A Child Is Mysterious and Powerful
“Within the child lies the fate of the future. Whoever wishes to confer some benefit on society must preserve him from deviation and observe his natural ways acting. A child is mysterious and powerful and contains within himself the secret of human nature. ” Explain the above quote with reference to the Montessori philosophy. The term ‘Montessori Philosophy’ originated from the name of Dr. Maria Montessori, one of the most influential pioneers in early childhood education.
She advised an education which combines a philosophy with a practical approach based on the central idea of freedom for the child within a carefully planned and structured environment. To analyze the above quote, we will have to know what it is in essence the Montessori philosophy. Maria Montessori was a soft hearted lady who happened to live through the two world wars. She was very much worried that in spite of the development of science and technology in the world, why men are very much unhappy, cruel and keep fighting with each other.
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She believed that this is because of the lack of fulfillment of human mind. So she deducted that as the adult comes into being through the child, it is important to consider the human being way down from the very childhood itself. Montessori has once opined that “It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was. ” (http://www. dailymontessori. com/maria-montessori-quotes/) Montessori, who became the first lady doctor in the history of her country, was appointed as assistant doctor at a psychiatric clinic.
From this position she got chances to observe some mentally retarded children. Under her care and love many of these children improved even to a position that they could read and write. After that Maria Montessori got chance to look after some slum children for whom she made a home. This was called ‘Casa Dei Bambini, means children’s house. It was from here that Montessori philosophy actually evolved into being. Montessori made a new way of education in which the child is considered as the centre of education with the adult serving only as one who is helping him to develop as a whole; hysically, cognitively, emotionally, spiritually and socially. She discovered that with such an education a unified personality is formed. According to Montessori philosophy, the child has an unrealized potential within himself when he is born. This potential is what helps him to develop from birth onwards. This is called predetermined psychic pattern. Christoph Schiebold states that “Good education is not to follow the pages of a workbook. It’s following the workbook that’s within the child! (http://educationaljournal. wordpress. com/2011/07/02/quote-christoph-schiebold) The predetermined psychic pattern (also known as natural laws of development) is there in the child in an embryonic stage when the child is born. So as only a healthy mother gives birth to a healthy baby, the predetermined psychic pattern in the baby also needs a nourishing environment to grow well. In the given quote it is stated ‘a child is mysterious and powerful and contains within himself the secret of human nature’.
In reference to Montessori philosophy the potentials present in the child from birth itself is what makes the child mysterious and powerful. That itself is the secret of human nature too. The child is mysterious because there is an internal guide in the child which alone lets these laws to unfold themselves. We the adults are not able to understand what is happening there within the child. We can see only certain signs of these laws of natural development reveal themselves by carefully observing the child’s behavior. Now let us analyze why the child is described as being powerful.
For this we will have to know what the laws of natural development in essence are. These are law of work, law of independence, development of attention, development of will, development of intelligence development of emotion and spiritual life, development of imagination and creativity and stages of growth. Thus it is said that “The child is endowed with unknown powers which can guide us to a radiant future. “(The Absorbent Mind ,P2) During the observation of children at Casa Dei Bambini, Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that children prefer work to play.
They were able to achieve a self integration through this work. She found that the aggressive and destructive children became calm and peaceful after working with the materials. She concluded that through work the child seemed to get fulfillment of some internal need which made him normalized. Montessori found out that independence is necessary to the child’s normal development. The child uses his independence to listen to his inner guide for actions that can be useful to him and one who is served is actually limited in his independence.
It is well said that “we habitually serve children; and this is not only an act of servility towards them but it is dangerous, since it tends to suffocate their useful, spontaneous activity. ” (Course manual P. 40). We can help the child attain independence by giving opportunity for him to work with the materials by himself, by directing him towards a given end to develop his will, by giving him constructive work to help him in developing discipline, by letting him know and have an understanding of what is good and bad and also giving him freedom to reveal himself completely by playing only passive role.
Maria Montessori stated that at certain stages of development, the child has sensitivity to his environment and he directs his attention to particular objects with high intensity and interest. By giving the child materials to work that engage him wholesomely we can help him develop his concentration and build his personality. When the child has the maximum power to concentration or when he gain good power to attention, he becomes calmer and more controlled and rested. Montessori believed that decision taken by the child on any activity and the action taken by him are the basis for development of the will.
When the child is allowed to work with the materials as long as he wants, his self concept and power of concentration develop. Thus the child gains an ability to make his own choice which helps develop his will. The perceptions made by the child with the help of his senses are his intelligence. Obtaining conscious knowledge is done by the child’s intelligence, comparing and discriminating between the impressions received by the senses. Dr. Maria Montessori believed that development of imagination and creativity are inborn powers which develop through his interactions with the environment.
In regard to development of emotional and spiritual life, Montessori found that the child has an inner power to react to emotional and spiritual experiences from birth itself. Montessori discovered 5 periods of growth in children and each period has specific goal, the directionality towards the goal is fixed and each period has its own sensitive periods. To help them reach their goal by maximizing own potentials, the caregivers and teachers need to know these periods of development.
