Making Montessori Your Own: Montessori's Greatest Discovery {Part 2}

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I'm glad to have Sarah back this week for the second part of her Montessori series - the introduction and a brief history of Montessori is here if you missed it!

Our method has been based on the fact that we have been guided by the manifestations of children at different phases of growth. Each of these may be considered a level or a plane. On each different level of life there are different needs and there are different manifestations... With regard to the child, education should correspond to them, so that instead of dividing the schools into nursery, primary, secondary, and university, we should divide education in planes and each of these should correspond to the phase of developing individuality goes through. -- Dr. Maria Montessori, The Four Planes of Education 

Of all the posts in this series, this one is the hardest to write. Because there is so much information I want to share on each plane of development (but am restricted to only one blog post), I am going to do my best to condense the most essential information into four paragraphs (reflective of the four planes). Unfortunately, there isn't much further reading available. Other than the handout that is pictured, several Montessorians have said that they've learned the most about each plane of development simply by observing children.

The first plane of development (approx 0-6 years of age) can be summarized in two sentences, the first actually said by a child to his teacher: "Help me to do it myself." The second is from Montessori: "Every useless aid arrests development." To the child at this stage, movement is as important as food. The child is a pure adventurer, wonderer, and seeker. He is a being who needs love and protection. This is so important from both father and mother because -- at this age -- the child cannot differentiate between parental love and Divine Love. If we take that literally, it means that YOU are the face of Christ to your child. This does not mean that you are to say 'yes' to your child's every demand; in fact, the child needs to hear the word 'no'. In part 3 of this series, I'll expand further about this first plane of development and the Absorbent Mind; meanwhile, remember that characteristics of this first plane include the need for repetition and movement.

Which probably explains why they want to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear over and over again but can't actually sit still for it...

The second plane of development is from 6-12. The child now has the ability to reason and has become a social being with a "herd" instinct. This means that they often work better or best in groups but that's if their need for independent work, repetition, and concentration in the first plane has been successful (one Elementary Montessori Directress said that if they can't work well independently, they won't work well in a group). The second plane is when the Saints are introduced to the child because of their inclination towards "Hero worship" -- their need for models to look up to and learn from. Clubs (which could mean anything from a sports club to a choir to some other activity done as a group in a 'club' so to speak) are important to the second plane child and they need guidance and structure from the adult. At this age, home and school no longer satisfies or completes them. They need more of a social life and desire to be away from home more in environments other than school. While the first plane child is satisfied with the content on hand, the second plane child is ready for the abstract and wants to know why things happen and how they came about. It's also the time when the sweetness of character so attributed to childhood gives way to a certain hardness, to the extent that some have called this the age of rudeness. This continues until adolescence. 

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Adolescence (12-18) is the third plane of development and it parallels the first plane in that it is a sensitive time of intense growth and change. The child desires to be with young children and craves independence. Academically, the best thing is to merge schoolwork and real life experiences together. In regards to the Montessori Method, this is done at Erdkinder which is German for 'school of earth' or 'earth school'. It's essentially a farm school wherein they learn all of the essential academics through real-life experiences. Because this is a sensitive period of growth and the adolescent is very sensitive to criticism, Montessori believed that the child should not only work but also receive money for that work because self-respect should be gained for the seriousness of work done and a realization of what work and money mean. It is also important the child experiences other adults who reinforce the parents' values. Montessori explains the difference between the second and third planes like this: "... [The child] passes from feeling for himself in relation with those with whom he is in contact, to feeling for others whom he has never seen. It is an abstract love." (Montessori, 1971, p.10).

And finally, the fourth plane of development: 18-24 year-olds. This is the plane of "Maturity". Reflecting on this plane, Montessori pondered the temptations of Christ in the desert. "We must realize that Christ did not meet God in the desert, he met the evil one. He faced that which is evil, he knew evil, and he overcame its temptations." The fourth plane of development is about overcoming love of power, possession, and an easy life, which is possible for an individual only when the individual has successfully gone through each plane of development and experienced all of these things. The fourth plane individual knows who he is and understands the limits and responsibilities of being a member of society. He devotes much of his energy to self-improvement and to the improvement of humanity. As an adult, he is aware that only through conscious effort can each individual proceed to the betterment of all of society. 

 This is just a brief overview of each of the planes of development. For further information on them, Montessorians recommend observing children at their various ages. In the next post I will expand on the first plane of development and the "Absorbent Mind" of the child.

 A special thank-you to a Montessori Directress who lent me her personal material to study for the writing of this post!

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