Monday, October 1, 2012

Life of Dr. Maria Montessori: Essentials

One of today's talks was on the essentials of Dr. Montessori's life - who was she, how she discovered, and what she discovered.

What is essential to share in a formation course, getting to the point without dwelling for just too long. 

The whole talk left me holding back tears - tears that most people in the room would not have understood. The second reason was one that could be announced publicly and was an essential point to the mention. The first reason is something that I myself see, is very personal for me, and is perhaps not as deeply understood by most. 

The second half of the talk, it was discussed for a bit that academic Montessori has lost its inherent spirituality; that Montessori's books that have been re-printed are *substantially* shorter than the originals because editors have removed religious and spiritual references and "modernized" something that never should need modernizing!  

All I could think of was the painful experience that was AMI elementary training. Persecution for being not only involved in Catechesis of the Good Sheperd, but specifically a Catholic to boot (and boot they did!) -- but also a homeschooler. I do not think that just one of these facts alone would have caused the treatment I received, but the combination of the three and the fact that I was quietly holding my faith without angst against anyone else made the trainers LIVID. 

Yes, I cried today. It is time to admit the truth. I am not pressing a discrimination lawsuit against AMI or the elementary training center I attended, although I could have - and perhaps still could. I am not going to. But the discrimination against CGS, Catholicism, spirituality of Dr. Montessori, and the Christian faith in general has GOT. TO. STOP. 

Dr. Maria Montessori was Catholic. Plain and simple. My elementary Montessori trainers *apologized* for that! Repeatedly! Why not just respect her beliefs and move on? Same as we are supposed to be respecting everyone's beliefs in this world of "tolerance"? So, when they have all sorts of suggestions for adapting the Story of God With No Hands, I turned in the original version with only two modifications: I created an aura around not even the sun could see the changes taking place on the earth so a veil of clouds was drawn over the earth (rather than it being a "shame" thing, which leaving the shame part could have actually related back to original sin... now I think about it more... but I'll keep my "mysterious changes"); and I did change references to "millions of years" and references to immense passages of time to "in obeying God's laws." My reasons are mine alone and I expected they would be respected on equal footing of those whose modifications included references to "powers" instead of "angels" and others. 

Nope. I was ripped apart in my elementary Montessori training for mostly keeping the original story - because it was too Christian. Too Catholic. And that was only the beginning. 

But the first reason I cried in the formation leaders course today? Was it sadness? Joy? Deep appreciation? Or just the intense feelings that come from facing a reality much bigger than I? 

100 years ago, a young physician gave up her child as an infant so that she could embark on this great discovery that would change the world --- she sacrificed her motherhood to bring something precious to mothers everywhere. 

TODAY, I embrace her discoveries and see them in the development of my own precious child, that I KEPT - that I had a choice to raise myself or place for adoption. The same choice SHE faced. And I can choose a different path - a choice she never had. 

*I* get the best of both worlds. 
And she did not have her son by her side until he was 15 years old. I do not need to face the pain of that separation. My son is with me every day, from birth until today. 

My 8 year old son told me this past Friday that he is happy he homeschools. Why? Is it because he gets to play with his Legos longer than most boys? Read as many books as he can cram into a day? Study The Hobbit in an online course with my favorite college literature professor? Adjust our sleeping schedule later so we can watch the night sky every - single - night!? Is it because of the great Montessori method we follow that allows lots and lots of exploration time while covering all the necessaries and that totally respects him as a person and his ongoing development !? 

NO. He is happy he homeschools --- because he gets to snuggle with Mama all day, every day. 

Maria Montessori sacrificed. I don't have to. She was made a stronger person, with her strong passion for her discoveries because of what she gave up to make it happen. She KNEW something wonderful was there, and she made a sacrifice - one I could never have made. She spent every moment separated from her son making it worth it - and then he joined her in her work only when he was 15 years old. 

She didn't get to snuggle with her son every day for those 15 years.

And I get to keep my son with me. All day. Every day. 

Thank you, Maria Montessori!

UPDATED 2/7/2014
My first reason for tears is for HER - for the pain she endured during those years without her son. And for me, because I cannot imagine how I could have borne that pain, knowing I never have to. I feel for her - I feel for me. I understand her on a level very few can.

The second reason for my tears is the loss of spirituality - so much so that while my academic elementary Montessori trainers apologized for Montessori's Catholicism, yet Catholics think she was a humanist and not even remotely Catholic. (see comments below and in the post on "Montessori and Original Sin" on this confusion)

Such pain - such division - over a woman who simply presented us with the child as God sees him. 


  1. So this was a positive experience on Montessori? That's all I've gotten through Rebekah and my other trainers, recognizing her spiritual and Catholic background. If you need to take any more training, you need to do it here in VA! I'm so sorry to hear of your bad experiences. I can't believe some in CGS hold that position, because it's nothing what I've heard in my training.

  2. Jennifer,

    I am sorry! It seems I was not clear AT ALL.

    My CGS formation has always been wonderful! Nothing but wonderful!

    It is academic Montessori that Sherry Mock stated, quite truly and accurately, has utterly lost its spirituality and I was utterly burned by that lack of spirituality in my AMI elementary training.

