"The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six... At no other age has the child greater need for an intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of achieving perfection." Since Maria Montessori wrote these words, research has shown the importance of early years. During this period, unconscious learning is gradually brought to the conscience level, and the foundations for later learning are laid down.
Children have to be respected as being different from adults, and as individuals who differ from each other. They possess unusual sensitivity, and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment that are unlike those of adults in both quantity and capacity. They have a deep love and need for purposeful work. When they are 'playing' they are indeed 'working' to learn all about the world around them.
The classroom is ordered and well planned. The curriculum and teaching materials are carefully selected and presented to the children. This provides the structure for their learning.
The role of the teacher is different from that of a traditional teacher. She first observes and then directs the child's activities, so that he learns for himself through experience of the environment. She is the dynamic link between the child and the environment.
The Montessori approach aims to allow children to grow naturally, to retain their individuality and develop their own unique personality.
''The teachers task'' Maria Montessori wrote,''is no small or easy one!, she has to prepare a huge amount of knowledge to satisfy the child's mental hunger, and she is not, like the ordinary teacher, limited by a syllabus''.