I’ve been reading up on Montessori because personal reasons, and reading Maria Montessori’s own words on her methods has been truly a fascinating journey I’ve only just begun.
Her methods appear to work with very little boys who were the children of muggers and prostitutes, and they also have a robustness that worked when she was able to work with children from more ordinary backgrounds.
She took the naturalism of Rousseau and Nietzsche and interpreted them in a context of Christian liberty rather than pagan liberty. She admitted to rather desiring a world where nobody was a servant or had servants, she preferred an employee/employer model of two equals negotiating in good faith.
How all this relates to teaching 2-7yos (she had the occasional kid under 3, though she tried to work with 3-7) is that she wanted an open exploratory environment for the children so that they could learn self-mastery and to replicate correct behavior and discontinue incorrect behavior, in both the moral and physical senses. She also had a commune-style model, with the parents and the directress living in the same apartment building centered around the school, with live-in doctors as well. She talks in her pedagogy (method discussion) of essentially seeking a balance between the mother directing her own children at home and the directress reinforcing that in the Montessori school setting by consulting and talking with each mother weekly or so.
She wanted children to understand the proper form of things so that they would recognize them when they were older. She was very clear that her methods were not something that was the One True Way of Learning, but that she thought she’d gathered together the genius of men before her to find a path in which young children might be most optimally prepared for more formal education in the teen and adult years.
She felt that children discovering on their own would be better able to grasp introductory moral lessons in context. It’s a very radical and fascinating educational approach.
In America, it was literally dismissed by jealous nerdy men because it didn’t match up that well with their pen and paper test mania (although the children did get very good test performance, she wasn’t focused on maxing that particular stat). Interestingly Montessori’s methods and pedagogy were revived during the postwar era, particularly around the time the youngest Boomers were being born in the middle 1950s and early 1960s.