Until that time, she had worked with children who we would think today of as developmentally challenged and impaired.  She had developed certain materials and activities to use with these children, always one-on-one, often placing her hands on theirs to help them manipulate the materials and use them successfully. At first she conducted her work with normal children of three and four years of age in much the same way.  When she was finished working with a child, she would put the experimental materials away in a locked cabinet. She noticed that these children focused and concentrated for surprisingly long periods of time, that they explored variations in the use of these materials spontaneously and creatively, and that they repeated an activity over and over until they satisfied something within themselves.  And when they were done, and had returned the activity to the cabinet, a sense of joy and calm and satisfaction seemed to settle upon them. She was so surprised by this that she declared that she had discovered the hitherto unknown “secret of childhood” and called these her “miracle children” for they had shown her the way to unlock this surprising hidden potential within young children. Peter Davidson was the founding Head at the Montessori School of Beaverton, an AMI school in Portland and currently serves as consultant for Montessori in Redlands, an AMI school in Southern California. In the early 1900’s, Maria observed with great concern that children were looked upon as sources of trouble not just by their parents but by all of society.


Now, in 2014, has our societal view of children changed even further from 1936 when The Secret of Childhood was published? Do you feel that there is still more work to be done advocating for the rights of children, or have we quite accomplished Maria’s vision for the child as a respected member of society?
She realized at once that the real learning took place, not during the lesson as with the developmentally challenged children, but later when children chose activities on their own and worked to their own satisfaction. She describes a city full of busy adults without designated spaces for children to play, little to no possessions for children to call their own, and children constantly being told to be quiet and not touch. The calm permeated my senses, and I felt some of the serenity the children emanated as they worked. You can imagine that Maria herself grew up during the time when children were expected to “be seen and not heard”.


Montessori education  gather momentum and continue the work she began advocating for the rights of the child. I knew it was a place that would feed my child, instead of the chaotic and draining environments I had observed in more traditional preschools. It’s little wonder that Maria felt that children were in need of someone to champion their right to learn and explore alongside adults!
She notes that this view of children shifted significantly during her lifetime with the inclusion of public parks, children’s theaters, child-sized furniture, children’s literature, and the politicians using children’s issues (for better or worse!) for their own political gain.



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  1. 27.05.2015 at 22:35:58
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  2. 27.05.2015 at 19:18:33
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