“He has no need of adult influences to call out his activity, a tranquil environment suitable to the interests of his age and freedom to follow the promptings of his own inner need are sufficient for him. This child has true spontaneous activity: his development unfolds from within through his activity working purposefully on the objects in his environment”
Dr. Maria Montessori, Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents
Introduction to the Montessori Method
The Montessori method was started in the early 1900s by Dr Maria Montessori. In those times, she saw the need for a system of education that understood the child’s development and world. Since then, her method of education has changed education around the world, and it is still trusted today as a method that nurtures each child, adapts to individual paces and needs, and inspires in children responsibility, independence, and the love of learning.
An idea fundamental to Montessori philosophy is that the child has an innate desire to develop her/his human potential in all its dimensions. Equally intrinsic to Montessori philosophy is the belief that the young child has an “absorbent” mind. Maria Montessori believed that just as a baby learns to walk and talk spontaneously and without the direction of an adult, so is the child able to absorb and process all sorts of information from her environment, and in effect, to teach herself. Thus, Maria Montessori believed that the primary job of childhood is for the child to “create” her/himself.
There are many benefits to the Montessori style of teaching. Every child is born unique and full of potential. Montessori practice gives them the gift of independence through structured freedom and by allowing to learn at their own pace. This in turn enables the child to learn and grow, unimpeded, encouraging discovery and development.
We pride ourselves as a leading Montessori pre-school where each child’s creativity and talents are nurtured in a socially aware, stimulating and warm environment. But Montessori practice shouldn’t end when school ends – starting and continuing the Montessori approach at home is of great benefit to your child.
Conditions for the Ideal Environment
We believe that with the right conditions, the full potential of a child can be realised. In order to achieve this, we must create the ideal learning environment for them. It needs to be structured by careful preparation, to aid the child’s life and natural growth.
At House on the Hill, all our classes are carefully and purposefully designed to help our children to develop well, based on Dr. Montessori’s learnings. This is the first environment.
“The second environment the child encounters is that of the home. How perfect that will be depends entirely on how clearly the child’s needs are understood and how lovingly and unselfishly these needs are provided for. We must consider the needs of the child just as analytically as we would consider the needs of a plant we were about to grow. One could not expect a perfect plant to develop if the need of the plant for sunlight were ignored; or if the sunlight were provided and the need for water ignored; or, if both of these needs were remembered but the plant were forced to grow in poor soil.”¹
How do you create this ideal learning environment at home?
If you think about what an ideal environment for you to work in is like, the same would apply for children. Peaceful, quiet surroundings enable concentration. A beautiful environment helps to motivate. A place that is orderly and tidy.
Here are our top tips for creating the ideal environment!
1) Follow your child – Observe your child’s interest and development
2) Invest in open shelves and baskets – Create an organized and peaceful environment
3) Choose some of your child’s nicest toys – Do they inspire and nurture? Which ones sparks your child’s imagination?
4) Limit quantity of toys available for the child to select.
5) Natural Materials – try to use materials that are beautiful and delicate to the touch
6) A home for everything and everything in its place
7) Accessible space – giving children the opportunity to be independent in their own space.
8) Get support – don’t be afraid to ask for help! It could be from anyone at home who is actively participating in raising your child, other parents from the same school or from your child’s class teacher.
Here are real life examples of how the right conditions can be beneficial from our parents:
“After I reorganised his toy area to have more space and less toys, S started to return his toys to where he had originally taken them from. The other day, S started to not properly play with them. I explained how sad I was and how we had made an effort to make them organised and neat. Suddenly he returned them and started to play nicely. How amazing is that? I do not need to get angry or tell him the same thing many times.”
“Although the number of toys and books are limited, he never gets bored! It’s an eye opening discovery for me. Before the workshop, I worried about the number of toys and books whether they are enough for my son. After selection of toys and books, Z seems to be more conscious about pack up, keep them in original location.”
All Childhood Experiences Have an Impact on their Later Personalities
Let’s dig a little deeper into this.
“He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so he passes little by little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love”
Dr. Maria Montessori, the Absorbent Mind
If there is one Montessori term that you should know, it’s the Absorbent Mind! The Absorbent Mind was Maria Montessori’s most in-depth work on her educational theory, based on decades of scientific observation of children. This book helped start a revolution in education. Since then, there have been both cognitive and neurological studies that have confirmed what Maria Montessori knew decades ago.
Maria Montessori calls the child’s mind between the ages of birth to six, ”The Absorbent Mind”. In this period, the child possesses an incredible capacity of mental absorption to learn language, perfect movement and internalize order. She observed that children also experience ”Sensitive Periods” in their developmental stages. These are periods of special sensitivity when the child is attracted to certain stimuli in his/her environment, allowing them to acquire certain knowledge and master skills. Maria Montessori also observed that the child is undergoing a process of self-construction.
