About the Montessori metod
Maria Montessori, an Italian medical doctor and pedagogue, stresses the most important period in child development is the first period, the period of early childhood. Mind’s quality of absorption and children’s sensitivity to their environment make the development in the first period unprecedented in its effectiveness. Children absorb impressions from their environment through the unconscious memory. Children store all experiences relevant to their future growth, and, to spur this growth, children are given specific genetic traits which Montessori labels as human tendencies. These tendencies, such as exploration, orientation, transportation, communication, gregariousness, order, exactitude, control of error, creativity and imagination, are interlinked and correspondent to basic human needs. The manifestation of human tendencies is evident in sensitive periods when the child possesses sensibilities which enable him/her to pick from the environment what is suitable and necessary for his/her growth.
Six crucial sensitive periods are those for order, movement, small detail, language, refinement of the senses, and the social aspects of everyday life. The main characteristic of the Montessori curriculum is that it is uniquely aligned with each of these periods. If sensitive periods are not recognized, children might lose opportunities to acquire skills and abilities necessary for fulfilling their true potential.
It is the Montessori teachers who are trained to recognize children’s sensitivities and create adequate conditions for their development through preparing the favorable environment. Creation of order is facilitated by the predictability of the environment — everybody who is part of the environment respects the daily routines, and materials on the shelves do not change their place without informing the children beforehand. Teachers are patients and allow children to research all the small details on the toys, materials, outside objects and in books. The room in which children spend their time is spacious enough for them to be able to move freely, and the materials for learning are made with an aim to provoke movement and the development of fine motor skills. The environment is linguistically stimulating — conversation is encouraged, songs are sung, and activities are presented to the children. Materials for sensorial development, which teachers arrange invitingly on low, open shelves and present nicely to the children, are an especially important part of the Montessori apparatus.
The Montessori classroom is bright, beautiful, balanced and radiates true warmth. In it, children feel safe. Everything is designed, with love and care, to respect the child’s individual work. The environment is such that allows children to be free to choose and work with a material for as long as necessary to satisfy their need. Part of the favorable environment is the yard in which children cultivate a healthy and happy connection with nature, which directly corresponds with a healthy child development. As custodians of their environment, teachers need to show children that the environment is favorable for them to feel attracted to it, comfortable and safe in it and stimulated by it.