When paying tribute to the memory and legacy of Renilde Montessori, the youngest grandchild of Maria Montessori who died recently, the most fitting way to honour her is to celebrate her vision of Educateurs sans Frontières. This most inspired of Renilde’s initiatives gave new meaning to Montessori’s vision bringing us back to the ideals of San Lorenzo. Renilde stressed the importance of placing that inheritance in a contemporary context. She saw the Educateurs as educators without boundaries, ‘able and willing to go where their presence is required. Never to intrude, not to indoctrinate, but to help and encourage others to learn, to rediscover the wise and ancient plan for wholesome growth with which all humans are endowed.’
In light of the fact that Maria Montessori had just had her two major books on the Psico approach published (Psicogeometria and Psicoaritmetica) and also completed her manuscript on a psychological approach to language (Psicogrammatica), this particular lecture on language is a powerful testimony to the psychological workings and how interest in language is sparked and developed. Montessori includes samples from very young children (1-2 years) to children of six to seven years, who traditionally were viewed as being “ready” to engage with language at an abstract level, via reading and writing. Again, in this lecture Montessori shows that it is the interest in letters, and hence writing, that precedes reading.
Paola Trabalzini gives an enlightening introduction to Maria Montessori’s Literary Experiment to introduce the poetry of Dante to children, initially to adolescents of 12-14, but later also 10-year olds embraced the study of Inferno [Hell]. Ms Trabalzini demonstrates that this lecture elucidates how the understanding of Dante's work follows a free and natural course, in which the children put forward proposals for new activities to answer their need to know; proposals which originate from the inner learning process experienced by the children with energy and enthusiasm. The essence is, as in all aspects of Montessori education, that this perfectly proves the case for auto-education.
Maria Montessori describes to her students on this London course how she worked with young adolescents and 10-year-olds on a poem of Italy’s greatest poet Dante. The children became fascinated with the Divine Comedy in which the poet relates of his journey through the regions of the dead—Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. Such high and intricate literature is usually considered as far beyond young children. This poem of Dante is full of philosophy, full of references to historical events, but what the children felt was an utter communion with the spirit of the poem and the poet.
Mario Federici was a well-known Italian critic and playwright, and married to Maria Agamben—a graduate in literature, teacher and journalist. During the fascist years, the couple went abroad where Maria Agamben continued to teach at Italian cultural institutes which included Montessori schools. It was that circumstance that allowed them to see from up close the exciting initiative in Barcelona: when they saw children embrace Dante in their own manner. As Trabalzini reports in her article, Agamben wrote several articles on this phenomenon. In this instance, Federici writes with absolute delight on what he and his wife had witnessed, seeing the children perform Dante, which also gave him reason to voice his utter disapproval of the old-fashioned ways of the theatre.
Mr Quade, AMI trainer at the primary level, gives a very concise and enlightening overview of how Executive Functions relate and respond to the Montessori prepared environment. He takes in all aspects and of fers insightful observations on the recognition of sensitive periods—for order, movement, language, sensory refinement, sensitivity for small objects, and social behaviour. All these enable Montessori teachers to provide opportunities for learning at the optimal moment of receptivity.
Ms Awes, AMI trainer at the elementary level, carefully explains how children inherit the potential for language and how its acquisition is virtually guaranteed. All typical children, regardless of culture, will at a given moment come to speak their native language. Montessori found that the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, and human tendencies assist in this acquisition. In contrast, written language does not come naturally to human beings. Children will not develop writing and reading without some degree of direct experience, preparation, and instruction—and this is where obstacles experienced may manifest themselves as dyslexia.
In conclusion, Hope Leyson brings together many of the aspects that were described and highlighted in the articles selected for this particular issue of our Journal. Language, pertinent theories, and new discoveries into how the language areas in the brain function will continue to evolve. Language development provides an ine xhaustible and joy ful source of observation and learning. And in our Montessori environments language is vibrant, innovative and it encourages creativity. Ms Leyson revels in the miracle of all that human language is, signifies and brings to our world. She of fers the reader a very well-researched overview of a host of aspects connected with the phenomenon and study of human language.
