Montessori based her philosophy and method on a deep understanding of and respect for children. She wrote all human beings are born with certain universal and certain unique potentials. Each person enters the world with a unique inner plan that directs and drives them to develop, to master and to perfect themselves.
Human beings begin life with internal timetables and patterns already established for growth, both physically and psychologically. If they are free to grow in healthy surroundings under suitable conditions, children naturally grow into intelligent, competent and responsible adults. It is the task of adults to provide such conditions and aid children in their great quests to develop to their full potential
- Four planes of Development
“Our method has been based on the fact that we have been guided by the manifestations of children at different phases of growth. Each of these may be considered a level or a plane. On each different level of life there are different manifestations … The characteristics of each are so different that the passages from one phase to the other have been described as ‘rebirths’.”
–Maria Montessori (the four planes of education)
Montessori theory divides human growth into 4 stages of development and each stage has distinct developmental tasks and ideal conditions for learning. They parallel other theorists for human development, but in Montessori’s integrated theory the stages are viewed holistically. While each individual will pass through these phases in unique ways and at different rates, some generalisations can be made about these stages. Each phase lasts 6 years and each is divided into 2 three year periods.
These correspond to Montessori curriculum and multi-age groupings.
- Early childhood: 0 – 6 years old. This stage is characterised by the central question “what is it?” and the predominant desire is “do it myself!”
- Childhood: 6 – 12 years old. This stage is characterised by the central question “why is it?” and the predominant desire is “To Know!”
- Adolescence, 12 – 18 years old. This stage is characterised by the central question “How can I fit in?” and the predominant desire is to “do with others” and “let me become myself!”
- Maturity, 18 – 24 years. This stage is characterised by the central question “why am I here?” and “how far can I go?”. The overriding desire is for understanding and integration of the self with others and with the world in general.
- Basic Human Tendencies: all humans share certain basic tendencies such as exploration, orientation, order, communication, repetition, exactness, etc. The knowledge of these tendencies helps Montessorians in preparation of the learning environment, planning appropriate activities and understanding the needs of the children.
- Respect for the child – We believe that children should be treated with respect as capable beings. Children develop a healthy respect for self, others and the environment.
- Intrinsic Motivation – Montessori recognises that real motivation comes from within. Coercion through external rewards and punishments often regarded as unnecessary and detrimental because this robs learners of the pleasure natural intrinsic rewards of learning.
- The developing mind: Montessori differentiated four distinct but related aspects of the human mind which develops over time. These are the absorbent mind, the mathematical mind, the reasoning mind and the socially conscious mind.
- Sensitive periods for learning: According to Montessori theory, the learner is guided by inner forces that shape developmental needs. At times learners show strong sensitivities which lead them to choose experiences that are most appropriate for their immediate learning neds. These times of heightened sensitivity for certain types of activity are referred to as sensitive periods. Once a skill has been acquired the sensitivity passes
- Spontaneous Activity: In the Montessori classroom students learn by doing. Students choose from a variety of materials and work alone or in groups at their own pace and as long as they need on particular tasks. Typically, long periods of uninterrupted self-directed worktime is provided for learners. Through 3-hour work sessions, learners develop excellent work habits and powers of concentration and are allowed to reach greater depths of understanding. Students develop self-discipline and independence that allows them to succeed both in and out of school.
- Individual Liberty: The principle of individual liberty is at the root of Montessori education. Without liberty, the nature of the learner cannot be revealed, observed or aided in its development. It is only through liberty that the learner can act spontaneously, follow inner needs, adapt, find order and develop independence. Liberty in the Montessori environment is not abandonment; there are important structures, external support and order that is provided to help the learner. Some of these liberties are seen in the freedom to move, freedom of choice, freedom from interference, freedom to work alone or with others, etc. These freedoms have limits when they infringe on the rights and welfare of the group.
Individual Responsibility: Along with individual liberty in the Montessori learning environment there must be individual responsibility. From early on children take on responsibilities within the classroom. Teachers balance liberty and responsibility within the classroom. By carefully expanding freedoms as learners show they are able to handle them, teachers help develop each student’s ability to assume increasing individual responsibility.
- Partnership with family: When a parent does not understand the concept of the Montessori Method of Education it is difficult for the child to achieve all he can achieve. Without parent involvement and partnership in a Montessori school the child is unable to harness all the gifts he has inside of him. We end up doing one thing at home and doing another thing in school, defeating the purpose of Montessori Education.