“We must turn to the child as the key to the fate of our future life” (http://www. montessorisynergies. com/synergies/transformation/wisdom-of-montessori) [Accessed 5th May, 2013] The above quotation shall be explored & revealed in the further contents of this essay. To begin with, let us first start with a brief current scenario of education in our society. Current scenario of education “The school must mean something else than a place of instruction, where the one teaches the many, with pain on both sides, an effort carrying with it little success”.
The schools today exist to transmit knowledge though teachers and the role of the students is to absorb this knowledge and get awarded as per their marks. The education today that we have in our society is primarily interested in defining the curriculum and establishing high standards. The focus on the needs of the individual learner is hardly seen. The issues such as how the children actually want to learn, how they need to be taught, what are they actually interested in learning about are considered irrelevant. Need of our society
The need of our world today is a society that has peace, patience, tolerance, happiness, health, nonviolence, betterment of the mankind, safety, non-corruption, no poverty, and no racial discrimination. It needs a man who is active, attentive, confident, curious, expressive, helpful, honest, innovative, judgmental, observant, organized orientated, patient & socially active. Who is a human being? A human being is a unified personality who comes into being from a child through the years of infancy, toddlerhood, preschool & adolescence. Ultimately, child is the one who produces the man.
The child before birth nside the mother’s womb grows only physically. After a child is born he starts developing mentally & completes his psychic growth outside the womb. When the birth of the child takes place; he has some hidden qualities in him which cannot be seen. As he continues to grow, he slowly starts revealing himself & starts showing these potentials/abilities. In order to have a society with attributes as mentioned earlier & which in turn needs a man with the required qualities, it is very important to focus ourselves on the development of the child to help him release his potentials since he is the maker of the man.
Hence, there is an urgent need to focus on a new system of education based on the idea of freedom for the child within a carefully planned & structured environment. It is important to recognize the crucial importance of a child’s first years of development. It is during this time that a child’s power of absorption is the highest & permanent attitudes of learning are formed & which establish the person he will be in future. Dr. Maria Montessori, the great pioneering influential realized this need and developed the Montessori Education.
As proposed by Dr Maria Montessori, it shall be now briefly discussed all the phases to be looked into to create this new system of education & how the focus on the right aids during each of these phases, help the child’s future development. The Absorbent Mind The child has a creative intelligence that exists in his unconscious mental stage. During the unconscious stage (0 to 3 years), he absorbs whatever is available in his environment. He learns to speak, to walk and gain control of his hands.
Hence it is very much necessary to provide a carefully planned environment to the child since he will see and learn whatever is there in his environment. For e. g if we have an aggressive environment around him at home i. e. there is no calmness & peace, the child tends to develop as an aggressive personality since he absorbs that trait from his environment. After 3 years, the child enters into the period of conscious absorption. He starts applying now the functions that were created in the unconscious stage and has developed a will & memory.
This helps him in developing his reasoning & concentration skills. He uses his hands & starts working and by means of work his ability develops to choose actions independently. He wants to do everything by himself. He starts developing an urge to become social & starts involving with peers as well which make him a good social being in the long run. Sensitive periods The child passes through a special time in which he is interested in one unique characteristic of his environment known as sensitive periods.
He can easily develop this interest into ability if he is given the right environment & freedom. These periods are critical to a child’s self-development & interrupting a child while he is in the middle of a sensitive period can result in a powerful emotional response. He passes through the sensitive periods of order, movement, language, senses, small objects & social aspects. As we see further below, we realize that the right environment & freedom given to the child during each of these periods provide a strong base to lay the foundation of a well-developed human being.
The child seeks order so he can adapt himself to his environment. For e. g. If a child who comes home from school, has a habit of seeing all the things at place & has his belongings are accessible to him & and one day the settings at home are changed completely, nothing is at the same place as earlier, the child starts showing a dislike. This disorder can be an obstacle to his development. The order helps him to orientate himself. He becomes organized & systematic which is a crucial requisite for his development.
Another sensitive period that the child goes through is the sensitivity to five senses. The child is developing his senses & his attention is therefore directed towards the observation of the objects in his environment. In order to help him this development, Sensorial subject was introduced in the Montessori education to enable him to explore different attributes of the environment. By using all his basic five senses, the child is able to explore the qualities of the objects in his environment, with separate materials.