Key Points that you should take from the Absorbent Mind are:
- The child gains knowledge from his environment – they learn from the physical space around them, and they will mirror the language and movement of adults and children
- Starts with impressions being absorbed unconsciously
- At its peak receptivity during the preschool years
- Children do not need direct teaching in order to learn.
- What the child takes in during the absorbent mind period is taken in effortlessly and remains as the foundation of their personality.
The Normalized Child
“(Normalisation is) the most important single result of our whole work.”
Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1949
You may feel slightly uncomfortable when you see us use the term ‘normal’ or ‘normalisation’ to describe your child. The term ‘normalisation’ describes a child’s ability to concentrate and work freely in the Montessori environment, using the Montessori materials to fully engage their interests, and exercising self-discipline and peace.
There are six characteristics that are commonly associated with normalisation:
1. The Need for Independence
- Never do for children that which they have learned or are trying to learn to do for themselves
- Give them enough practice without hurrying
- Isolate the difficulty and teach one step at a time
- Be watchful for the moment when to discontinue physical tending
- Children will end up with inferiority complex
- Adults are the cause of impeding a child’s psychic growth due to “constant interrupting the child and breaking into his environment”.
- Children will feel that the lack of consideration makes his/ her own activities are of no value
2. Mutual Aid and Cooperation
- A Montessori environment does not support competition among children
- To prevent any seeds of arrogance and pride but instill confidence, humility and respect
- Giving children the opportunity to help and teach each other
- Mix-aged classrooms
- Older children to help the younger ones – to strengthen their qualities of leadership and competence
- Younger ones are given the help they need by allowing them to trust and respect their older friends
- Mix-aged classrooms
3. Need (Love) for Order
- Work order in the classroom
- Knowing which things belong together and how the materials are being used
- To return the materials back to the shelves, ready for the next child’s use
- This order is a genuine respect for the materials with which they work and generous consideration for the other members of their small society (classmates)
4. Need for Discipline
- Children are taught to respect the rights of others just as their own rights are respected
- Rules instilled on children should not sacrifice the child’s personal interest
- Rules needs to be consistently observed.
- Limits set should be consistently and firmly being adhered to
5. Love of Silence and Working Alone
- Silence by choice and not by decree
- Children are free to discuss their work with each other, to work together in pairs or in small group
- Should not be forced to co- operate with each other against their will
- They may not just join another who is working alone without first obtaining the other’s permission.
- The right of a child to work alone is respected
- They may not just join another who is working alone without first obtaining the other’s permission.
6. Love of Work
- Work they choose for themselves
- When a child is working and choose tasks that holds his/her attention, we should be careful not to interrupt to correct or praise
- Disrupt the power of concentration which is important for child’s development
- The Montessori classroom is dedicated for them to move about and apply themselves to all kinds of formative work
- Lead to a free, independent being
Now that you have a better understanding of Montessori principles, you can start to use them to help your child to develop better, instilling a habit of responsible freedom and social awareness that will stay with them for life! What next? It’s time to set up the ideal environment at home and start working with your child on some easy Montessori at Home activities.
To start you off, we have prepared booklets with easy to try at home activities. The booklets have been broken down into three age groups – Infant, Toddler and Child. Help yourself to an age-appropriate one, download your free copy here!
We are constantly updating our blog with information about Montessori practice and positive parenting, plus we always have a new monthly Montessori at Home activity for you to try out. Visit our blog here!
And off you go! Remember – Be patient! It is not about perfection. Learning is a journey – and mistakes are a part of it.
About House on the Hill:
We are a pure Montessori school, but what does that mean?
1. We believe children can create a future of social harmony. Our school is a community, where children acquire the social skills necessary to participate as citizens of a multi-cultural, harmonious society. Children of different ages are integrated in the same classroom, creating a cooperative environment where young ones learn from the example of their older peers, who consequently learn by mentoring their younger classmates.
2. We believe children are naturally inclined to learn independently and absorb information from their prepared environment. So our warm and inviting space is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, organized and accessible. Manipulatives and equipment are specially-designed to be self-correcting, so that children deduce on their own what works and what doesn’t.
3. We believe each child is unique. With the child-centred approach, we focus on each child’s individual path, allowing them to master skills at their own pace in a way that fits their interests and needs. The children are on their self-directed learning journey where teachers are guides, helping them to engage with appropriate activities and to challenge themselves increasingly as they progress.