Here, from this detailed analysis of predetermined psychic pattern within the child what we can understand is that the child has many abilities (powers) inside him from birth itself. It is this potential that helps him to self construct himself. With this much of original intrinsic assets it is quite reasonable to assume that the child is powerful. According to the philosophy of Montessori, the potentials within the child unfold slowly during the course of time while child self constructs himself. But certain internal aids and external conditions are necessary for the predetermined psychic pattern to reveal itself.
The internal aids are sensitive periods and absorbant mind. The external conditions are environment and freedom. Sensitive periods are blocks of time in the child’s life when he is absorbed with one characteristic of his environment to the exclusion of all others. Montessori discovered 6 sensitive periods in child. They are sensitivity to order, sensitivity to learning through five senses, sensitivity to small objects, sensitivity to co-ordination of movement, sensitivity to language and sensitivity to social aspect of life.
A child has sensitivity to order during the first year itself. It is because of this sensitivity that the child becomes irritated when he is exposed to unfamiliar objects or people, or insists on putting things back on their places and become happy when they see things in accustomed places. In a precise and determined environment only can a child categorise his perception and form an internal framework with which to understand and relate his world. Montessori found out that the child has a sensitivity to learning through his five senses.
The child has a natural curiosity to explore the things around him. So he has to work with this environment to develop his neurological structures for perceiving and thinking which is the basis of intelligence development. When the child is about two to two and half years his attention is drawn towards small objects. This sensitivity to small objets helps him to concentrate his intellectual powers on a specific problem and also helps him to hold his attention for long period of time fostering his ability to focus.
The child has sensitivity to movement when he is two to 4 years of age. During this period the child has a tendency to perform and repeat a movement for the sake of gaining greater control. Here the child learns to bring his body under his will. The child become sensitive to human language during the period of sensitivity to language. The sixth aspect of sensitive periods being sensitivity to social aspects of life, explains the child’s interest in other children of his age group. This period enables the child to recognize affection and friendship to develop.
This way child learns to be part of a group. Montessori philosophy tells us that there will be problems when the child is starved from the right environment in his sensitive periods. When there is no order, the child will feel very insecure and lack confidence. If the child is not allowed to explore his environment during his period of learning through five senses, it will hinder the child’s learning, he will become rebellious, with poor will and concentration and it will be difficult for him to compare and judge.
By the lack of right environment for sensitivity to small objects, the child will become less curious to learn new things and he will become passive. The lack of environment permitting co-ordination of movements decreases the child’s fine and gross motor development which in turn affect the child’s balance and agility. If the child is not regularly exposed to language he will lack self confidence and will develop low self-concept due to this inability to express himself. If the child is not allowed to socialise he will feel lonely and become unfriendly and antisocial.
Absorbant mind helps the child gain knowledge from his environment. From birth onwards the child’s mind starts absorbing everything the he sees and experiences around him. This absorbing takes place by two stages namely unconscious and conscious. When the child is zero to three years of age, he absorbs everything unconsciously and these information absorbed are stored as impressions in his mind. The impressions made by the unconscious mind prepares the child’s mind which later will be used by his conscious mind. After 3 years of age the child’s mind starts absorbing experiences consciously.
In this stage, the child will have memory and has developed a will too. Montessori also believed that environment can help or hinder the child’s development. So the environment must be a nourishing place for the child’s needs for self-construction. She felt that the environment must be prepared carefully by a knowledgeable and sensitive adult and the adult must be a participant in the living and growing of the child within the prepared environment. An important aspect to be taken care of with regard to Montessori environment is freedom. It is because of 2 reasons.
First, it is only in an atmosphere of freedom that the child can reveal himself. Secondly if the child possesses within himself the pattern for his own development the inner guide must be allowed to direct the child’s growth. However, the child’s freedom is limited in the respect that he is not permitted to interfere on the rights of others and is careful of the materials, environment and himself. Apart from freedom the other basic elements in a Montessori prepared environment are structure and order, respect for others, reality and nature, beauty and atmosphere, the Montessori material and development of community life.
The teacher is the link that puts the child in touch with the environment. She prepares the environment and the child uses the environment to construct himself. The teacher has a role in helping the development of predetermined psychic pattern of the child. The teacher observes the child carefully during his activities in the Montessori environment and prepares activities for him according to the child’s level of development. According to Montessori the two aspects of the psyche namely the mind and the body(the mental energy and physical energy) should work in unison.
Otherwise child will be deviated. A deviation is a warp in the character that will occur in the child during the formative period, (birth-six years) because of obstacles or repressions to his natural development. This we can understand more if we consider the previously explained sensitive periods of the child. We can understand that the child self constructs himself with the aid of his sensitive periods and nourishing environment. If these are deprived, he becomes deviated.
During her work with the children at Casa Dei Bambini Montessori found that some mental integration happens within the child when he works with the materials. She referred to this as normalization. In a Montessori classroom children are given nourishing environment and the teacher is careful about the different stages of development of the child and aid him with his internal necessities. Thus the child is able to work according to his will (as his inner guide directs him). So his mental and physical energy work in unison ans the child becomes normalised.
Thus a Montessori classroom becomes a gathering of normalised children. In such a group they are naturally full of love, sympathy, and feel for each other. They show respect for the rights of others, they help each other, they support each other morally and there will be a total harmony in the classroom. Montessori termed this as a society of cohesion. As per the analysis of the Montessori philosophy, we understand that the Montessori classroom works based on these principles and that a society of cohesion exists in such a classroom.