Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy is often called “follow the child.” We trust that children, given support and a rich environment, will learn as their intellect and sociable natures dictate. They begin by learning practical life skills: to put on their own shoes and jacket, to pour a glass a water and clean up any spills, to make and serve a snack.
Children construct their own character, building up in themselves the qualities we admire. These do not spring from our example or admonishments, but they result solely form a long and slow sequence of activities carried out by the child.
They also learn to organize and refine their own senses, distinguishing dimensions and shapes, colors, weights, and all the rich detail that life offers. And through their learning, children develop concentration, order, and independence.
Children, aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others.
Once they have begun to concentrate independently, they may move on to the writing, reading, and math skills that define traditional education. A Montessori student, upon embarking on the long course of education that begins with learning their ABCs and 123s, has already learned how to focus their concentration, coordinate their movements, and remember the sequence of events needed to complete a task.
The child who concentrates is immensely happy…. When he comes out of his concentration, he seems to perceive the world anew as a boundless field for fresh discoveries. He also becomes aware of his classmates in whom he takes an affectionate interest…. He becomes friendly to everyone, ready to admire all that is beautiful.