The Absorbent mind is the sponge-like capacity of a child’s mind, absorbing from their environment, as well as the language in which they are surrounded. The absorbent mind period is where learning is effortless, and the child starts forming their personality around this. This period is from birth to six years old, the time in which your child is in preschool. In preschool the prepared environment is set out for the child for him to absorb all the richness around him and learn from it.
The unconscious absorbent mind is from birth to three years of age where the child is absorbing everything and anything around him unconsciously. Some of the activities in which they are learning in this period is to sit, crawl, use their hands, speak etc. the children mimic what they see, hence the adult being the biggest role model during this phase. Role modelling every act, for the child to see what the appropriate behaviour is.
The conscious absorbent mind is from three to six years of age, here the children are still sponge-like, however they are seeking experiences. Children in this phase have a desire to make choices on their own as well as completing tasks independently. Giving the child a task to complete successfully, in order to do so, making sure the child will be successful within this task. Packing their school bag in the morning, however making sure they have enough time in order to do so.
These phases of the absorbent mind are in all children in the preschool phase, the prepared environment as well as the spiritual preparation of the teachers plays a big role in each child becoming the best they can be.
“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself” - Maria Montessori
At school, the children are independent little humans, each carrying their own bags, washing their dishes, preparing snacks for their friends as well as helping their friends when needed. Watching a four year old helping a three year old with their buckle shoes is something too precious for words.
How are parents able to help their children become more independent at home is often a question we get asked as teachers. This means that they can do everything they do at school at home too. A big statement we live by is “help me to help myself”.
This applies where the child is capable, however they just need the time to be able to finish the task at hand. Giving your child ample amounts of time to complete their task is key as they work slower than adults — they have only been
doing this for 3 years!
The prepared environment can happen at home too: organising your child’s play area around them, giving your child space in the kitchen for their own plates and cups, and having a working area for them to help prepare their meals. Encouraging children to pack away after themselves, only taking one activity out at a time and packing it away before taking the next one out. On that note they would need a shelf their height for their activities to live.
Remember to teach things step by step and to give your child the ability to learn it over some time — they didn’t learn to prepare their friend’s snacks in one day. We want the children to be successful and in order for this to happen, we need to set them up for success by supplying them with the foundations.
Lastly, keep in mind that when learning happens, so does mess! Things are going to break, spills are going to happen but this is all a part of the process. We learn to clean the spills and to move on — these are accidents which lead to a new learning curve.
We love independence and as Maria Montessori said, “Help me to do it alone.”
We are very excited to share our experience of running a six week enrichment program for childminders over August and September 2017. After almost a year of preparation, brainstorming ideas and learning from other workshops, Phindi and Lundi facilitated a series of six valuable and informative interactive learning sessions at Hout Bay Montessori with childminders and teaching assistants from the Hout Bay area. The sessions were a huge success, with an opportunity for shared learning, lots of active
participation and loads of fun. Phindi and Lundi shared their experience of studying Montessori and teaching at Hout Bay Montessori.
The content of the six sessions were based on the First Children program of Auburn House Trust. Some of the broader topics covered included understanding the child and understanding the role of adults as teachers and role models, respect, independence, order and freedom from a Montessori perspective.
There was also an opportunity to share, experience and learn more about the approach and the child’s environment at school and in the home. We spend time walking around the Montessori classroom and observing ‘the prepared environment’. Participants had the opportunity to observe Phindi and Lundi demonstrating some of the Montessori activities that the children do in the day and think about what would be useful and fun to reinforce for children at home. It was a wonderful group of ladies, who became very close after six weeks of being together and shared amazing feedback of their experiences and learning.
We felt the objectives had been achieved with participants gaining some practical Montessori tools that can be applied to engaging and stimulating and enjoying life, learning and play with children at home. There was also a focus on the Montessori way when it comes to listening to, collaborating with and enabling children to be their beautiful evolving selves.
- Nicky Bush
Why should you consider placing your toddler in a Montessori Nursery classroom? What will your toddler be learning at that age? What are the benefits? Here's a look at how starting your child in a Montessori Nursery class can benefit his/her learning experience later on in life.
"The studies which have been made of early infancy leave no room for doubt: the first two years are important for ever, because in that period, one passes from being nothing into being something." - Maria Montessori
From the age of 0 - 3 years, a child learns learns through doing and through observing - their "absorbent mind" allows for experiences to form part of his/her entire being, not just in memory. It is an effortless learning that should be unitlised and nourished from this young age.
