Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work. The prepared environment offers the essential elements for optimal development. The key components comprise the children, teacher and physical surroundings including the specifically designed Montessori educational material. “When we turn to man, we see that rather than adapting to the environment, he creates an environment to suit himself. Man lives in a social environment, and within this environment, certain determinative spiritual forces are at work – the interrelationships among men that constitute their social lives. The man who does not live in an adaptive environment can neither develop his faculties normally nor learn to know himself. One of the central principles of modern educational theory deals precisely with the necessity of developing the social instinct of the child and encouraging his drive to live with his peers.” (Montessori, 1975, p. 41) Most environments are not made for children. Furniture, doors, appliances, fixtures are made for the comfort and ease of adults. Maria Montessori said, “If we had to live just one day in an environment such as the one we prepare for our children, I believe we also would find it painfully uncomfortable.” (Montessori, 1975, p. 42) Casa de bambini is a place where the child can continue to build his personality. The casa de bambini is a safe place for him to increase his independence. The prepared environment has been physically and psychologically prepared for the child. All their needs will be met through this environment. She can adapt to and feel part of her environment. Initially she did introduce toys but they were not interested in them. She was concerned about their hygiene and they loved hair brushing and hand washing. The children also fell in love with the environment and loved to water plants. She also brought in materials that were used with retarded children. They children were refreshed with these purposeful materials. In addition to the new materials she introduced a new role for the adult. She thought of the adult as the aid to the child’s development.
Maria Montessori told a story about a teacher who came to school a little late and found that she forgot to lock the cupboard. The children in the class had opened it and some were taking things from it. The teacher thought that those children revealed a thieving instinct but Montessori thought differently. She saw that the children now knew the various objects and were able to choose among them. “The children had their special preferences and chose their own occupations. To enable them to do so, we later provided low, pretty cupboards, in which the apparatus was placed at the disposition of the children, who could choose what corresponded to their inner needs. Thus the Principle of free choice accompanied that of Repetition of the exercise.” (Montessori, 1996, p. 105) The prepared environment cannot help the child reach their potential unless the child has freedom. They must have the freedom of movement within appropriate limits. Have lessons that call attention to control of movement. Demonstrate over and over so that you don’t have to scold children. The child should have freedom of choice. The child gets to choose which activity he will do and where he will do it. He can even choose not to do an activity. He will have limits: cannot damage the material. Cannot interrupt anyone else. The adult gives presentations to the child so that they know what to do with it. The freedom of communication…we do not ask the child to be silent. We want there to be many opportunity for conversations between children. Pleasant hum of activity that children are used to and can work in. Movement
“Children do not move in a very orderly fashion and they do not know how to control their movements very well;...
Bibliography: Maria Montessori (1975) The Child in the Family, Pan Books, Great Britain.
Mario M. Montessori, Jr. (1976) Education for Human Development: Understanding Montessori, Schocken Books, New York.
Maria Montessori (1996) The Secret of Childhood, Orient Black Swan, India.
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