Authentic Montessori

Authenticity is a controversial topic in the Montessori world. Until her death in 1952, Maria Montessori continued to develop and refine her philosophy and method, and to assert sole authority for defining her work and training teachers. In 1929, Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to protect and further her work, and AMI continues to see itself as the legitimate source of Montessori authenticity and teacher training.However, during Montessori’s lifetime and afterwards, societies and organizations were founded, training programs were developed, and schools were opened, with and without affiliation with AMI. This has created the patchwork of Montessori practice that exists in the world today.

Outside of the United States, Montessori schools are typically accredited only by governments or independent school associations, but not specifically as Montessori schools. In the United States, the situation is more complicated. Montessori flourished in the U.S. in the 1910s, but languished thereafter. In 1959, AMI sent a representative, Nancy McCormick Rambusch, to the U.S., where she founded the American Montessori Society (AMS). In 1963, Rambusch and AMS broke with AMI, and the two organizations grew separately. In 1972, AMI-USA was founded as an AMI affiliate. AMI and AMS offer teacher training programs, as do several smaller organizations. AMI-USA and AMS also offer Montessori school certification. More information on Montessori organizations can be found here.

In general, the name Montessori is not trademarked, copyrighted, or patented, and can be used by any school with any degree, or none, of certification or teacher training. AMI teacher training is generally accepted at any Montessori school, and required for AMI accreditation. However, AMS and other trainings are more widely available and in some cases less costly and time-consuming. More information on teacher training can be found here.

14 responses to “Authentic Montessori

  1. What is “authentic” in any field depends on who you talk to. There are three main philosophies in the field, and your focus above is only on two of these, the cnventional types that follow personality or culture. A third type, “true natural” is represented by International Montessori Society (IMS). This type follows laws of nature, which is the only type that consistently and reliably leads to the emergence of the child’s true nature. If bringing about this result is of interest or attention, IMS would be the main authentic voice of authority in the field.

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  2. marisa Rodriguez

    Any person who has a degree in education and would like to become an authentic montessori practitioner can read Maria Montessori’s books and become one. You will have your own interpretation, but so does everybody else. Both, my sister and I hold teaching certificates and have practiced Montessori since the early 60s. We were thrilled to find out that the Method actually worked, an we have been running a Montessori school ever since. i would strongly recommend the studying of the philosophy and techniques directly from Maria Montessori’s books and other authors such a Lillard and Mario Montessori. There are so many books now that nobody needs to go pay the likes of 6,000 dollars and up for training. However, you need a strong background in the education field. i think that The Montessori Observer is the same organization that published the magazine by the same name. I was so sad when you decided to merge with the AMS.

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    • Montessori Observer

      Marisa,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I have to disagree with you about Montessori training. As I’m sure you know from Montessori’s books, her published works mostly explain her philosophy rather than her techniques. Most of the lessons, and a good deal of the theory, in the AMI Primary and Elementary albums have not been published by Montessori or AMI. It is true that you can find presentations and entire albums on the internet and elsewhere, but if you want to practice Montessori education as developed and refined by Montessori herself, you really have to take a training that has some connection to what she did. That has mostly, although not exclusively, been passed down essentially via oral tradition within the AMI training.

      One can certainly become an excellent Montessori-inspired teacher from reading her published works. But the details of the use of the materials and the deep structure of the classroom work in primary and elementary simply aren’t there. Those pieces you have to learn from someone who knows them.

      This website actually has no connection to the print publication of the same name, which is published by the International Montessori Society, or IMS. This website has no affiliation with AMS, nor (I don’t believe) does IMS.

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  3. Marisa Rodriguez

    Thank you for your reply. I think it is wonderful that there exists an oral tradition directly from Maria Montessori. I Love everything that she wrote. I would love to hear her own words. I have had the book Psicoaritmetica since the 70s, and I learned Italian in order to read it and understand it. I think it is being translated into English. It is very detailed in the presentation of material for the older children. I learned how to present the squaring of numbers and root extraction in this book. It is a beautiful book. I think she wrote it in Spanish originally. Her book Psicogeometria, has just recently been translated into English by Benedetto Scoppola. It is a delightful book. He did a fabulous job with the foot notes. I will be visiting your website often. Thank you for your efforts.

