“The senses are points of contact with the environment.” How does activity with the sensorial materials encourage observation and perception of the environment?
The child in his mother’s womb is a physical embryo; He develops his physical structures and increases in size while in the womb. Once he is born, leaving the comfort of his mother’s womb, he must go through a phase of reconstruction or incarnation. He must become like his parents in movement, speech and other areas. To do this he does not possess fixed or predetermined instincts dictating his development like in animals who immediately behave like their parents once they are born. He possesses predetermined patterns of psychic unfolding. He gradually unfolds to exhibit the characteristic of his kind in movement, speech and actions. He is not taught by his parents to walk, talk or cry. He is not taught to sing, climb or think. "This fashioning of the human personality is a secret work of 'incarnation'. The child is an enigma. All that we know is that he has the highest potentialities, but we do not know what he will be. He must 'become incarnate' with the help of his own will." (The Secret of Childhood, Chapter 6, Pg. 32). The means by which he does this can only be described as spiritual hence he is described at this stage by the term “Spiritual Embryo’’.
Inasmuch as the child incarnates by a spiritual means, he still needs some aids to development. Nature has provided him with two internal aids; The Absorbent mind and Sensitive periods, while two external aids, a prepared environment and freedom are provided by the adult, usually a trained teacher.
With his absorbent mind the child absorbs impressions and information from his environment. “Adults admire the environment; they can remember it and things about it; but the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.”(The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 7, Pg. 56). From birth till he is three years old, the child unknowingly or unconsciously absorbs whatever he comes in contact with in his environment. He does this with his unconscious absorbent mind which is activated by the unconscious horme. There is no discrimination to what he takes in; just like a sponge or a camera. He simply absorbs that which he is exposed to. His subconscious receives these impressions and information from the unconscious mind and because he has no memory of his own, places it in his preconscious mind, a kind of memory. “This vital kind of memory which does not consciously remember, but absorbs images into the individual has been given a special name by Sir Percy Nunn who calls it the Mneme.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 7, Pg. 57).
At this time, the child is laying a foundation for his personality. Adults surrounding the child must be most careful because “the unconscious mind though it seems to feel nothing and remember nothing does something worse, for impressions made at this level are handed over to the Mneme. They become graven on the personality itself. This is the greatest danger of mankind. The child who is not protected with a view to his normal formation will later avenge himself on society by means of the adult who is formed by him.”(The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 3, Pg. 24). From age three to six, the child goes through the phase of the conscious absorbent mind. At this time he has memory of his own. His senses are triggered by its subconscious which retrieves store impressions and information from the Horme and brings it to the conscious mind for refinement. “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to age six. For that is the time when mans intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.” From birth till age six, the child goes through what the Dutch Scientist; Hugo De Varies discovered while studying...
Bibliography: Montessori, M., The Discovery of the Child, Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company, The Netherlands, 2009.
Montessori, M., The Secret of Childhood, Fides Publishers, Switzerland, 1966.
Montessori, M., The Absorbent Mind, Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company, The Netherlands, 2009.
Montessori, M., The Montessori Method, Clio Press, England, 1998
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