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Maria Montessori: A Biography

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Maria Montessori (1870–1952) brought about a revolution in the classroom. She developed a method of teaching small children and inspired a movement that carried that method into every corner of the world. In her rich and forthright biography, Rita Kramer brings this powerful woman to life, illuminating not only her lasting contributions to child development and social refo Maria Montessori (1870–1952) brought about a revolution in the classroom. She developed a method of teaching small children and inspired a movement that carried that method into every corner of the world. In her rich and forthright biography, Rita Kramer brings this powerful woman to life, illuminating not only her lasting contributions to child development and social reform, but also the controversies surrounding her training methods and private life.


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Maria Montessori (1870–1952) brought about a revolution in the classroom. She developed a method of teaching small children and inspired a movement that carried that method into every corner of the world. In her rich and forthright biography, Rita Kramer brings this powerful woman to life, illuminating not only her lasting contributions to child development and social refo Maria Montessori (1870–1952) brought about a revolution in the classroom. She developed a method of teaching small children and inspired a movement that carried that method into every corner of the world. In her rich and forthright biography, Rita Kramer brings this powerful woman to life, illuminating not only her lasting contributions to child development and social reform, but also the controversies surrounding her training methods and private life.

30 review for Maria Montessori: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    A fascinating account of Dr. Montessori's life - the unauthorized version. I found it very interesting and helpful to understand the break between AMI and AMS, etc. As an AMS-accredited Montessori teacher, I had always assumed that Montessori would have wanted the teachers and students to allow her didactic materials to evolve as new technologies emerged. Or, at the very least, to expand her offerings. But, after reading this biography, I'm not so sure that this was the case. It did, however, cl A fascinating account of Dr. Montessori's life - the unauthorized version. I found it very interesting and helpful to understand the break between AMI and AMS, etc. As an AMS-accredited Montessori teacher, I had always assumed that Montessori would have wanted the teachers and students to allow her didactic materials to evolve as new technologies emerged. Or, at the very least, to expand her offerings. But, after reading this biography, I'm not so sure that this was the case. It did, however, clear up the mysteries about the seemingly lack of art of stories featured in a Montessori classroom (she thought of school merely as academic - stories were to be provided at home - as was typical of the culture of the day).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ginna

    A must read for Montessori advocates......I think it would also be interesting to feminists and educators alike!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    There are some areas where Kramer is quite perceptive. I really liked the point that, by resigning her university positions, Montessori gave her later work a necessarily commercial edge. At the same time, Kramer speculates far too much on Montessori's unconscious thoughts. I lost count of how many times she paused to say some version of "could this have been because she had given up the chance to raise her own child?" Kramer often falls into the trap of psychoanalyzing Montessori, and she doesn' There are some areas where Kramer is quite perceptive. I really liked the point that, by resigning her university positions, Montessori gave her later work a necessarily commercial edge. At the same time, Kramer speculates far too much on Montessori's unconscious thoughts. I lost count of how many times she paused to say some version of "could this have been because she had given up the chance to raise her own child?" Kramer often falls into the trap of psychoanalyzing Montessori, and she doesn't have much to go on. Montessori does not seem to have kept up an intimate correspondence with anyone, and there is no indication that she left behind a diary. In that way, her life is a biographer's nightmare: there is no way to find the “person behind the public figure.” I understand why Kramer felt the urge to speculate, but I don't think it was responsible authorship. That brings me to the great problem with this biography. It isn't a bad book. It's competently written, has accessible prose, and is thoroughly researched. Despite all that, I found it a slog to get through. The fact is that Montessori's life didn't change much after her method became popular. She traveled all over the world, but she essentially did the same thing everywhere. The work itself is interesting, but the story of the work is not. The last section of the biography is essentially the same story, repeated over and over. It isn't badly told, but it isn't interesting after the third telling. I don't know that there's really anything to be done about that. As I mentioned, Montessori doesn't seem to have left behind anything that would give us a sense of what her life was really like. If Kramer's book reads like a long string of identical news articles, it's because news articles are really all she had to go on. We don't know why Montessori fled Barcelona when she did or how she felt about being unexpectedly trapped in India for seven years upon the outbreak of World War II. We don't even know how she managed to finagle her way into medical school. Montessori took care to make sure that her work dominated our image of her, and that makes it basically impossible to write an interesting book about her personal life. Interestingly, Kramer's biography instantly dates itself by its major criticism of Montessori's method: she cannot forgive Montessori for ignoring the work of Sigmund Freud. In our current intellectual climate, which doesn't take Freud all that seriously, this seems as charmingly quaint as Montessori's 1908 recommendation that children eat raw eggs “still warm from the hen.” What it really goes to show, though, is how extraordinarily well Montessori's method has aged. She was giving training courses before Erickson, Piaget, or Vygotsky ever thought of doing research on child development. She developed the basics of her method at a time when Freud was the latest word on child psychology. Plenty of people still took phrenology seriously, and nutritionists believed that children shouldn't eat vegetables. Yet, somehow, she managed to develop a system that still works.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    Good overview of the information available about her life and the Montessori method. Gets repetitive however.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Fascinating person, but not a very good biography; it gets two stars only because even just listing the main events of Montessori's life (which is pretty much what the author did) is interesting...but perhaps not interesting enough to pick it up. If you want to read about Montessori, I would recommend looking for a different biographer; if you want to learn more about her method, it would probably be more worthwhile to read something Montessori wrote herself. Why "not very good"? Because the biog Fascinating person, but not a very good biography; it gets two stars only because even just listing the main events of Montessori's life (which is pretty much what the author did) is interesting...but perhaps not interesting enough to pick it up. If you want to read about Montessori, I would recommend looking for a different biographer; if you want to learn more about her method, it would probably be more worthwhile to read something Montessori wrote herself. Why "not very good"? Because the biographer does not appear to have consulted more than a few sources (though there must be thousands of articles and books written about Montessori) and it shows. The book reads like a junior high school book report, with dutiful listing of where Montessori went on what date, what she said there, etc. Where Kramer does offer her own insights into Montessori's life and work -- and she only has a few -- they are unsubstantiated by reference to anything Montessori or her friends, colleagues, family members, or contemporaries said, did or thought, so they end up revealing more about the biographer than her subject, and irritate rather than illuminate. The principal example of this is Kramer's repeated references to the fact that Montessori had a child out of wedlock as a young woman and gave him to others to raise to avoid scandal. Kramer continuously refers to this single event as determinative to Montessori's career, life choices and even to her method and theory of education. Doubtless it was an important event -- but how important? How different from what other Italian women of the time did in a similar situation? How much did it influence her thinking? Kramer doesn't provide any evidence to back up her assertions. Thumbs down.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erik Akre