For e. g. a child using his tactile(touch) & visual sense is able to explore the different dimensions of an object i. e. height, diameter etc. The usage of these materials develops in child the qualities of attention, experiment, observation, exploration, judgement & comparison. The sensitive period of movement is also very important for the child development. The child has started learning to crawl, walk, jump, climb, swing around & carry things and wants to perfect his movement.
Hence it is important to provide the right environment & give freedom to develop his fine & gross motor skills for his life. He should be not stopped or provided help when he is able to do the activity himself. Foe e. g. if he is able to walk himself up till a point, we should not stop & pick him up just because we are not able to reach quickly to our destination. This makes the child frustrated & breaks his concentration. He does not gain the self-control & self-independence. The other sensitive period is to small objects.
The child keeps observing all the small details around him. He focuses on the army of ants in the playground, the leaves, the flowers, everything around him which makes him to focus. He also wants to know the reason for all these activities which make him curious & intuitive. It is very important to answer his questions since discouraging his curiosity makes him less observant & lazy which will be followed till he becomes an adult. Sensitivity to language is another very important aspect. During this time the child is sensitive to the words around him & absorbs them.
He takes in sounds, words to acquire language which is a pre requisite for the child to form into a man. The Montessori environment provides a rich vocabulary & right pronunciation to the child which helps him in refining his language. This makes him a good speaker, writer, reader & confident which develops his self-esteem. The Environment “Especially at the beginning of life must we, therefore, make the environment as interesting & attractive as we can” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 9, Page 103) Environment refers to the surroundings in which the child is growing.
The environment needs to be very rich & it should provide all the things required for the child to develop since he has an absorbent mind & the sensitive periods. The Montessori environment includes the children, the teacher & the materials and offers the important elements for the optimal development of the child. Here is a brief discussion on these – ·Beauty, order, reality & simplicity –The environment follows the concept of reality. The materials are real since the child has to ultimately face them in the real world later.
Children are given freedom to work & speak with other children. This helps them to socialize. They are taught to respect the other children (should not disturb the other children), respect the material (should not destroy the material) and respect the the environment (should not hurt others and treat children/teachers with grace & courtesy). ·The mixed age group children in a Montessori school encourage the social development & moral values of the children. The little ones learn from the older ones & the older ones learn by teaching the younger.
I would like to state an example here from the observation I did for the child development. A younger child aged 2 1/2 years fell down from the swing in the play area. An older boy almost 4 years old quickly came to pick him up & consoled him not to cry. The mixed age group also removes competition. The Teacher The teacher is a growing person, always ready to learn new things & increase her self-knowledge. She should be mentally active & physically passive which means that she should have the capacity to observe that the child is in which state of development.
The objects, not the teaching given by the mistress, form the principal agent, and it is the child who uses them, who is the active being, not the teacher” (The Discovery of the Child, Chapter 11, Page 179) Maria Montessori believed that the teacher’s duty is to let the child choose an activity himself by using the materials according to his own needs and interest. In this way, the materials become his object of development. She should not force the child to do a particular activity rather just act as a source of guidance & provide him the freedom to perform.
Further to the above, a teacher must possess the following attributes in her – Respect for the child, should be able to channelize the potentials of the child in the right direction, clear all the obstacles in his development, social qualities such as friendly, understanding and tolerant. An addition, are the Laws of Development that are used by the child for revealing himself. These are described briefly as below – Law of work – Children start gaining all the qualities of patience, discipline & attention through the work with the materials.
It is the magic of the work through the materials that enables them to use their energies in constructive development. Children keep on repeating the task till they achieve perfection. For e. g we can observe at home that if we give a small child a task of dusting a table, he will keep on doing it till he masters himself in cleaning the smallest particle of dust. Hence it is the work through the repetition & practice that he gains perfection. Law of independence – To be independent, a child should be allowed to work himself if he is able to, without the immediate help of others.
The more he works himself, the more independent & self-confident he becomes. The independence can be given in the ways of – giving the opportunity to work with the materials (activities such as tie laces, button/unbutton, zip/unzip ), should be allowed to do things on his own for his personal care & hygiene like dressing, bathing, brushing hair & teeth and should be allowed to take decisions for himself for instance, for a club activity, we should let the child choose an activity as per his own interest rather than force him to choose something just for our own content.
