According to Montessori, “A child’s work is to create the person she/he will become.” Children are born with special mental powers (e.g. an ansorbent mind, imagination), which aid in the work of their own construction. But they cannot accomplish the task of self-construction without purposeful movement, exploration, and discovery of their environment.
They must be given the freedom to use their inborn powers to develop physically, intellectually, and spiritually. A Montessori classroom provides this “freedom” within the limits of a prepared environment, which develops a sense of internal order and self-discipline whilst nurturung a child’s ability to concentrate, refine his/her senses and maintain an air of wonder, curiosity yet respect for life.
Also basic to Montessori’s philosophy is her discovery of Sensitive Periods in children’s development. During these periods children seek certain stimuli with immense intensity, to the exclusion of all others. So it is during this time that a child can most easily master a particular learning skill. Dr. Montessori devised special materials to aid children in each Sensitive Period. It is the responsibility of the teacher/director to recognize these periods in individual children and put them in touch with the appropriate materials in the classroom environment.
Whilst the core principles remain the same, the focus of Montessori education changes to adapt to the child’s natural stages of development. Montessori described these stages as Planes of Development, which occur in approximately six-year intervals, each of which is further subdivided into three-year segments. These Planes of Development are the basis for the three-year age groupings found in Montessori school classes: three to six, six to nine, nine to twelve, twelve to fifteen and fifteen to eighteen.
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