From the age of around 3 years onwards, the child has the conscious absorbent mind. The child still retains the power of the absorbent mind. The hand becomes the instrument of intelligence. Right from birth the psychic and mental life needs to be nourished before it can even express. In other words, experience always precedes expression and is got by exposure and absorption.
From nothingness at birth by the time the child is 6 years old, he has created language, intellect, movement, will, memory and a very distinct personality. Dr Montessori identified a special sensitivity which helps the child to acquire essential human characteristics. These sensitivities as Dr Montessori referred to them as sensitive periods enable the child to take from the env what is necessary and suitable to construct himself as a unique human being.
As we know sensitive periods makes the child sensitive towards something which is distinct from others and pick up an activity particularly from 0-3, this child has the sense and the gifts of intelligence, love, communication, reason and will in potential; all waiting to be actualized. To achieve the potential in his/her personality, the child needs to be placed in relation to his environment, firstly when the sensitive periods are operative. Secondly he needs to be given the freedom to explore through his own activity and thirdly the obstacles in his development are to be removed. Because at this age the characteristics of the child are acquired with love, joy, ease and greater perfection than at any other time.
In relationship to the sensitive periods, it’s the sensitive period for language which lasts the longest and extends to the second plane. Because out of all the sounds in the environment the human child is drawn towards human sounds only. There are other sensitive periods like order, exploration, movement, refinement of senses, interest in details etc. From the very beginning this child is a sensorial explorer; exploring, categorizing, classifying, all the impressions he receives trough his senses, which are the point of contact between the mind and the environment.
Through controlled movements he builds his own culture, behavior and way of life based on the life he or she sees around him. Through movement he also builds his own independence as gradually he progresses more and more for himself. The tendencies and the sensitive periods direct the child to those specific experiences that enables him to build his own self as a human being. What the child builds depends on the particular environment and the particular society in which he or she lives.
Language Development – 3 – 6 years
Around 2-2 ½ years of age, the child is comfortable communicating his needs and thoughts. However at this stage he needs to be helped to utilise the language so as to consolidate it. He also needs to be helped to correct errors if any. Further, any incompletion which may have occurred with language development has to be immediately attended to. The period between 2 ½ to 3 ½ years is when the child starts becoming aware of the societal rules. At this stage the child passes through two milestones simultaneously. They are as follows –
Over usage of rules – When the rules start making sense to the child, he wants to use them. He indeed enjoys using them. These rules help the child to deepen his understanding about the language and its structure. As his language assumes a more sophisticated form. It is filled with a number of rules. At times there is even a tendency to overuse these rules. Thus, a child who has been speaking correctly having absorbed it from the environment, now, introduces in his language, what is called the ‘created grammar’. This is owing to his inner need to understand the rule, acknowledge its pattern and follow it implicitly. This phenomenon occurs with all languages. At this stage he is not aware of the exceptions for the rules. Gradually with the right form of help offered, the child not only has a firm grasp of the rules but also its exceptions. At this stage the adults cannot offer any direct corrections or instruct the child about the rules and the special exceptions. The only form of help that can be rendered is to surround the child with correct expressions of language. Children then absorb them and internalise them.
Conceptualisation [abstraction] based on language – By the time the child is about 3 years of age, he would have amassed a chaotic wealth of experiences. Though it is a wealth of impressions, it cannot be directly utilised until there is order created. The creation of mental order is the same as abstraction. In other words, every concept is identified clearly and given a definite demarcation. Help offered towards this would enable the child to form mental headings under which appropriate concepts can be categorised. This categorisation on one hand would enable the child to sort out the chaotic wealth of impressions. On the other hand it enables the child to absorb impressions in a conscious manner. This serves him in generalising a concept. The process involves perception to begin with, leading towards conceptualisation. When a concept has been firmly formed within the mind, there are two further needs arising to fix the concept further into the mind of the child, so that the child can go over it anytime and for this he needs a special language. This special language is the ‘nomenclature’. Nomenclature is the scientific language given for abstract concepts. It would also enable the child to communicate with others as well as to receive communication comfortably.
As the child grows, the structure of his language assumes more resemblance to the adult’s language. He starts following the same tonic expressions and the intonations of the adults. His communicative skills improve. The two aspects of spoken language, structure and function get more elaborated and defined. More complex inflections like idioms are being included. His sentences become longer with more than one idea finding place in it. The child also starts using sentences which have the subject, verb and the object. In other words, there is a clear work order in his sentences. These three centres in a sentence are further spruced up with appropriate words. With his vocabulary building up in quality and quantity the child is able to communicate becomes a ‘shared context’. He will also experience certain eagerness to listen to others and at times he projects others thoughts as his own. By the age of 4 to 4 ½ years, the gross differences between the adult’s and the child’s grammar disappears. Yet the child’s language development is not complete, as the vocabulary acquisition continues. Certain extent of imperfection in the structural aspect of the language also persists.
With the creation of language as a human function complete with all its aspects, the child would be able to conquer the environment. Such a language would also become an effective channel for social and cultural learning. This explains how in the course of acquiring a language, he also acquires knowledge about the world through language.
