OK, it may seem funny for the self-professed Waldorf-inspired mama to be celebrating Maria Montessori’s birthday, but there is just so much I love about this gentle Christian early childhood educator! And I have my own theory about big-T Truth. I think we all are born with an innate desire to draw nearer to God. It’s that part of us that strives for Truth and Beauty and Justice and Mercy and yes, even Joy! And some of us might have a different name for it or not even know what it is that’s calling us towards that which is right and good, but it’s Truth-with-a-capital-T. I think Steiner got some good glimpses of this Truth, and even though I disagree with some (many) of his conclusions, I do believe he was being courted by God and called into the light of His presence. And Maria Montessori? She was a woman who just shone with Truth.
From an early age, she went against social conventions. At 14, she entered a boys’ technical school, something unheard of at the time. Engineering! Pre-med! And then the woman actually had the audacity to become a physician! She worked in a psychiatric clinic and began to take an interest in special needs children.
She brought her methods to the US, where she set up an observation classroom at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. For four months, people could watch her 21 students through a glass wall. Her anti-fascist views drove her from her homeland in Italy during World War II and she was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She inspired countless schools, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and was an advocate of early communion for children. The evening before she died, she wrote:
Never, as in this moment, has the Christian faith needed the sincere effort of those who profess it. I would like to ask all of you, who are gathered in this meeting, to consider the great help that children can bring to the defense of our faith.
Children come to us as a rain of souls, as a richness and a promise which can always be fulfilled but which needs the help of our efforts for its fulfillment.
Do not consider the child a weakling: the child is the builder of the human personality. That this personality be Christian or not depends on the environment around him and on those who guide his religious formation.
Do not think that because the child cannot understand in the same way that we adults understand that it is useless to allow him to participate in our religious practices.
Some other ideas that I love and feel translate well into our way of life?
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”
Yes, experiences like filling your home with meaningful activities like baking, cleaning, and handwork and allowing your child to participate at his or her own level to me.
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul.”
Sounds like a good reason to surround your child with beauty.
“When dealing with children there is a greater need for observing than of probing.”
Absolutely. So don’t prod your child ahead to the next big thing. Instead, take some time to watch them and appreciate where they are.
“Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.”
So think about what you place in your child’s world and allow the things that enter it to be beautiful and of living materials.
“The child becomes a person through work.”
Give them the example of meaningful work and let them work alongside you.
“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”
Amen! So get outside. Celebrate the rhythms to the days, the seasons, the year.
“Of all things, love is most potent.”
Happy Birthday, Dr. Montessori! Thank you for your tireless work for Truth.
Pssssttt… speaking of wonderful women who shine with the Truth, go visit Gae over at Cherished Hearts at Home for a chance to win the complete set of Seasons of Joy books!