"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 materials
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, p. 42).
"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.