"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the
filling of a vessel."
The goal of Montessori Education is to
encourage the development of a self-actualizing individual capable of
independent problem solving and responsible choice. With supportive,
individualized guidance children are encouraged to create their own
knowledge through interaction with developmentally appropriate concrete
On their journey from infant to adult,
children pass through four planes of development. Each plane is
characterized by a specific developmental goal and corresponding
tendencies. The first plane, from 0-6 years old, is known as the plane of
the absorbent mind. At this age children experience sensitive periods
which assist them in formation of self and orientation with their world.
Language acquisition, concern for order, attention to detail, locomotion
and use of hands are all sensitive periods of first stage of development.
Accordingly, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote,
"A child's different inner sensibilities enable him to choose from
his complex environment what is suitable and necessary for his growth.
They make the child sensitive to some things, but leave him indifferent to
others. When a particular sensitiveness is aroused in a child, it is like
a light that shines on some objects but not on others, making of them his
whole world. It is not simply a question of having an intense desire for
certain situations or certain things. Within the child there is a unique
potentiality for using these objects for his own growth, since it is
during the sensitive period that he makes his psychic adjustments like
that of being able to adapt himself to his environment or to move about
with ever increasing ease and precision." (The Secret of Childhood,
"Education, therefore, of little ones
is important, especially from three to six years of age, because this is
the embryonic period for the formation of character and of society, (just
as the period from birth to three is that for forming the mind, and the
prenatal period that for forming the body). What the child achieves
between three and six does not depend on doctrine but on a divine
directive which guides his spirit to construction. These are the germinal
origins of human behavior and they can only be evolved in the right
surroundings of freedom and order" (Absorbent Mind, 240).
"Teachers erred in letting the senses
and muscles of their pupils remain unused and inert while their thoughts
wandered about in idle fancies. And yet the muscles, nerves, and senses
all constitute a whole. If the disorder is to be corrected, the organs
connected with the psychic life must be activated. Mental work should be
accompanied by an appreciation of what is true and beautiful which will
animate it, and by movements which bring ideas into play and leave their
traces on the external world, where men should help each other. The
actions of the muscles should always be at the service of the mind and
should not stoop to make themselves servants of what is known as the
"vegetative' or 'physical life' of man." (Discovery, p.78).
"It follows that the child can only
develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call each
experience 'work.' No sooner does language appear than the child begins to
chatter, and no one can persuade him to stop. One of the hardest things in
the world is to make a small child keep silent. And if the child were
prevented from walking and talking, he could not develop normally. He
would suffer an arrest of development. Instead, he walks, runs, jumps, and
so develops his legs by use.
So the first thing his education demands is
the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given
him by nature. This does not mean just to amuse him and let him do as he
likes. But it does mean that we have to adjust our minds to doing a work
of collaboration with nature, to being obedient to one of her laws, the
law which decrees that development comes from environmental
experience" (Absorbent Mind, p.95).
Montessori education supports the child
with a method and environment which nurtures intellectual, social and
emotional sensitivities and recognizes the developmental goals with which
they are associated.