Maria Montessori is one of the first educators to discover what early childhood education has come to accept today that children under six have extraordinary powers of mind – the absorbent mind. This mind takes in from its surroundings – the physical space, the language and movement of all around him. It is at its peak receptivity during the preschool years.
Absorbent Mind is important in helping children:
– To be curious of the world around them
– To learn by non-direct teaching
– To establish foundation for life
The sensitive periods for the individual child vary and are approximate, but all pass, never to return. In the average school, according to Dr. Montessori, the basic skills are taught largely after their sensitive periods have passed.
The prepared environment is the place where self-directed learning takes place. It is a space that meets the social, emotional, intellectual, physical and moral needs of children and has been carefully set up to help them learn and grow. Within this environment, the children move freely, chooses their “works”, and where they may accomplish independence and discipline.
The adult works to perfect the environment while the child works to perfect himself.
All constructive, creative activities in which children choose to engage themselves are named “work” by Dr. Maria Montessori. Children need extended periods of time to find their preferred ‘work’. They will concentrate all their efforts on learning about any material or situation with which they are presented and it is from this experience that they build their understanding of the world. “Work” undertaken this way constructs one’s personality and mental faculties from varied and rich experiences.
The Montessori teacher is frequently referred to as directress / director because it is a better summing upwhat she / he does.
The Montessori directress directs the child towards learning opportunities rather than teach.
The schedule of the day is simple and predictable. This is in tune with the way children experience the passage of time. The children come to rely on the order of the day and develop an internal awareness of what comes next. Through this order, children experience great independence, and trust in the environment and the adults. Activities children will be exposed to consist of “care of themselves and of the environment”; ample opportunity for the children to listen to and to practice spoken language through songs, finger rhymes, picture cards; handling manipulative that help develop fine motor development, refine eye-hand coordination, use of both hands together, strengthening the muscles of the hand, and refining the pincer grasp. All these interest-filled activities encourage repetition in the child’s work and leads to longer and longer periods of concentration.
For the older children, the children community offers a variety of developmental materials which contributes to concrete experiences that build the foundation for abstract facts in future pursuit of higher learning.