Montessori Philosophy: the Planes of Development

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Montessori Philosophy: The Planes of Development
Most people’s idea of how children grow and develop is a steady continuous movement along a path from point A '' birth, to point B '' adulthood. Maria Montessori’s philosophy on how humans learn differs in that she believed learning for children and youth occurred as a series of waves or cycles.

After years of observation, Montessori concluded there are four distinct planes of development that everyone must pass through on their way to adulthood: birth-6, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24.

In each of the planes she believed that children and youth are drawn to different skills and activities and if they are provided with the opportunities to explore and practice them, children can make extraordinary progress. She also believed that the needs of each plane of development must be fully satisfied in order for the individual to pass into the next stage of development. Each human being is born with an internal or instinctual drive (which Montessori called the “horme”) which guides the developing child to seek out experiences which meet the needs of their stage of development.

The four planes of development are cyclical (each plane is characterized by a period of construction, followed by a period of consolidation), sequential (each plane builds upon the foundation laid by the previous one), and distinct (each plane of development provides the optimal time for learning in specific areas; the best time to learn a skill completely so that it forms part of the human being. Learning skills outside of these optimal times is less effective and more difficult for the child).

The First Plane: Birth to age 6
The first six years of life are marked by tremendous physical and psychological growth, exploration and development. This is the period of infancy, an unconscious period of development.

Physically, the body develops from head to toe. The child has a fragile immune system and is susceptible to illness. Psychologically, the child is a concrete thinker, taking in everything around him/her.

Montessori coined this plane as the time of the Absorbent Mind. She believed that more learning takes place at this stage of life than during any other. Children begin to acquire language, develop cognitive and motor skills, begin to imitate the adults around them, and develop expectations of the world around them.

The child during the first plane of development has many needs. Emotionally, he/she needs love and acceptance, respect and understanding, warmth and protection. The child also has a need for security, order, as much freedom and independence as he/she can handle, and social relationships.

Montessori believed that a prepared environment should be provided to allow the child to explore and experience purposeful activities. Children in their first plane of development are constantly taking in and processing the world around them. The importance of these years of life cannot be underestimated and as parents, we should do everything we can to provide them with an environment that supports the specific developmental needs of this plane.

This plane is of fundamental importance for the formation of personality. You can support your child in the First Plane of Development by: •recognizing that this period in their lives is the MOST important one, and will never come again •providing plenty of opportunity for sensory experiences, because this is how the young child learns •talking to your child in real language, reading to them, singing to them, explaining things to them; all of which will help them to acquire language and the ability to express themselves •giving them the chance to participate in motor activity whenever possible (this means limiting time spent in car-seats, prams and seats) •keeping your home uncluttered, and incorporating routine into your life to support your child’s developing sense of order...
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