The basic idea in the Montessori philosophy of education is that all children carry within “the adult they will become”. In order to develop their physical and intellectual powers to the fullest, they must have freedom; a freedom to be achieved through order and self-discipline. The world of the child is full of sights and sounds, which at first can appear chaotic. From this chaos, children must gradually create order and learn to distinguish among the impressions that assail their senses, slowly but surely gaining mastery of Self and their environment.
Children who have had the benefit of a Montessori environment are freer at a later age to devote themselves more exclusively to the development of their intellectual facilities. The method by which children are taught in the Montessori school involves the use of many materials with which the children may work individually. At every step of their learning, the teaching materials are designed to test their understanding and to correct their errors.
Dr. Maria Montessori recognized that the most important requirement for learning is the self-motivation of the child. Children move themselves toward learning. The teacher prepares the environment, structures the activities, functions as the reference person and role model, and offers the children stimulation; but the children are the ones who learn, who are motivated through the work itself (not solely by the teacher’s personality) to persist in their chosen tasks. If Montessori children are free to learn, it is because they have acquired an inner discipline from their exposure to both physical and mental order—this is the core of Dr. Montessori’s educational philosophy. Social adjustment, though it is a necessary adjustment for learning in a schoolroom, is not the purpose of education. Patterns of concentration, persistence, and the thoroughness established in early childhood produce a confident learner in later years. Schools have existed historically to teach children to observe, to think, to judge. Montessori adds to that the joy of learning at an early age and provides the framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand in hand.