Perhaps the most influential educator of the twentieth century, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and the first woman doctor in Italy, Maria Montessori lived from 1870 to 1952. She worked extensively with mentally handicapped children and after several years of developing her principles and methods, she opened a school for normal children in 1907, in the slums in Rome. After more than 100 years, there are tens of thousands of Montessori schools all over the world where adults are honoring the inner teacher of the child.
The Montessori Method supports the development of the whole child--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and recognizes and nurtures the child's spontaneous developmental impulses. This method of education offers children constructive choices and fosters the deep concentration necessary to put children in touch with their own inner teacher and thus awaken them to the light within. This method requires a particular spiritual preparation and transformation of the adult who works with the child as well as a carefully prepared environment designed to support the child's development.
Montessori education is an aid to life, and as such, the principles and practices can be applied throughout the span of human development, from birth to adulthood. Adults who are trained in this method, typically undergo extensive training and engage in hands-on practice of the principles so that they are prepared to work with children. Typically, Montessori certification is offered in the following areas:
Most Montessori schools in North America are privately owned, although for the past 20 years, there has been a growing movement advocating Montessori for all children and expanding the number of public Montessori schools in the United States. In general, Montessori schools typically serve children from 3 to 12 years old, with some offering a middle school program for children 12 to 15, typically called "Adolescent Programs" with some Adolescent programs continuing on to the high school years. In addition, there are more and more schools that provide services for children younger than 3, as the Montessori Assistants to Infancy methods are becoming increasingly more important to develop that solid foundation the children need when starting Primary.
A little known fact about the Montessori Method is that it also includes extensive training for adults who are interested in the spiritual development of the child. Maria Montessori was a devout Catholic and she worked Gianna Gobbi who then collaborated with Sofia Cavalletti (links to Cathechesis site) to develop the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori approach to the religious instruction of the child. There are some Montessori schools that have a religious education program for their students.