Dr. Montessori refers to a child’s development in an embryonic period i.e. Physical embryo and the other is Spiritual embryo.
The physical embryo is within the mother’s womb from conception to birth.(0-9) months. It takes place in the life of both men and animals. It starts from a single cell which is invisible to the human eye. That tiny cell contains a blueprint for development like the color of human being’s hair and eye, the shape of his hands and feet. A child’s whole potential is there in that tiny cell and it can go wrong if the fetus is not developed properly due to insufficient oxygen in the womb, if the mother is infected with any disease, due to her smoking and alcoholic habits or she has not taken nutritious diet etc. The fetus infected by mother may develop gross impairment of the nervous system or be born blind. The environment which a fetus is getting in mother’s womb is full of potential but it can be altered in few circumstances.
The Spiritual embryo takes place in human life at the time of birth. Maria Montessori believes that this is the factor that distinguishes the species of Homo sapiens from all other animals.
Spiritual Embryo is the phase of intellectual development or a period of mental construction of the child that starts developing right after birth and continues developing to three years by absorbing from the environment unconsciously. The embryo needs to be protected by an external environment that is warm in love and rich in nourishment. Every child is born with a warming potential in him.
“We know how to find pearls in the shells of oysters, gold in the mountains and coal in the bowels of the earth but we are unaware of the creative nebulae that the child hides in himself when he enters this world to renew mankind”. (Educational Philosophy in Modern India, Kumar S, p128)
By the term ‘psyche’ is meant all that is non physical: the child mind, intellect, personality, temperament, spirit, soul (from birth to three years). At birth, the mind of a child has been called ‘a blank page’. The child has to grow and incarnate conscious thought (intellect, reasoning or memory which may be called the organs of the adult mind.)
If there is any serious interference with its development the child will show defects of character and intellect and a complete cure is practically impossible. Horme is the guide given by nature to direct their development. It is the vital force which is guiding and pushing the unconscious intelligence and only death can stop it.
Each of these periods lasts for only as long as necessary for the child to accomplish a particular stage of development. The child is like a sponge which soaks whatever is there in the environment whether it is good or bad, ugly or beautiful, violent or peaceful. These impressions are stored in his memory, mneme, which becomes a part of his personality.
“Such is our duty towards the child to give a ray of light and to go on our way.” (The Montessori Method: scientific pedagogy as applied to child education in the “Children’s House”, Montessori, Pg.94)
According to Maria Montessori, the special powers that aid the child in his task of self-construction by absorbing from the environment is the Sensitivity period and Absorbent mind. The sensitive periods are the best time for a child to learn specific skills and are critical to the child’s self development. The child has this underlying...