“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.”
– LEONARDO DA VINCI
The Montessori Philosophy was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Born in 1817 in Ancona, Italy, Dr. Montessori became the first female physician in Italy in 1896. She opened her first Children’s House (referred to as a Casa de Bambini) in January of 1907 to test her child development theories. Her theories were founded from the idea that education is an aide to life and all education starts at birth. All who come in contact with a child are the teachers of that child. She soon discovered that children have three inner teachers that guide and grow the child’s personality: an Absorbent Mind, Human Tendencies and Sensitive Periods. Together with these inner teachers, Dr. Montessori grouped children based on their respective Plane of Development. It is why the Primary program houses children from age 3 to 6.
FOUR PLANES OF DEVELOPMENT
The Planes of Development are a series of re-births that span from birth to maturity. Each plane lasts approximately 6 years and ends around 24 years of age and each is uniquely different. Within each plane various physical, mental, social and spiritual abilities manifest themselves. Two 3-year sub-planes create each plane. The first sub-plane is a period of dramatic change and construction. The second sub-plane is one of crystallization of impressions from the first sub-plane. Dr. Montessori noted that the planes correspond to physical growth and changes; thus the development is a series of re-births: one psychic personality ends and another begins.
Plane One is from birth to six years of age and is the most critical for the child.
Physically: The child goes through rapid physical growth; the child starts from no movement to sitting, crawling, walking, running; more controlled of all movements of his body; his hands are the instrument to the brain.
Intellectually: The child’s brain is developing his intelligence; language is his most significant feat—spoken by 2 ½, just need to correct irregularities; and then he can read and write by end of the plane.
Socially: The child must understand the concept of the “I”/”me” stage before he can grasp the “we”/”us” phase. So initially, the child only cares about himself in his environment, and then by the time he reaches the second sub-plane, usually by 4 ½ years, he is able to be truly aware of others and want to work with others.
Spiritually: It is the foundation for basic trust and security.
THE ABSORBENT MIND
The way the child’s brain takes in, combines or merges into a way of thinking and feeling; impressions do not enter his mind; they form it. The Absorbent Mind allows the child to absorb impressions of his environment that are instantaneous, exact and indelible. The child absorbs tirelessly; effortlessly and without discrimination. The child’s brain works in this manner from birth to six and will never return.
Deep-seeded urges, driving forces or inner-guiding instincts that stimulate the individual to actions that are in line with his desire to reach a specific goal and that is to fulfill all of his potentials within the social settings where he can find himself. These tendencies manifest themselves as needs. They are universal, unchanging and inherited. We all have Human Tendencies all of our lives; we focus on these eleven tendencies as they are the most relevant of the child from birth to six. They are:
Blocks of time in a child’s life where he or she is extremely receptive to learning and absorbing a specific character trait or shows marked development in one particular area. They are transitory and confined to the acquisition of a determined characteristic. Once this has evolved the corresponding sensibility disappears. Every characteristic is established by the help of an impulse, of a transient sensibility which lasts over a limited period of growth.
All have the same 4 similar character traits:
- gradual starting point, a peak and then a decline
- once the Sensitive Period has passed, it has passed—the child cannot come into this period again, even if it has not been used
- they can all be at work at the same time—some are—but very rarely do they peak at the same time
- universal among all children
In the Montessori Classroom, a well-planned, meticulously prepared and inviting environment is created that fosters and respects these inner teachers of the child and lets the child freely develop into his own person. Our greatest challenge as educators is giving the child what he needs at the right moment as we want the fully developed child to help create a better future.