    But the one thing that I think most of the other ladies in the room would not have understood (some may have!), and something that is not necessarily considered "essential" to mention in a CGS formation course (so I didn't bring it up), even though it is essential to understanding the character of Dr. Maria Montessori --- and that is the fact of her son, and her sacrifice.

    And these are the sort of things ignored by both academic Montessori that wants to remove ALL spirituality (despite it leaving a HUGE VOID in the children because this method is inherently spiritual and as Montessori herself says it finds its greatest fulfillment in religious expression) -- but also "traditional Catholics" will say that Montessori wasn't Catholic ENOUGH.

    JUST frustrating!

    I *sometimes* think that CGS over-emphasizes some statements - but then I discover that there is MORE information in the original texts that were revised after Montessori's death to remove spirituality - so then I understand where the CGS people are coming from :)

    So - no issue with CGS on this one :)

  3. I so agree with you. I am not trained in anything but am using the methods in my home. There is just NO WAY you can understand Maria Montessori if you try to take her faith out of it. I'm reading her books and I'm growing in my own Catholic faith at the same time. Every time I read a chapter in her book, it completely parallels something that I just read in the bible that day or something I reflected on during adoration. It is AMAZING. She is completely CATHOLIC and it is in EVERYTHING she has written. You cannot get the fullness of her teachings unless you accept the fullness of Catholicism. I feel very sad for the watered down versions children are getting by leaving her faith out. I cried when I read your post. There are people out there who understand. *Hugs* and God bless.


    1. Jennifer - yes we share this understanding :) If you have not yet "The Child in the Church" DO get your hands on it - you will LOVE it!

  4. Thank you for making this post! I've been trying to decipher what religion the "cosmic posts" are based on, and it was definitely inspired by the Holy Spirit that a friend directed me to CGS. Having visited my brother who studied Seminary and formation in Rome, you cannot walk the streets and look at all the beautiful churches and history and tell me that Maria's understanding of deep contemplation, and study had no basis in her Catholic Faith. Her very work that began with 3 yr olds shows you that she knew that they were the key to Heaven. If your interested he has a neat blog about some of his experiences.

    1. Dru, Be sure to read Mario Montessori's booklet "Cosmic Education" if you can get your hands on a copy (and have not yet read it). More so than reading anyone else's version, his explains his mother's vision so much more clearly!

  5. Im hoping you'll see this, where do i find her original books with her catholic faith in it? thank you :)

    1. I am not sure of the specific dates of the changes (I wish I had time to research this all better!), but look for the oldest versions of the books. If you are comparing different printings, there are sometimes small differences in page numbers, but if you start seeing not just a tiny difference between one printing and the next, that's where you go with the older one.


      (I am adding this to my list of projects upcoming; 1 off, 2 on ;) ).

  6. Replies
    1. I thought this at first too, but the fact that the AMI trainers *apologize* for her Catholicism, and don't seem to hone in on the humanism (you'd think they would), makes it all seem rather odd. As if we're all pointing fingers and ignoring the remaining fingers that point back at ourselves. :)

    2. Oops! Meant to add that when you read her un-revised publications, you really get the Catholicism - the supernatural elements. If you take just about any spiritual book meant for human development towards the Godly perfection Jesus calls us towards, and remove all direct reference to God and supernatural matters, you find something that looks VERY much like humanism.


    3. She was raised catholic but left the church because she did not agreed with a lot of the Church teachings. (Althought her son Mario, who was raises as her nephew because she never married, give us the idea she came back to church at the end of her life). Her method is humanist, she did not believed in original sin just one example.
      And I found that she was not the first person to say about the importance of sensorial development in children. The montessori practice is great but the philosophy we should be careful on promoting.

      God bless you and you family!

    4. Hi Nanda...where did you get the information that Maria Montessori left the church?

    5. I would like to see the sources for her leaving the church as well, since I have not been able to find them myself.

      Also, there are some misconceptions about Mario. He was placed for open adoption with a family outside of Rome. He chose to return to his birthmother at 15, figuring out who she was (she visited routinely but no-one told him she was his birthmother). He was not legally hers though. Yes, she committed a sin in his conception, as many others did at that time, giving up their children as well; difference she ultimately became famous for her proclamation of and emphasis on the reality of the child as God created him.

  7. Maria Montessori was Catholic, you only have to read "The Child in the Church" to know that, and the reason why that book was stopped from publication, is because people are trying to hide that fact so that they can say the contrary.
    Montessori has never said she was the first, on the contrary she mentions often who she got her inspiration from.
    Where she is different is exactly in her philosophy, the knowledge that she had, inspired by the Holy Spirit to know that the child is not the property of the parents or teachers but a making of the "future" man, future generations guided by God, and who is being misguided by the adults to be underestimated of his full potential and is distracted with trivial and useless toys and materials that do nothing for them but lead him to idleness and distraction of the spirit.
    I am tired of having to teach Montessori at schools without the real meaning of her philosophy.
    We should honour her and method, honour God and His plan and stand up for what she started.

    God bless