The above photo is Prince William's first day of Montessori school, with Lady Diana and Prince Charles in attendance.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently made headlines for their choice of schools for their young son, Prince George. They have chosen a Montessori school, just as Prince Charles and Lady Diana chose for George’s father, Prince William.
Long before these headlines, Dr. Maria Montessori first appeared in the news in 1907, when she opened a school in the slums of Rome. In very short order, dignitaries and royalty began visiting her little school, astonished by what they found. They saw little children behaving better than their own, concentrating on difficult tasks, respectful, confident, independent, knowledgeable. Surely poverty was not an advantage! Why then were these children so much more advanced?
Montessori found that while wealth might have its privileges, it also has its pitfalls. Children from wealthy homes often lacked for older friends, for challenging work, for freedom of choice, for opportunities to become young adults. In essence, some wealthy children were given “everything” while having “nothing.”
So, when Queen Margherita of Italy visited early on for the first time, so amazed was she that she exclaimed, “I prophecy that a new philosophy of life will arise from what we are learning from these little children.”
There is something universal about the Montessori method. It appeals to royalty, as well as to families whose means are far below the poverty line. Why is the method so attractive? As one Dutch psychologist said more than 60 years ago, “The Montessori doctrine has awakened in man sentiments which have always existed in a subconscious and latent manner in people’s hearts, awaiting only the necessary stimulus to become rapidly and vividly conscious.”
If parents and educators will take time long enough to understand the Montessori method, they will find that the answers for its success exist within themselves. For Montessori unleashes the hidden potential in all children, and the characteristic of “reaching for something greater” lives within all of us, and always will.
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