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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Unique contribution of Montessori

Child development

In his early years, child primarily uses sense of ‘sight’ to develop.  For instance, before a child repeats a movement, he ‘observes’ it closely by his ‘eyes’. Later, the child engages in simple activities like picking a toy, or using a phone that coordinate his hand and senses. This natural desire of coordinating is so powerful in a child, that he performs the activity repeatedly without tiring. At this stage, the child is performing an activity for the sake of performing, not to achieve any end (i.e without any contribution of will).  

Then while practicing to walk, another important activity of a child, child learns to coordinate his legs(body) with his senses. More than anything else, ability to walk gives the child independence to move to where he wants. This enables the child to start using his Will, the ability to choose do something visavis any other thing.

Initially, a child learns to grasp something unintentionally, but as he masters the coordination of his fingers and ‘sight’, he starts grasping objects intentionally. This is the use of his Will. His ‘Will’ now can direct his hands to move objects from one place to another. 

Combined with his independence of walking, the child can now achieve numerous small goals ( that his Will has chosen) by performing more complex activities. For instance, even when the child ‘wills’ to repeat a heard word, she has to coordinate her body with her senses. For instance, learning to say a word ‘cat’ requires active synchronization of ‘hearing’ the word, ‘seeing’ the lips of the person uttering the word (two senses) and using the vocal muscle chord (one of her muscles in the body) to utter the word.

Montessori's approach of child development

Montessori firstly promotes this coordination of body and senses by making the child do every activity meticulously and sequentially. Every activity is 'presented' to a child individually ( not in a group) so that he watches the adult ( who is the teacher) perform the activity closely. The child therefore learns to use his body and senses in a methodical fashion, be it an activity such as putting a cylinder block in the different holes by matching them, or arranging the pink tower vertically, or aligning the long rods. 

More importantly, 'Will' is actively developed in Montessori pre-school by pushing back all the decisions/choices to the child. For instance, the child decides which 'work' is she going to do on the day or 'where' is she going to sit to work. She can repeat a work as many times as she wishes, because no one in the Montessori asks her to stop. She decides the time of going to eat; there is no bell in Montessori.

When a child choses to perform an activity of cylinder block in Montessori, he is actively synchronising his Will ( desire to perform that work) with the coordination of body ( hands) and senses ( sight). When the child, for instance, makes a mistake in matching cylinder blocks with their holes, he 'realises' his mistake. When he uses this 'realisation' to avoid that mistake again, he is using  Intelligence. Montessori facilitates the development of intelligence by ensuring that the child does the work by herself with her own hands individually and by designing the Montessori material in a self-corrective manner. ( Technically it is called as designing the control of error within the material ) Because of this design, the child knows that she has made the mistake in the activity without anyone telling her. Child therefore corrects the mistake herself. The entire event of 'mistake detection and correction' is driven by the child, not by the adult in Montessori. This design enables the child to develop her intelligence with every repetition of activity. 

As a Montessori child learns to repeat the activities day after day by his own Will, the child learns to synchronise his Will with body, senses and intelligence.Because of this synchronisation, the child develops her own ability to decide 'what to do' and then carry out the decision through her own actions.( by using body and senses together). 

It is this active synchronisation of Will with body, senses and intelligence, that develops the child personality, so to say. And because this synchronisation is established at a young age before 6, it creates a solid foundation of personality of the child which stands good for him for the rest of his life. This is what separates Montessori pre-school from any other pre-school !  This is why  Montessori method is called development-centric.

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