ELEMENTARY PHILOSOPHY PAPER FOR PARENTS
Maria Montessori based her method on the idea of following the child. If
your child has been in the early childhood class, you have an idea of
what this entails. Your child has been learning to be self-sufficient in
his work and thoughts. The children in the early childhood classes are
also absorbing information from their environment and ordering it in
their growing minds. Their love of learning is blooming as they are
trying new works and repeating their favorites. Montessori developed a
method in which the child could grow in an independent and positive
manner. Just as this ideal begins in the early childhood classes, it
follows through into the elementary years.
Montessori said the goal of education is, "the development of a complete
human being, oriented to the environment, and adapted to his or her
time, place, and culture (Lillard 3)." She studied the children as
whole human beings. Rather than educating just a part of the child, she
believed that it was highly important to guide them to be
self-sufficient people in the world that they live in. This begins in
the early childhood classes. The children begin by learning basic
practical life activities. These basics are the foundations not just for
the elementary curriculum, but also for life in general.
The Four Planes of Development
Montessori believed that learning occurred in four phases. These are
what she called the Four Planes of Development. There are three things
that occur in each phase. First, there is a specific goal of
development. There are milestones that the children step up to in each
phase. The second is that of a direction to meet these goals. This
pertains to how the children go about understanding the information
being presented to them. The third are the sensitivities in each phase
(Lillard 9). There are certain concepts that the children are sensitive
to or can absorb more easily in each phase. The curriculum is molded
around this idea to allow the chance for each child to absorb the
information that is appropriate for him.
In the first plane, ages 0-6, the child is highly sensitive to language.
It is at this age the child learns to communicate to society around
them. The child at this level can absorb new words quite easily. He also
has a strong need for order. The child in this first plane is learning
basic skills. These include washing hands, pouring water, scooping,
tracing, etc. All of these works are put together in order to train the
child's eye to move from left to right. This is all in preparation for
reading. This is one of the main goals of this age. Also, the child is
working on his fine and gross motor skills. The child goes about
reaching these goals through repetition. The child at this age loves to
repeat works and through this process, imprints the concept in his mind.
At this age, the child has a tactile sensitivity. The sense of touch is
extremely important to him. It is through this sense that he is able to
gain many impressions such as how to form letters and numbers, the
difference between land and water, etc. In this first phase, the child
has acquired and assimilated a lot of information. At the end of this
phase, the child is eager to gain more information.
In the second phase, the child is entering upon a different realm
altogether. The child now has a strong need for reasoning. Instead of
knowing "What?" He wants to know "how" and "Why?" It is at this age that
the child is sensitive to acquiring facts. He wants to understand the
relationship between things. Instead of through repetition, as in the
first phase, one of the means that a child uses to acquire information
is research based. The child is encouraged to find out more on their own
with guidance. Information is imprinted now through research and
repetition. At this age, the child is concerned with fairness and
justice. This is one of their sensitivities at this age. They are also
concerned with community. The 6-12 child is also very social. As we will
discuss more with the Cosmic Curriculum, the child wants to know how
they fit into their society. They want to know what they can contribute.
In this phase, the child is making the passage form concrete to abstract
thinking. The child is still sensitive to language but there is now more
focus on analysis. "Why do we use this word instead of another?" and
"How are they different?" The children are now seeing that different
words mean different things and coming to understand syntax. This in
itself is an abstract concept. The children come to learn these concepts
in ways that are not as concrete as before. In mathematics, the mind is
also refining itself. It too is capable of grasping more abstract
concepts. The child is still able to manipulate the material but its
form takes on a more abstract form than before. This passage to
abstraction is continuous through out the phase and is one the important
goals of the phase.
The Elementary Curriculum
The Elementary Curriculum is centered on one main concept of study. This
study is called the Cosmic Curriculum. The goal of the Cosmic Curriculum
is to facilitate the child in answering the question, "Who am I?" We
have already discussed that the child is starting to see himself in a
community. He is now trying to see where he fits in. Many adults still
struggle with this question. They struggle unconsciously for years
before it actually confronts them in adulthood. To help the child answer
these inner questions, we "give the child the universe" (class notes).
By teaching the story of the world, whole to part, we can give the child
an impression of what came before and what is capable of becoming. He
then has an impression on which to build further information that he is
introduced to. This curriculum begins with the introduction of the Great
Lessons. These Great Lessons deal with The Creation of the Universe, The
Story of Life, The Beginning of Man, The Story of Language, and The
Story of Numbers. With these stories, all aspects of the curriculum,
including math, language, history and geography, and science, are
integrated together. This connection makes an impact on the child. The
impressions that they gain facilitate them in all learning that they do
in and outside of the classroom.