Starting your child in a Montessori Nursery classroom at the age of 18 months will allow for important foundations to be laid for later learning. A Montessori Nursery classroom offers a safe and age-appropriate environment for your young child to explore freely. There is a misconception that Montessori classrooms lack boundaries, however it is the presence of boundaries that allows for a free and safe environment, which in turn aids a child's independence and self-confidence.
Age-specific activities are laid on shelves and shown to children individually when they are able to master the skill/activity. The role of the adult in this environment is to guide the child to what they can master while supporting their natural learning capabilities and interests.
The activities within a Nursery classroom are aimed at:
Strengthening Fine/Gross Motor Movements
Refining Hand/Eye Coordination
Developing spacial awareness
Developing sequencial thought/sense of order
Supporting Independence and Self-confidence
Improving Social Skills
All of the above form an invaluable foundation for any child to grow from when entering a pre-school environment. It gives the child an opportunity to learn through play, exploration, socialising, and curiosity - it gives the child the freedom to learn naturally and happily, building on skills which will be used as he/she enters pre-school.
"It begins with a knowledge of his surroundings. How does the child assimilate his environment? He does it solely in virtue of one of those characteristics that we now know him to have. This is an intense and specialized sensitiveness in consequence of which the things about him awaken so much interest and so much enthusiasm that they become incorporated in his very existence . The child absorbs these impressions not with his mind but with his life itself." - Maria Montessori
What makes for an authentic Montessori school environment? What are the foundations of an authentic Montessori school? Here's a look at various aspects of a true Montessori environment and the ethos behind them.
What is Montessori Education?
To quote The South African Montessori Association, "Montessori is an international philosophy of education based on scientific observation of how the child learns. The approach is child-centred and acknowledges the innate eagerness of the child to learn and acquire knowledge. It is a holistic approach to education which values all areas of the child’s development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive."
The first Montessori school was started in 1900 with 22 children. Maria Montessori aimed to observe and work with these children closely to see how they learn, interact, and experience their environment. Over 100 years later there are more than 20 000 Montessori schools worldwide.
Because not all Montessori schools are strictly Montessori in their teaching methods, it's important to highlight what makes a school truly authentic when it comes to Montessori principles and education.
Here are 6 traits of an authentic Montessori environment:
1. The staff all follow the same guidelines when it comes to discipline, personal behaviour, curriculum presentations, and embodying the Montessori philosophies.
2. The environment is beautifully maintained, ordered, clean, and aimed to serve the child, not the adult.
3. Activities on the shelves are age appropriate depending on the age of the children in the class.
4. The activities gradually progress from concrete to more abstract teachings, beginning with sensorial materials.
5. Authentic Montessori classrooms have an uninterrupted 3 hour work-cycle every day.
6. The classes are divided as follows:
- Nursery - ages 18 months to approximately 2 1/2 years
- Pre-school - ages 2 1/2 years to 6 years
- Junior Primary - ages 6 years to 9 years
- Senior Primary - ages 9 years to 12 years
An authentic Montessori school is not just about academic achievements, its focus on emotional and spiritual development is paramount too. It aims to foster compassion, curiosity, self-motivation, respect, and independence alongside academic goals. Creating a sense of community amongst parents, teachers, and children is vital, and this "connectedness" is an important characteristic of a true Montessori school too.
"There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community." - Maria Montessori
"Child-centered learning" has become a popular catch phrase over the last few years, but what does it really mean and how does it fit in with Montessori education? Simply put, child-centered learning means educating with the child's best interest in mind - your focus as an educator is not only on the child's development, but also on figuring out HOW the child learns.
Where traditional schooling relies on a teacher teaching a class as a whole, and teaching in a way that makes sense to the adult, child-centered learning and Montessori education relies on the child to teach the adult how to best develop their skills in a way that is suited to the child's natural way of learning. In a Montessori environment directresses are guided by each child's individual needs and interests. The curriculum is set, but when and how each activity is presented depends entirely on the developmental stage of the child and which teaching method will work best for that individual child. The goal of child-centered learning is to allow the child to become independent, responsible, and confident within themselves.
Maria Montessori explains this perfectly, "Scientific observation then has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment."
Child-centered learning is just that. It is trusting the child's natural ability to learn within his/her environment when given the appropriate tools to succeed at mastering various skills, excelling academically, and reaching personal developmental milestones.