Movement Development – 3 – 6 years
At the age of around 2 1/2 – 3 years of age, the child experiences the need to strengthening the movement patterns by coordinating them with his mental faculties towards performing human activities. The child has to utilize the various human functions and mental faculties to develop practical and social skills. In this manner his personality gets developed, simultaneously he also adapts to his environment and the time and place which he lives in. Dr Montessori realized that when movement is isolated from the mental faculties it would result in a chaotic destructive and meaningless expression. Therefore it is important to bring together the developing mental faculties to work in unison so that the child can perform meaningful personal and human activities.
Dr Montessori realized that movement is very significant in early childhood education. Movement is the birth right of every living being and as much to the human being. Whereas the living being has been given the species specific movement patterns at birth, they continue to perform them instinctively; but the human beings do not have any predetermined movement pattern. During the period of spiritual embryonic development, he has to cultivate them in a methodical manner. Supporting in this task, are the absorbent mind, the ability for imitation, the various human tendencies and the periodical sensitivities, that the child experiences. However when the child comes to the self-interpretive environment, the quality of the home environment may be reflected in the movement pattern that he has created. He may have been supported or obstructed from developing his movement patterns which would manifest certain deviations owing to the lack of help received. Dr Montessori realized that this child has to be helped to overcome the problem and consolidate the movements so as to make them an enduring characteristic of his personality.
By the age of 3 years, the child would have created various human functions and mental faculties. This point of arrival begins the task of consolidating and coordinating them towards building an integrated human personality. Towards this end the adult community should realize that the child has to make his own efforts to build his own personality. All that the adult community can do is to provide an environment conducive for development and refrain from doing things for the child for which he has developed capacities. Movement has to be collaborated with other powers and functions.
Development of Independence – 3 – 6 years
Around 3 years of age, the child experiences a need for a supplementary environment.cThis environment should be a representation of a miniature society. In this environment he would also find the company of a peer group. More often adults tend to pamper the child thereby fulfilling their needs. Restraining them from manifesting the various forms of independence can result in deviations.
Having been exposed to the various activities of practical life, the child may have acquired certain understanding of these activities. Further, he may have also been given certain freedom to perform them. When admitted into the self-interpretive environment, the child is offered exercise of practical life. Though structurally, they are the same as the activities of practical life, they differ from the above mentioned point of view of their final goal. Performing exercises of practical life as developmental activities enables the child to utilize his human functions and mental faculties, thus strengthening them. Thus this group of familiar human activities when performed as developmental activities enable him to not only establish but also further develop both, coordination of movement and independence. It also helps him to develop faith and trust in the environment and the adult community.
Having developed certain degree of independence of various forms, the child is introduced to yet another group of developmental activities, namely, sensorial activities. Though the structure of these activities is unfamiliar to the child, the physical properties which are embedded in them are familiar to him. Latest, from birth, the child has been amassing these physical properties. However, owing to non-conscious absorbent mind, the wealth of impressions he has gathered is chaotic in nature. Performing the sensorial activities, help the child in various ways, even as they serve as offering scope for utilisation of various forms of motor coordination, they also appeal to his developing intellect. Further the child is able to classify the wealth of impressions he has gathered. The classification itself is achieved by isolating the physical properties, by the help of a psychological principle. Further the sensorial activities, being unfamiliar; the child has to go a step further applying his mental faculties to probe and identify the purpose of the material. Working with sensorial activities, where most of the characteristics of the material and features of the presentation are unfamiliar, the child develops a sense of self-reliance. This enables him to arrive at emotional stability. With all the sensorial materials being single sets, the child learns to share them with the rest of the community. Though this may have begun with the means of development provided for the exercises of practical life, the child is now able to work in groups when and where necessary. In this manner the child arrives at social independence. Having conceptualised the physical properties, the child is able to classify the sensorial impressions. This also enables him to acquire a consciousness with regard to his mental activity. With the acquired and enhanced consciousness, the child is able to deepen his relationship with the environment. This results in helping him acquire a greater intellectual dominion over the environment.
With the mind filled with concepts, the child experiences an urge to share them with others. He also realises, every thought he shares, begets him more thoughts. This is nothing but a human need for communication. In the self-interpretive environment the Montessori directress offers a suitable nomenclature for every concept given to the child. Further she also supports language development, with regard to both semantic and syntactic potential. This enables the child to arrive at the level of independence where he is able to use language as a means of development to extend and receive thoughts. Acquiring linguistic dominion would also throw open the gates of exploring various items of human culture. At this juncture, mathematics as a precise science needs a special mention. Mathematics is the science of all sciences. It further enhances the child’s analytical mind. The capacity to analyse and establish relationships between various entities could be further extended to practical life situations. Simultaneously finding his bearings within the environment enables him to grow emotional stature. The adult must be careful to avoid all sorts of unnecessary help. Every effort at helping himself has to be encouraged and appreciated. The directress has to realise that independence is an acquisition, which follows the individual rhythm. Therefore she should never draw parity between any two individuals. Even as each individual is developing and establishing successive levels of independence, ground rules limit them from impinging on others interest. This helps him to arrive at independence on a social level. The various forms of help rendered towards the acquisition of various levels of independence also enable the child to get rid of the regressive characteristics and deviations.