The First "Children's House"

Sweetwater Montessori School Preschool and Kindergarten Logo

Much to Dr. Montessori’s delight she was asked to head a project in planning that was to help the children in the San Lorenzo quarter of Rome. Finally she could use the same method she devised with the children in the asylums on “normal” preschool children. Her intuition told her she would get good results. This was a very poor area where young children were left alone all day while their parents worked and older brothers and sisters where in school. There were approximately sixty preschool children ages three to six who were all crying and suffered from many maladies. Dr. Montessori received help first from the porter's daughter and then a seamstress. Dr. Montessori showed them how to use the materials so that the children would receive the lessons accurately. Dr. Montessori spent many hours observing the children; this is how she mastered her method. She observed as the preschool children showed great concentration on their tasks. She concluded that the spontaneous interest of young children is the mainspring of their work. She also observed that repetition is essential in the preschool child’s manner of work. She discovered that preschool children love order. All of the materials where placed in a large locked cabinet. The teacher would get materials out and put them away. Dr. Montessori observed that the children would follow the teacher and watch intently as she put the materials away. To the teacher this was just disobedience, but Dr. Montessori realized that this was something the children needed to do. Children of ages twelve months to three and a half years are in their sensitive period for order. Children also need freedom of choice. One day when the cabinet was unlocked and the teacher was late, the children went into the cabinet and took out what they wanted to use and then replaced it where they found it. Other very interesting and important discoveries Dr. Montessori made through her observations were that preschool children would choose work over play, that they gained spontaneous self-discipline, and that very importantly, children do not need rewards or punishment for their behavior. The rewards are going to the next level of work and redirecting or sitting with the directress giving lessons are the means to use to help children who are having behavioral difficulties. Children have a great deal of self dignity which should be respected by all. To her amazement she saw preschool children having what she called an explosion in writing which leads to an explosion into reading.

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