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  4. This quote clearly conveys that you consider AMS and other trainings second best in terms of authenticity: “However, AMS and other trainings are more widely available and in some cases less costly and time-consuming.” I respectfully disagree. Like Marisa, I believe that there are many forms of authentic Montessori trainings and self-exploration that can make one a valid and knowledgeable Montessori teacher.

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    • Montessori Observer

      Aubrey,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I don’t really see how you get “second best” from that quote–I wasn’t saying which was better. However, I don’t think it’s really arguable that AMI Montessori is authentic Montessori, in the sense of “of undisputed origin” or “genuine,” in that it is what’s sometimes called “Maria Montessori’s Montessori.” It’s the tradition she authorized and maintained during her lifetime, and which her organization has worked to preserve. That doesn’t in itself make it “better”, and that would depend on your measuring stick. But as to which is “the real Montessori,” it seems like she gets to say what that is, and she was pretty clear about it.

      I would agree with this whole sentence you wrote, except the word “authentic”: “There are many forms of authentic Montessori trainings and self-exploration that can make one a valid and knowledgeable Montessori teacher.”

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  5. Thanks for your thoughtful reply! It appears that we have different and immovable opinions on the word “authentic”; I believe wholeheartedly that the “real Montessori” has now transcended her life story into ours. One thing for certain that I love about Montessori education is the emphasis on intellectual discovery, research, and passion. In that light, I certainly respect your work here on your blog, and I appreciate your willingness to open up the discussion on this controversial issue.

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  6. Everything depends on the meaning of what “is” is. The word “Montessori” is in the public domain, so you can call it anything you want. But I think it’s important to point out that if you want to bring out the EXPERIENCE of what Dr. Montessori discovered in 1907, it’s what you DO, not what you “SAY” or “CALL” Montessori that matters. Call it “scientific education” if you like, for example, which is probably more “authentic” to what you are doing to bring about the effect of true natural being – After all, Dr. Montessori used Seguin’s ideas and materials, and simply re-packaged it to give it the “Montessori” label. I’m not minimizing her discovering the phenomenon, but to hold on to her limited understanding of what she discovered, and call that “authentic” doesn’t have much practical value. Montessori’s AMI is really a “personality” type of Montessori philosophy, and that’s not what brings about the child’s true nature (if that’s of any interest to anyone)

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    • Montessori Observer

      Thanks for the comment, Lee.

      I think it’s pretty well documented that Montessori, no doubt building on the work of her predecessors, made a series of discoveries and continued to experiment, exploring, developing, and refining her methods throughout her lifetime. And I would think it’s fair to say that the accumulated body of her work (with her collaborators) is what we should call “Montessori education”.

      During her lifetime and afterwards, many people have come to her work through various avenues, such as AMI training, other trainings, reading her published work, observing in classrooms, etc. Some of these people have extended or altered her work according to their own beliefs and experiences, adding or removing ideas, materials, and practices. I would think we should call this “Montessori-inspired” education, to honor the source but to indicate that one has taken it beyond what she wrote and taught.

      I’m not saying that Montessori had the final, definitive word on human development. Of course discoveries will continue to be made. Although I do believe she had many deep insights which have stood the test. But Lee, if you feel you have made crucial discoveries which materially improve upon her work, rather than merely “repackaging” it, I think we should call it something else, both to recognize your contribution and to distinguish your work from the existing approach. The “Montessori-Havis” approach, perhaps.

      By the way, I think it does tend to minimize her discovery to say “Dr. Montessori used Seguin’s ideas and materials, and simply re-packaged it to give it the “Montessori” label.” When Dr. Montessori turned her attention to developmentally and mentally disabled children in 1897, she made no secret of reviewing the educational and psychological literature of the previous two hundred years, and while she (like any scientist) built on previous work, her comprehensive model of human development and philosophy of liberty in education can hardly be called a repackaging.

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  7. Again, we have to look at the meaning of word “is” – that is, “What exactly IS the body of accumulated ‘work’ you refer to?” Does it exclude her original discovery? Is it limited to just what she said and understood about her ‘work’? Included in her “work” is a recognition that new discoveries would come along to amplify and clarify her “work” So, again, you can limited her “work” to just what she understood consciously in this matter. You can even call her lack of clarify and downright limitations self-imposed on her work, as the “work” you must call pure, perfect ‘Montessori’ I, however, choose to call this type of rigid following of her “work” as a “personality” type philosophy, because it is limited by her personality.