A Montessori environment is set up in a way that supports the natural learning processes of children - it is not designed with the adult in mind. For example, in a Nursery classroom the tables and chairs are child-size and all activities are at eye-level for the child. As the child gets older, the environment becomes more and more geared towards supporting their independence and sense of responsibility.
"The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences."
- Maria Montessori
As the adult is guided by the child, the child can be gently guided by the adult. Child-centered learning is all about seeing learning through the eyes of a child. It is about empathy, connection, and bringing out the best in each learner in the most effective way possible.
An introduction to the beautiful and unique Montessori Education system, illustrated for you by the children of Hout Bay Montessori themselves.
Yes, Montessori isn’t about fantasy corners and dress-up but we are all about creativity and storytelling! The wonderful, warm and inspirational Michael Dorer spent two days talking us through his book: “The Deep Well of Time”. The teachers are now telling stories to the primary children – about the “Rebellious Pronoun” and “Archimedes and the Hollow Sphere”. The 6 to 12 year old is ALL about the imagination – how special to learn to use this to teach basic concepts of parts of speech and maths, among many!
Pre-school children also love to hear stories – theirs are geared at personal stories – true stories about the world and themselves. Be warned – they like to hear them over and over… and over again!
The following two days saw many new faces, as the conference started in earnest. We were invited to many different workshops and lectures. The overall messages for me became clear as I thought back on the two days on the plane home! Previous conferences have mostly been aimed at preschool topics – with the odd primary inspired talk. This year, I, as a primary Directress, got so much from many workshops. This is speaking to how Montessori Primary is growing in South Africa. Meeting so many other primary teachers and Principals of primary schools was heartwarming and so comforting – we are all walking the same path. We are just at different stages. The willingness to share, support and learn from one another was profound and deeply humbling.
The lectures I went to about Montessori High Schools were also inspiring. If Hout Bay Montessori is ever in a position to seriously explore this option, there is a wealth of expertise to turn to. Montessorians around South Africa are doing extraordinary things and the commitment to collaboration was clear! There is certainly talk of Montessori Primary Schools working together to develop a central high school – watch this space!
Every child feels anxious when it’s time to be away from Mom and Dad. It’s important to remember that every stage of your child’s development contains challenges, including natural fears and anxieties, and separation anxiety is just another part of growing up. Watching your child cry and scream as you leave them at school is always heart wrenching for a parent, but by following a few simple guidelines you can help ease your child’s fears and hopefully some of your own as well.
Prepare your child in advance. Don’t wait until the first day to spring the goodbye, but don’t constantly remind your child of the approaching separation either, as this may make you both more nervous. Remember that children pick up easily on your feelings.
Keep goodbyes short and sweet. In doing so, you convey the message that you have confidence in your child’s ability to handle the situation. It doesn‘t have to be a quick kiss and a dash out, but don’t hover around either. Children may cry for a few minutes, but usually, as soon as you’re gone, they get over it. For many children, a loving goodbye routine helps to ease the anxiety.
Familiarize yourself and your child with the new environment and the people in it. Learn the names of the teachers, your child’s classmates, and the routine. Then you and your child can talk about what to expect. Later on, with older children, you can invite classmates over so your child can build strong friendships. Allow your child his/her own natural fears, but try to lesson those fears by ensuring friendly and familiar faces surround your child.
Involve the teachers. You need someone on the other end who will greet your child and ease the transition. Teachers can’t bond properly with your child, if you are still at school. Give the teachers time and space to gain your child’s trust. Don’t discuss your child’s or your anxiety with his/her teacher in front of him/her. Save conversations and questions for the end of the day, phone, or schedule a conference time.
Trust in your child’s ability to adjust. New routines are difficult for both children and adults. When children begin school, they may express their anxiety by being irritable, whining, wetting their pants, or clinging to you. Stay calm and don’t add to their anxiety by getting upset. Keep an upbeat attitude and give your child the necessary time and tools to adjust.
Don’t be surprised if anxiety continues to re-occur or increase after holidays or sick days. Refusal to go to school often re-occurs following an extended period away from school. It also may follow a stressful occurrence, such as the death of a pet or relative, a change in family arrangements, a change in schools or a move to a new neighbourhood.
Remember that separation anxiety means that a strong and loving bond exists between you and your child. It is healthy and normal for children to develop attachments to the adults in their lives, and to feel anxious or insecure when those adults are not nearby. Remember, with the right approach, you can help ease all the growing-up transitions your child will encounter.
Here’s to an exciting first week of school!
By The teachers of Hout Bay Montessori