As we discussed before, community is important to the child of this age.
The concept of "going out" into this community is a fundamental part of
this curriculum. "Going out" helps the child find their place in society
and answer their questions about what they have to contribute. Again,
impressions are made on the child, which will last through out their
lives. They are learning by doing and being part of their society. The
Cosmic Curriculum is the binding that ties all of the other areas of the
classroom together and most importantly help the children grasp a sense
of Who they are and how important they are to the future of the world.
The teachers in the early childhood and elementary class have the same
purpose. Rather than acting as teachers, they serve as aids to the
child's discovery of the world. It would be more appropriate to call
them guides. The guides are a "link to the environment" (Lillard 23) of
the classroom as well as the outside environment. They also serve as
models for the child in the way of grace and courtesy. The guides
(teachers) carefully observe each child in order to discover what the
specific needs and interests of the child are. From these observations,
the teacher is able to develop a curriculum order that is specially
suited for each child.
The Prepared Environment
The prepared environment is one that is especially suited for the
child's age group. The environment is set up in a way that the child can
be successful. There are no obstacles presented that might inhibit the
child's development. The prepared environment is simple and orderly. In
the elementary classroom the materials are set up to teach as well as to
present more questions for the child's further research. For example, a
material dealing with biomes in geography can lead to the questions of
Who lives in this biome? What part of the world does this biome occur
in?, etc. The children can then choose to research this topic and learn
even more. The environment is also set up to prepare the child for real
life. The environment of a Montessori classroom is highly important
because of the fact that it acts as a door to the world around them. The
children learn through their environment through to the outside world.
Freedom with Responsibility
Montessori called freedom, "The key to the process of development."
Sitting in desks does not contain children in a Montessori classroom.
Because movement is important to this age, the child is free to move
around the classroom. Through movement the child is accomplishing
further learning. The child is also free to choose works as they come in
interest to him. This freedom does not mean that the child is able to
run loose without control. From the first years in the early childhood
class, the children learn self-control. This self-control is what allows
the class to function in a productive state. The child is proud of this
responsibility. It is something that they take pride in. They feel proud
of the responsibility that they have over themselves and the
environment. This is a form of their independence. This independence is
important to their development. The children learn to be responsible
before they achieve total freedom. The idea of freedom acts as an
unspoken voice in the class. From self-discipline comes independence
that transforms itself in to responsibility. The teacher represents a
guiding force of this concept and acts as a model for this
self-discipline. All of these aspects allow the classroom to have an
organized, "normalized" and productive flow.
The Elementary Child
The elementary child has a growing need of independence. The Montessori
Curriculum accommodates this by giving the child opportunities to be
productive and independent. One way is through the practical life and
sensorial areas. The sensorial are of a early childhood class has
transformed itself to the real living world in a Montessori classroom.
The children are working with objects that they would find in the world
outside of the classroom. For example, they are feeling an actual
earthworm, working with the binomial cube as it applies to mathematical
equations, using all of their senses to take in all information from the
world around them. In the practical life area, they are now doing more
intense works that involve many steps such as cooking and cleaning.
These areas directly
prepare them for what they will confront in real life. This is one of
the main purposes for these areas as they help to educate the whole
During the years that Maria Montessori was developing her educational
method, there were many wars going on between men. This made a deep
impression on her and the development of her method. Montessori believed
that when you educate the child, you educate the future of humanity.
With this, she made peace education a base in her curriculum. The
children are guided to work cooperatively with each other and to settle
disagreements in a peaceful way. This is accomplished by sessions at the
peace table and using the talking stick. The children learn to
communicate with each other. Communication is something that is lacking
between leaders of the world today. By learning how to communicate now,
the child will have a better sense of conflict resolution in the future.
These are the main aspects of what the Montessori Elementary program is.
Montessori developed her method by observing the child. It is from these
observations that she was able to develop a curriculum specially suited
to each Plane of Development. With each new plane comes added
responsibility and growth. All then help to educate the whole child in
order for him to take his place in society.
by Natasha Siva-Shook, Elementary Teacher
Works Cited: Polk-Lillard, Paula. Montessori Today, Shocken Books,
New York: 1996