The title of our essay, for me, is a statement of independence. It feels that independence is such a natural drive of humanity, it seems so obvious, but it is all too often easily overlooked in early year’s education. Using the case study, I will explore why independence is such an intrinsic need of young children, the favourable environment, and the role of the teacher. When I try to understand why independence is such an intrinsic need of young children, as much as it seems obvious to me to be something instinctual, the result of the drive towards independence is summed up neatly in a passage from our class notes. “Independence is closely linked with the hormic impulse. It satisfies the children’s need to do things for themselves and to perfect their skills. The gained competence boosts their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It nurtures initiative, resilience and the ability to face challenges.” (MCI, 2009, AEL, Chp 1, p6). Montessori herself also said in her lectures “Independence is a phenomenon of growth”, and “Growing is a succession of acquisitions of independence”. (Montessori, 2012, p108) This resulting boost of self-esteem and drive to take on challenges for independence is wonderfully observed in the case study. Freddy takes on a huge challenge for him and with guidance from the teacher, and persistence, manages to close one button on the large button frame independently, and says to him-self “I done it”. Montessori called the years of a Childs’ development from birth to six ‘The Absorbent Mind’; she further differentiated two sub-stages of ‘The Absorbent Mind’ as the ‘horme’ (birth to three years) and the ‘will’ (three to six years). “She defines the horme as ‘...this universal force, is not physical, but is the force of life itself in the process of evolution’ (Montessori, 2007, p230). Montessori (2007) also refers to ‘hormic impulse’ evident in the first year of the child’s life, and present in all his/her actions, such as the infant’s determination to suck, explore, communicate and be independent. Initially unintentional, gradually, as the child experiences his/her environment and matures, the child’s behaviours become intentional and reflect the child’s will.” (MCI, 2013, Philosophy, Chp 2, p4). Montessori continues to elaborate on the evolution of the ‘will’ as a conscious learning, where we understand that “(The Child)... is still absorbing from the environment but can now learn new skills through deliberate effort and this is why this sub phase is referred to as the conscious absorbent mind”. (MCI, 2013, Philosophy, Chp 2, p2). We can see that Freddy is in this, the second sub-stage (The Will); because he was very interested in the presentation of the large button frame, the teacher was demonstrating to Jonnie. When Jonnie had finished with the dressing frame, Freddy then made a conscious decision to return the puzzle to the shelf and to fetch the dressing frame, to take on the challenge of opening and closing the buttons. Freddy was enabled to challenge himself and achieve a boost in his self-esteem, in his drive towards independence, because of the environment created in his Montessori nursery, and the guidance of his teacher. Montessori referred to this environment as ‘The Favourable Environment’ and she defines this environment as, “… special circumstances surrounding the children were a suitable environment, a humble teacher, and material objects adapted to their needs. (Montessori, 1966, p137)” (MCI, 2013, Philosophy, Chp 3, p1) Montessori lists the features on an ideal favourable environment; “The first stipulation was that the building should be, or at least seem like, a real house. It should be a set of rooms with a garden, preferably with shelters. The children should have continuous access to the garden — even to the extent of sleeping in it. The main room, or working room, contained what we now know as the ‘Montessori Materials’ displayed in low cupboards. A large chest of drawers...
Bibliography: Montessori Centre International (MCI) (2010) Module 6 Activities of Everyday Living London: MCI
Montessori Centre International (MCI) (2010) Module 1 Philosophy London: MCI
Montessori, M (2012, Volume 17) The 1946 London Lectures Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M. (2007) The Absorbent Mind Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M. (1966) The Secret of Childhood New York: Ballantine
Morris-Coole, S. (2010) Help Me To Help Myself MCI (Issue 84, July-September)
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