    These words from Kramer's preface set the tone for her Biography of Montessori: "Maria Montessori is much more complicated and interesting than the plaster saint her devoted followers have made her into." And Kramer proves it to be true. This book holds valuable and interesting information for the reader who wishes to no longer hold Maria on an untouchable pedestal of educational supremacy. While the book does nothing to really criticize the Montessori method itself, it does look at Maria as a r These words from Kramer's preface set the tone for her Biography of Montessori: "Maria Montessori is much more complicated and interesting than the plaster saint her devoted followers have made her into." And Kramer proves it to be true. This book holds valuable and interesting information for the reader who wishes to no longer hold Maria on an untouchable pedestal of educational supremacy. While the book does nothing to really criticize the Montessori method itself, it does look at Maria as a real human being, with real faults and insecurities. As a Montessori teacher, I value the book for being a real, honest biography of our beloved Matriarch. I get a little tired of all the deifying of Maria Montessori, and her own unflagging confidence in her work, which turns her into an idol, and her method into a religion. ... This book was refreshing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I'm only a little way into this book, a biography of a hero of mine. I enjoy learning personal details of famous people I'm interested in (hence the insatiable market for biographies, right?), even more than I enjoy learning about their greatness. Maria Montessori never married, however, she did have a son, who in adulthood was her assistant. She was gifted in mathematics and thought of becoming an engineer. To her father's relief she abandoned that unfeminine idea...instead to pursue an equally I'm only a little way into this book, a biography of a hero of mine. I enjoy learning personal details of famous people I'm interested in (hence the insatiable market for biographies, right?), even more than I enjoy learning about their greatness. Maria Montessori never married, however, she did have a son, who in adulthood was her assistant. She was gifted in mathematics and thought of becoming an engineer. To her father's relief she abandoned that unfeminine idea...instead to pursue an equally unladylike profession: a doctor of medicine. She was rejected a number of times from the medical college she applied to...Pope Leo XIII possibly had an influence on her finally being accepted into medical school. She was the one of the first women in Italy to earn her medical degree, in 1890-something. And that's what I've gleaned so far!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lolly

    As others have said, this is rather ordinary. And I think it comes back to Montessori being a visionary, and highly revered. I felt the author did not want to be controversial in any way, and whenever she came close she would always provide a fairly balanced view of the issue. So it could almost be said it was a cross between a textbook account and a biography as such. Content is fairly comprehensive, interesting read provided in a fairly vanilla fashion.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Brogden

    Pretty good as far as biographies go. ASsumes lots of background knowledge about European politics during the World Wars. Shed lots of light on Maria Montessori as a person and her control of her ideas/movement. Now to write the paper...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    This book was a page turner for me. My kids go or went to Montessori school. It was interesting to get an objective view and see all of Maria's Montessori's flaws. Truly a portrait of a complete and complex human being.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Saskia Marijke Niehorster-Cook

    (379 pgs)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary-Jane

    A fascinating woman and a well-written biography. I found the latter part of the book (and her life) less interesting than the first part.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Radha

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie Hartz

  15. 4 out of 5

    Víctor R. Ramos

  16. 5 out of 5

    John C.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen Statham

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lulugong

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gloria Stanley

  20. 5 out of 5

    E

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Paul

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Rosanova

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  24. 4 out of 5

    Claudine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy Satchell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna Holden

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rye

  28. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christina Mcclendon

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paulina

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