At the very start of her research, Maria Montessori turned to examine the impact of education during the first years of life. "The most important period in life is not the university years but the very earliest years of life, from birth to six years, because not only intelligence develops at this time – humanity's most important tool– but also the whole aggregate of mental faculties."
Maria Montessori concluded that no human being can be "educated" by someone else : each person develops and progresses individually. A really well-educated person continues to acquire knowledge long after leaving the school benches, impelled as he is by an innate curiosity and the love of learning.
Therefore, in the early years of life the aim of education is not to feed knowledge to a passive child but rather, to stimulate his intelligence and eagerness to learn. The child himself possesses the necessary developmental capability which fosters his growth. Montessori's method pays great attention to the young child's environment by providing appropriately-sized school furniture and specific teaching materials which make children self-sufficient in their learning process (every-day life, sensorial perception, reading, writing, arithmetic).
Children from three to six years-old are grouped together in the same space in order to promote cooperativeness and collaboration; it is considered important that a child do his best but not that he do better than the others. Attitudes of mutual respect and friendliness cannot be instilled, but like sensitivity, these qualities can be stimulated : they are essential components of intelligence. In this kind of environment, the child acquires self-assurance and a sense of self-worth.
Until the age of six or seven, a child's mind is like an absorbent sponge. He needs activities with a specific goal to help him develop his powers of concentration, his autonomy, and to give him the satisfaction of feeling in charge. The result is psychological development through activities and sensory-motor development through the handling of material objects, the repetition of the exercise and the integration of the experience.