Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Basic Montessori Concepts
Inner guidance of nature. All children have inherent inner directives from nature that guide their true normal development.
Freedom for self-directed learning. The Montessori method respects individual liberty of children to choose their own activities. This freedom allows children to follow their inner guidance for self-directed learning.
Planes of development. The natural development of children proceeds through several distinct planes of development, each one having its own unique conditions and sensitive periods for acquiring basic faculties in the developmental process. The first plane (ages 0–6) involves basic personality formation and learning through physical senses. During this plane, children experience sensitive periods for acquiring language and developing basic mental order. The second plane of development (6–12) involves learning through abstract reasoning, developing through a sensitivity for imagination and social interaction with others. The third plane (12–18) is the period of adolescent growth, involving the significant biological changes of puberty, moving towards learning a valuation of the human personality, especially as related to experiences in the surrounding community. The fourth plane (18+), involves a completion of all remaining development in the process of maturing in adult society.
Prepared environment. The right precise conditions around children allow for and support their true natural development. For young children, the environment must be prepared in this way by providing a range of physical objects that are organized and made available for free, independent use, to stimulate their natural instincts and interests for self-directed learning.
Observation and indirect teaching. The teacher's role is to observe children engaged in activities that follow their own natural interests. This indirect teaching to control the environment, not the child, contrasts sharply with the ordinary teacher's role of implementing a pre-determined curriculum. For example, a Montessori method class has the teacher resolving misbehavior by refocusing the child to some positive activity, rather than engaging in the ordinary system of rewards and punishments.
Normalization. During the 0–6 plane of development, children have the ability to shift their fundamental being from the ordinary condition of disorder, inattention, and attachment to fantasy to a state of perfect normal being, showing such external behavior as spontaneous self-discipline, independence, love of order, and complete harmony and peace with others in the social situation. This psychological shift to normal being occurs through deep concentration on some physical activity of the child's own free choice.
Absorbent mind. The young child (0–6) has an absorbent mind which naturally incorporates experiences in the environment directly into its whole basic character and personality for life. This mental faculty, which is unique to young children, allows them to learn many concepts in an effortless, spontaneous manner. It also allows them to undergo the key phenomenon of normalization to return to their true natural development. After the age of about six, this absorbent mental faculty disappears.
Work, not play. Children have an instinctive tendency to develop through spontaneous experiences on the environment, which Dr. Montessori referred to as 'work'. In this sense, the children's normal activity is attached to reality in the present moment, rather than idle play through such means as toys and fantasy.