happily, you can now also choose the true natural type of Montessori teaching (IMS) if you wish to faithfully follow the way of being that allowed Dr. Montessori to discover the child’s true nature in 1907.