This will suppress the interest & affect the decision making ability of the child in the long run. Development of intelligence – Intelligence means application of knowledge. It is an ability to differentiate & make judgment. The sensorial materials are such that they help the child to focus on one quality. For e. g. the cubes in the pink tower are all of the same colors & concentrate only on the size. The focus of the child’s mind on one attribute leads him to make a comparison of the objects, thus helping him in developing his comparison & judgmental skills.
Development of imagination & creativity –Imagination & creativity are inborn powers in the child that develop as he interacts with the environment. Imagination is based on something that we have experienced in the past. The cultural activities in a Montessori environment such as construction, technology, science, math, language, art & craft, music & imaginative play help to foster imaginative skills thus helping him in his future development. Development of emotional & spiritual life – A child needs a warm & loving environment to meet his emotional & spiritual needs.
Through the daily life practical exercises in the Montessori environment, they are taught to be courteous & considerate. They learn how to share since there is only one single material for each activity & also develop patience since they need to wait for their turn once a child already working with the material finishes his activity. It was also observed that while working with the materials they undergo a stage where their physical & mental developments are both harmonized known as normalization.
The prepared Montessori environment facilitates the process of normalization by offering materials. The normalised children have love of order, love of work, concentration, attachment to reality & nature, love of silence, obedience and self-discipline Dr. Maria Montessori was also able to identify the important tendencies (behavioral patterns) that compel the human beings to construct & refine themselves.
These patterns are the ones that children isplay naturally and should be considered when preparing the environment – Exploration, order, communication, work, concentration, repetition, perfection, self-control, creativity & independence Children raised in environments prepared according to the basic human tendencies as above, tend to be secure, healthy, and happy children. The Parent “Parents have a very important mission. They are the only ones who can save their children by uniting & working together for the improvement of society” (The Secret of Childhood, Chapter 30, Page 215) Parenting is the most pleasurable & the most challenging job.
Parents must protect their child & have a deep concern for him. They should take care of the below errors – ·Showering with material goods – Should not equip their child with mobiles, videogames etc. as a substitute for the time & attention desired by him. ·Unnecessary dependence on caretakers – Should not rely on caretakers since they themselves are too busy to devote time to their child. ·Unrealistic praise – Should not offer unrealistic praise to their children in the form of compliments.
When children fail to receive such compliments from the rest of the world, they become confused & lose their self-esteem. Paying more attention to negative behavior – Parents should not overlook their children’s good behavior & punish them for their bad behavior. Things such as not doing homework, poor marks, mess at home direct more attention of the parents. Thus children get more attention for being bad & hence try to keep on doing bad activities to get attention. This work will be an interest to parents, teachers & policy makers that attention to young children’s physical, emotional, social, moral development is very much important. A child is a mystery.
He has the highest potentialities but we cannot make out that who he will be in future unless we help him in releasing these. He has his own natural powers to develop. His unknown energy within him can be utilized for the betterment of the mankind. Giving him the freedom and support to question, the child will become confident & enthusiastic. A method of schooling that will focus on personal development will produce more mature, creative and socially adept children. The verbal teaching as in today’s schools being substituted by Sensorial materials, which contain a control of error will permit the child o teach himself by his own effort.
The actively & orderly prepared environment, sensorial materials and special ways of viewing & teaching the child in the Montessori education will help him to function independently. Children of different ages sharing the same classes will cooperate and help each other and learn how to live in a community and how to re-solve conflicts peacefully. Children will learn non-violence and conflict resolution. They will learn need to respect themselves, respect parents and respect other human beings . They will get a sense of their own ability to learn new things, master new skills & solve problems.
This new way of education will provide a caring environment to the child’s learning & growing, focusing on his energy & understanding him, thereby enhancing his overall development. It will respect & honor the children. Through this nourishment of the new of education, he will become an adult with a commitment & strength to transform the society. This will help in providing peace & prosperity to the nation. This is a task of developing the inner potentials of a child in which everyone regardless of caste, creed & race must participate & share since it means bringing out a crucial element – the child, for the normal progress of mankind.
Courtney from Study Moose
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