"Organic learning views learning like an organic process, knowledge as part of an eco-system, and the educator's role as providing the environment needed for the child's genius to grow naturally."
The Montessori Philosophy
Montessori education views the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. The goal of Montessori education is to aid the child’s development into a complete adult human being, comfortable with himself, with his society and with humanity as a whole. Montessori education begins with the understanding that the role of the adult is to help the unfolding of the child’s inborn developmental powers. Montessori classrooms across the world share the following traits:
Children are engaged peacefully and purposefully in a wide variety of activities.
Many parents are often surprised to see the calm environment of a Montessori classroom; in fact, it is designed to help your child become her best self. We support his natural drive for independence by encouraging him to choose activities of interest, without interruption. The resulting feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction engender respect from the children towards others. Through “grace and courtesy” exercises, we teach children how to problem solve conflicts, how to act politely in various situations and how to be kind and helpful to their friends. The result is a cohesive community of young children.
It’s a mixed-age class.
Because the learning is individualized, your child can work at her own pace while participating in a mixed age classroom community. Younger children benefit from example, and learn from the activities of the older children, while each older child gains the self-confidence that comes with responsibility and leadership.
The children are very independent.
Often, children who don’t do things for themselves simply don’t know how or haven’t been given the chance. Here children have both. We carefully teach your child how to care for her own needs and provide opportunities to practice and improve. When she can successfully care for herself and the environment in which she lives, her demeanor becomes one of self-accomplishment and self-confidence.
The learning takes place through the child’s own activity.
A Montessori teacher is trained to introduce your child to many activities and concepts each day, based upon her unique development. The learning, however, is not so much taking place in the lesson, as it is through independent activity when she comes back to explore it, repeat it and perfect it.
The classroom is child-centered, not teacher-centered.
Unlike traditional classrooms, where your child is expected to pay rapt attention to the teacher, in the Montessori classroom the teacher is trained to observe each individual child.
You won’t see a Montessori teacher standing in front of the classroom writing on a chalkboard, but rather down at your child’s level, engaged with her or a small group.
The curriculum is highly individualized.
The teacher is trained to recognize and respect the unique potentials operating within your child, and strives to connect him to the activity best suited to him at that moment. The art of being a Montessori teacher is in finding the activity that combines both interest and the right level challenge – not too hard and not too easy. In this classroom, your child will become engaged with an activity, increasing her ability to focus and concentrate.
A wide variety of beautiful, hands-on learning materials help children learn.
The scientifically designed materials help to develop a new skill or reveal a new concept through your child’s use and exploration. Some provide the opportunity to perfect the practical skills of caring for her own needs or for the classroom environment. Some enrich her vocabulary and open the door to writing, reading, and the parts of speech. Others build on your child’s natural interest in counting and introduce an understanding of the decimal system and the processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Some encourage artistic self-expression through the introduction of skills and media. Use of the materials builds a foundation of concrete experiences of abstract concepts, such as mathematics, assisting your child to a deeper level of understanding.
While much of the class time is spent in self-directed activity, there are also times in the day for group activities and play.
The teacher may gather a group for songs and stories about social, biological, geographical, and historical themes of interest and your child will have a choice to participate or continue on with his activity. Indoor classroom space extends to a safe and contained outdoor environment with gardens and activities, so your child can work outdoors. Most schools also incorporate an outdoor playground for large motor activity and play.
The Four Planes of Development
Montessori termed the stages from birth to adulthood “The Four Planes of Development.” While other developmental theorists focused on one particular aspect of development, or stage of development, Montessori’s view is holistic; it takes into account the social, cognitive, moral, and biological changes of the individual from birth to maturity, around age 24. These stages address the ways that personality, cognitive ability, and behavior change during each distinct phase. It is important that we fully understand this framework because it explains and justifies Montessori’s idea of education as “an aid to life.” Understanding the characteristics and needs of the child at each stage allows the adult to support the natural unfolding of life. The child becomes the active agent, and the adult the support.
Overview of the Four Planes of Development
Montessori’s stages of development are grouped in six-year cycles – infancy/early childhood from birth to age 6, childhood from ages 6 to 12, adolescence from 12-18, and early adulthood from 18-24. Although each plane is distinct, there are parallels between the four planes. The first plane and the third plane, early childhood and adolescence, are thought of as the most dynamic or creative stages. The second and fourth planes are more stable, calm periods of development. The first and second planes form the years of childhood, and the third and fourth planes form the passage into adulthood. The first plane is for the formation, or creation, of the individual and the second plane is for the development of the individual. The third plane brings another creation, the adult in society and the fourth plane develops that creation. In addition, each plane contains two sub-phases, each lasting about three years.
INFANCY (0 - 6)
This is the Plane of fundamental importance for the formation of the individual. The infant from 0-3 is identified by Montessori as a "Spiritual Embryo", as the infant has, within him/herself "potentials", which determine his or her development. The newborn child has to perform formative work, which corresponds in the psychological sphere, to the one just done by the embryo in the physical sphere. In this psycho-embryonic period, various powers develop separately and independently of each other i.e. arm and leg movements, sensory movements, language etc. At this stage, there is no unity in the personality. Montessori called the infant from 0-3 the "unconscious creator".
At the age of three, a new consciousness appears clearly and fully. It is as though the child's life is beginning again, but this time as a "conscious creator". The child now wants to master his or her environment and exercise his/her will. The child is always busy doing something with his/her hands, guided by intelligence. The child's play is really work - the child works for his/her own development. All the separate embryonic developments, which occurred from 0-3 years, must in the end, function together and become integrated so as to serve the individual personality. This is what is happening in the period for 3-6, when the hands are working, guided by the mind. When the environment offers motives for constructive activity, all energies concentrate together. With freedom to develop normally, we see the true personality of the child emerge. This is what Montessori called the 'Normalized' child. During, and as a result of the process of normalization, the child develops character quite spontaneously. Montessori identifies the period from three to six years of age as the 'embryonic period for the formation of character'.
CHILDHOOD (6 - 12)
This is a "calm phase of uniform growth" in which the abstract mind is organized. The child's mental and physical horizons open up and there is no limit to what the child can explore if the opportunities are there and conditions are favorable. For this plane of development, Montessori emphasised an expansive education, a vastness of culture, wider social contacts and the open environment. This child wants to explore the whole question of morality, and can, together with other children, build social groups that are organized with rules to be governed by and work to be done. The child of the second plane is eager for knowledge and understanding of the world built by Nature and mankind. He/She is endowed with the power of imagination, abstract thought and reasoning and physical strength.
ADOLESCENCE (12 - 18)
This plane of creation is the creation of the adult. Physically, the transition from childhood to the adult state is given by puberty; psychologically there is a transition from the child who has lived in the family, to the adult who has to live in society. From the psychological point of view, this is also a critical age where there are doubts and hesitations and violent emotions. Maria Montessori said that this is the time: "when the social man is created, but has not yet reached full development."
MATURITY (18 - 24)
Providing that all has gone well before, this becomes the time when the individual develops the spiritual strength and independence for his or her personal mission in life. This individual becomes a human being who has attained a high level of moral conscience and responsibility, and can work for the good of humanity.
Thus the developmental life of a human being is a sequence of births. An earlier plane always prepares the one that follows, forms its basis, nurtures the energies, which urge the individual towards the succeeding period of life. If the child is allowed to unfold according to its natural development, and is provided with the right environment, he/she can offer his/her gifts to the rest of humanity.
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