Maria Montessori termed a child as a “Spiritual embryo”, which is in the embryonic stage of the future fully transformed adult. A society is a group of adults, while a group of children can be termed as an embryonic stage of the future society. A group of children is nothing but a school or a place where children spend time together. Hence, Montessori termed social development as possibly the most important element in her schools. Her emphasis on children being allowed the freedom to work alone and to develop concentration did not mean that she underestimated the importance of social development. Instead what she saw was that it was precisely because the children were allowed to work in such freedom that they then displayed their innate social cohesion. She saw that true discipline and harmony was something that came from within and was not something that could be enforced.
"The children then are orderly and have a harmonious discipline. A discipline in which each has different interests. It is different from the discipline of a soldier, with his forced obedience, when we all have to do the same thing at the moment. This is a social discipline and it brings people into harmony with each other." (The Child, Society and the World, p 24, Chap III)
Dr. Montessori designed her environment as a miniature of the world outside. She provided social exposures in all angles to a child in her environment.
“There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.” (The Essential Montessori: An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method, and the Movement, Elizibeth. G. Hainstock, Plume publishers-Penguin Group)
A child when enters a Montessori environment, will be in a pre-normalized state, with fear, anxiety, confused and other not so well felt condition. Pre-normalized child can be brought to normalized state by giving him purposeful work, through structured environment. What is this purposeful work and how is a structured environment defined?
A child will have certain inner urge for certain kind of the work according to which, she will be prompted to focus her attention on certain elements in her environment, for a certain period of time. These periods are termed as sensitive period. There are six of these sensitive periods
Sensitivity to Order: The Child shows the need for order in several ways like seeing things in accustomed places. Learning through their five senses: The child has a natural curiosity to explore things around him, feeling them with his five senses. Sensitivity to small objects:. The sensitivity to small details holds the child’s attention for an extended period, fostering the ability to focus. Sensitivity to language: The Absorbent Mind of the small child makes an intellectual achievement unconsciously under the guidance of a special “sensitivity” that enables it to select certain sounds from all the other phenomena in the environment. Sensitivity to co-ordination of movement: In this period, the child has an involuntary inclination to perform and repeat movement purely for the sake of gaining greater and more precise...