Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Studying the Works of Dr. Montessori: Exploring the Absorbent Mind

“We know how to find pearls in the shells of oysters, gold in the mountains and coal in the bowels of the earth, but we are unaware of the spiritual germs, the creative nebulae, that the child hides in himself when he enters this world to renew mankind.” – Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. v.

NAMC studying Dr. Montessori's works portrait of Maria

New Year’s resolutions…do you keep them or do you break them? Making resolutions dates back to Roman times, when officials pledged to remain loyal to the republic on the first day of the year. The Roman god Janus, for whom January is named, was portrayed as having two heads – one looking forward to the future and one reflecting on the past.

The majority of resolutions today have to do with improving our health, relationships, or finances. When I thought about the past year and what I could have done better, I thought in terms of how to become a better Montessorian.
The answer was quite simple: return to the words of Dr. Montessori herself. I made the commitment to reread several key books, beginning with Montessori’s The Absorbent Mind.

Exploring and Studying the Works of Dr. Montessori

I first read The Absorbent Mind when I completed my Montessori training in the early 2000s. Prior to that, I had been only vaguely familiar with the teachings of Dr. Montessori. There were a few short paragraphs dedicated to her in my educational psychology book as an undergraduate. Her philosophy and methods were discounted by my conventional education professors.

I own the 1995 edition, published by Henry Holt and Company. Written in India after the Second World War and translated from Italian to English in1958 by Claude Claremont, it is a culmination of Montessori’s years as a scientist and teacher. The language is entirely Dr. Montessori’s. It is scientifically precise and, as she told her teachers to do, she has ensured that every word has meaning. Those unfamiliar with Montessori’s writing style may take offense to her clear speech and seemingly outdated vernacular. However, it is apparent when reading her work that Montessori’s ideas were ahead of her contemporaries. Her ideas regarding sensitive periods of development and language acquisition are only now being researched by contemporary constructivists.

NAMC studying Dr. Montessori's works page from new students reference work
A page from the book, The New Student's Reference Work, praising Dr. Montessori's new method and listing supporters, such as Alexander Graham Bell (5 volumes, Chicago, 1914)

I am constantly astounded when reading current educational journals of the many “new” ideas that actually can be traced back to Dr. Montessori’s own writing. I shake my head in wonder, thinking what education might have been like if she had not been discredited so many years ago by her contemporaries.

Reading Dr. Montessori’s writings again, it is amazing to consider the depth of insight and the relevant ideas concerning children and their education found in her words. Exploring her works is definitely a positive and inspirational undertaking for any Montessorian. To that end, we will be examining the works of Dr. Montessori as an ongoing regular feature on the NAMC blog. We hope you will join us as we discuss Dr. Montessori's writings in further detail, starting with The Absorbent Mind, and the implications of Montessori education today.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.


  1. Our staff is doing a book study on the Absorbent Mind. We have just completed the chapters On Language and The Call of Language. We look forward to following your blog and gaining additional insights from you and the followers who comment. T


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