This letter appears to be the first document on adolescent education that has survived; it shows the origins of Montessori’s ideas on this area.
A report by Countess Lubienska on the preparations and curriculum of the XX International Montessori Course, Nice, 1934. We have chosen this document to substitute for a missing original text on this theme by Montessori herself.
This lecture delivered at the Institute of Medical Psychology, London, 10 November 1936 calls for a plan of education which ‘strikes at the very roots of the nobler human feelings’, warning of the deviations or ‘complexes’ that function as masks of the human personality. The sciences of psychology and education must be applied so that education may be based on the human personality.
Dated around the mid 1930s, and edited by Greg J. MacDonald, this document quietly describes ‘social orientation’ in terms of the great sense of calling adolescents experience.
In the 34th lecture given at the 23rd International Course Amsterdam, 1938, Montessori uses the term ‘psychic confusion’ to describe the unrest of adolescence, and suggests the adolescent’s courage as the means for finding the right path. As in the previous article, Montessori mentions sub-planes or stages of adolescent development.
In this 37th lecture of the 23rd International Course Amsterdam 1938, Montessori seeks to educate the emergent personality, the personality that finds its roots in nature’s norms evolving in an optimally prepared environment. When unobstructed, adolescent flow finds normality joyful and freeing; the resulting power and focus in life’s pursuits brings a high degree of self-realization at the end of adolescence, as contrasted with melancholy and death wish.
This address was delivered to the Educational Committee of the Association of Head Mistresses on May 12, 1939 by Miss Phoebe Child on behalf of Dr Maria Montessori. Clearly written to be easily read aloud, to a small and knowledgeable audience, the speech centres on the functional independence of a farmstead, emphasizing the occupations leading to economic independence.
Against the backdrop of a cosmic vision inspired by the beauty of the Kodaikanal lakes and mountains, and in the context of a period spent intensely studying the elementary years, Dr Montessori discusses rapid adolescent physical and psychical change, including new emotions and inner agitation, as the young adult seeks something more than study.
As a member of the founding team of the Hershey Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, OH, Mr Barker is heavily interested in the origins of Erdkinder and presents us with a well-researched article. The background into the history of reform pedagogy’s concepts for the secondary school around the 1900s inspired by the Landerziehungsheime is thorough, clear, and enlightening.
Professor Tornar provides a framework in which we can clearly see how Montessori’s ideas on adolescence developed, and how they progress naturally from her thoughts on early childhood.
This article describes the synthesis of some of the work that has been the natural outcome of the collaboration of Montessorians working and communicating through conferences, journals, shared programme development, and particularly through the summer work of the Orientation to Adolescent Studies.
Ms Salassa presents an account of data in order to reconstruct some significant experiences carried out in Italy in the late 1950s up to today, giving a brief outline from both a historical and a didactic-pedagogical point of view.
In his speech delivered in 1970 in Paris at the Montessori Congress held in occasion of UNESCO’s centenary celebration of Dr Montessori’s birth, Herman J. Jordan describes the early stages in the establishment of a new Montessori lyceum, its development and the principles guiding the work of the founders.
The Montessori Lyceum of Amsterdam (MLA) is the oldest Montessori secondary school in the world. Although Maria Montessori had obviously started thinking about adolescent education long before its establishment in 1930, no other organization, or association of parents, had taken concrete steps towards the realization of an adolescent environment along Montessori principles. This account offers some interesting historical insights in how the Dutch communicated with Dr Montessori on the establishment of such a school.
‘The first duty of the educator, whether he is working with the newborn infant or an older child, is to recognize the human personality of the young being and respect it’. This quotation by Maria Montessori is leading in Ms Hoglund’s expose on the significance of valorization, and what elements are the most important contributory factors.