    What I am calling her work is certainly inclusive of her accumulated writings, and that’s a good pointer or approximation of her “work” which we might call Montessori education. But I see it as she described her work at times as a “means to deliver the human personality from age-old prejudices concerning the child and education.” I am not interested in creating another “personality” type of Montessori teaching; rather I point to her work that follows this fundamental path that leads to the child’s true nature. I think THIS is the most pure, perfect presentation of Montessori education.

    Captivated by the AMI “personality” type of Montessori education, you are bound to exclude anything that is learned and understood more deeply about the child’s true nature that doesn’t attach the name “Montessori” to it. But, the truth isn’t bound by these types of limitations, unless you say it is. What is the “truth” therefore, depends on the context of your experience.

    Lee Havis

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  8. Thank you for making an example of the past division and bickering about Montessori obvious to everyone. Yes AMS roots are in AMI as stated in the original post. Yes we have all been inspired and learned from the Montessori roots. Yes Montessori led us to the true nature of children. Yes we are all special and marvelous. Now we need to be in the real world and get out from behind the magic curtain.
    The most urgent need for the understanding of authenticity and essentials of quality Montessori education is in the advocacy realm where we are standing up and speaking up to establish Montessori schools and teachers as high quality in the entire realm of education. We are fortunate to have MACTE accreditation recognized by the USDE (not in the USDE) as this validates MACTE accredited teacher education in the State agencies.
    In WA State we have been ecumenical in representing Montessori education and continue to be a stakeholder in governmental issues that directly impact our work. Our state relies on certain factors to validate our teacher certificates and other concerns, MACTE and AMI & AMS. States will not mess around with factions and that has been a detriment to establishing a strong Montessori community. Attention to the Montessori Forward actions across many states will show the importance of our solidarity.

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  9. MACTE is really an AMS-controlled entity. It’s board of directors, curriuclum model, and so forth all are taylored to the AMS training approach. You can it anything you like, authentic, or whatever, but it is actually the AMS model of “culture” philosophy in the field. It restricts “Montessori” to AMS control, which is categorically opposed to “true natural” Montessori teaching, committed to LAWS OF NATURE (not culture). IMS is the sole representative of true natural Montessori teaching, which duplicates the original experiment of Dr. Montessori when she discovered the child’s true nature in 1907. The IMS training now includes a detailed technology for practicing this type of scientific observation. If you want a fancy title and government-approved “Montessori”, you are welcome to it. I for one don’t hold to “government” quality as a measure of anything other than the collective stupidity of prejudiced conventional educators, who completely deny the reality of the child’s true nature. If you want conventional education, you can’t do better than look at the so-called “public schools”. AMS and AMI both fit comfortably into the “government” model, which is a clear deviation from what led Dr. Montessori to discover the child’s true nature. Sadly, she didn’t understand enough of this experiment to sustain and represent its learning by others. So, we are left with a “choice” of Montessori philosophy to follow.

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  10. The Montessori Obsever

    Lee,

    Are you really saying that Montessori herself didn’t understand her own work, but you do?

    Dave

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  11. Dave – Dr. Montessori understood “her” work with from her own perspective. What is “her” work is of course is up to her. The name “Montessori” is not controlled by Dr. Montessori, so anyone can use that name in anyway they like. BUT what I’m calling “Montessori” is the original experience that brings about the child’s true nature. That’s what she didn’t fully understand. What she did understand is now represented by AMI – which I call “personality” Montessori philosophy. Dr. Montessori always pointed to that first experiment, but what she did and understood about that experiment was based on her personality. In “true natural” Montessori teaching, I’m pointing to the original experiment, and the understanding of that – not what Dr. Montessori represented later on – Dr. Montessori even admitted she didn’t understand the first experiment – and she even denied she had discovered a “method” at all. You know, Dave, it’s possible to do something without understanding how you do it. And it’s a common truth that people represent what they once experienced as true enlightenment in a limited, inauthentic manner.

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