The child works for the pure pleasure of activity, to satisfy himself, while the adult works to accomplish some external end. Montessori called this “the two poles” of humanity.
Maria Montessori uncovered secrets–ten to be exact. Lucky for us, Mary Ellen Maunz, M. Ed., founder and Program Director of Age of Montessori, is willing to share the treasure of information within these secrets, and to explain exactly what they can mean to you and your children. With these ten secrets, you will gain a rich understanding of the framework beneath the Montessori Method. Maria Montessori developed more than a revolutionary educational method; she discovered the true inner workings of the child’s mind. These ten secrets are based on her lifetime of observing children and recognizing what they really need to thrive.
Secret Number One–“Two Poles of Humanity”
“Human development passes through two essential states with very different and distinct shapes and goals. [Montessori] called this “the two poles” of humanity. The child works for the pure pleasure of activity, to satisfy himself, while the adult works to accomplish some external end. This essential difference is largely unnoticed by adults, and civilization is based almost entirely on the needs of its adult members.” ~Mary Ellen Maunz
Have you ever noticed how children seem inexplicably drawn to certain activities? Or they become completely engrossed in a task you can’t fathom as interesting? It’s like the classic story of the child who receives the latest, greatest, most expensive toy as a gift, only to play endlessly with the box it came in. We’ve all seen it, examples of how truly different the child’s mind is from our own. Some might assume that the child’s mind is simply an unformed and immature version of the adult’s, but Montessori discovered this is not the case. Montessori philosophy distinguishes the developing mind as the “other pole of humanity” – not simply a young version of an adult mind.
“At birth, the child leaves a person – his mother’s womb – and this makes him independent of her bodily functions. The baby is next endowed with an urge, or need, to face the out world and to absorb it. We might say that he is born with ‘the psychology of world conquest.’”
Montessori observed that children are born with an inner need to make sense of their surroundings and to absorb information like a sponge soaks up water. Montessori called this the absorbent mind. This is how children are continually “making themselves,” the child’s inherent drive for “world-conquest” in action.
“Impressions pour into us [adults] and we store them in our minds; but we ourselves remain apart from them as a vase keeps separate from the water it contains. Instead, the child undergoes a transformation. Impressions do not merely enter the mind; they form it. They incarnate themselves in him… We have named this type of mentality The Absorbent Mind.”
Understanding that young children “work” to satisfy their own inner impulses, and not to accomplish an external goal, helps us realize the need for a rich learning environment for our children. In the right “prepared” environment, the child is able to lead her own learning experience. From the adult’s perspective, the child’s chosen path may seem random and undisciplined, especially since we cannot always see or measure academic growth. But the results will reveal themselves in the child’s increased confidence, a result of personal mastery and accomplishment, gained one little step at a time. This is one of many riches we–teachers and parents–can take away from learning the secrets of a Montessori education.
[Sneak peek at next week’s post title: The Ten Secrets of Montessori Education–#2 Help to life!]