In this essay I am going to cover the sensitive periods and I will link them to the child’s first stage of development. I will also go over each sensitive period in full and give examples of my own experiences for each of them. I will also give explanations as to why it is important for us as adults to support and facilitate the sensitive periods and also what will happen if they are not recognised or supported at the right time. I am then also going to explain how the adults understanding of the sensitive periods and child’s unfolding development impacts his/her preparation for a suitable/favourable environment. There will also be examples of what the adults approach should be to best support the individual sensitive periods of children in his/her care and also what qualities the adult should have in order to fulfil his role. Then we will see how the favourable environment and empathetic adult can facilitate/optimise these various sensitive periods.
So to start off, there are three planes of development or also known as periods of growth being; phase one – birth to six years which is known as the Absorbent Mind (Montessori, 1966 and 2007a), phase two – six to twelve years known as Childhood and then phase three – twelve to eighteen years which is referred to as Adolescence. The first phase is basically divided into to two sub stages, the spiritual (Montessori, 1966 and 2007a) and the social embryonic (Montessori, 2007a) stage. “The developing child not only acquires the faculties of man: strength, intelligence, language; but at the same time he adapts the being he is constructing to the conditions of the world about him. . . Adults admire the environment . . . but the child absorbs it” (Montessori, 2007a, p56). The spiritual embryonic (Montessori, 1966 and 2007a) is the first sub stage which is already starts from birth and goes up to the age of three and during this time us as adults cannot directly influence the child, it is just merely a time for the child to adapt. The child learns unconsciously through the interactions of their environment which will include the mother, father, brothers and or sisters, which will be the immediate family and also from their secondary carers. Montessori referred to this unconscious mind as the absorbent mind (Montessori, 1966 and 2007a) and with this she noticed that the children were able to absorb tremendous amounts of information and also develop skills like walking and talking. It is just in the child where it will come naturally to them and Montessori referred to this as the Horme (Montessori, 1966 and 2007a), the child’s inner drive. The second sub stage is the social embryonic stage which then goes from the ages of three to six. This is when the child’s social being is starting to come out, showing the nature of the society in which they were brought up in. this is why Montessori (2007a) named the child at this stage the social embryo. It is the age where they will start going to school and also when they will start making friends and forming groups that best suit their personality. The three year old is very egocentric and does not see life in any other way then his/her own. But as the child gets to the age of six, his social awareness has grown and they become to feel sympathy and concern for other children. They also become sensitive to their surroundings.
Montessori (1966, p38) states ‘. . . a sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state, while it is in a process of evolution. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait. Once the trait or characteristic has been acquired the special sensibility disappears.’ So to make it easier to understand Montessori is saying that each child is born with the need to learn and during the absorbent mind (Montessori, 1966 and 2007a) phase, which is phase one, that need comes alive, where the child is now driven...
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