From Childhood to Adolescence - by Maria Montessori

my notes:

The changes from one level to the other at these different ages could be compared to the metamorphoses of insects.

Little by little, it is transformed even though it remains an animal of the same species having the same needs and habits. It is an individual that EVOLVES.

But the changing traits are not so clearly defined in the child as in the insect. It would be more exact to speak rather of ‘rebirths’ of the child. In effect, we have before us at each new stage a different child who presents characteristics different from those he exhibited during preceding years.

The principles that can be applied usefully to the first period are not the same as those that must be applied to the second. We thus come to the practical part of education.

From seven to twelve years, the child needs to enlarge his field of action.

We must consider money as the ‘golden key’ that opens the door of supra-nature.

It is therefore necessary that children have first-hand experience in buying objects themselves and that they come to realize what they can but with a unit of the money of their country.

The closed school as it is conceived today, can no longer be sufficient for him. Something is lacking for the full development of his personality.

The closed environment is felt as a constraint, and that is why he no longer wishes to go to school. He prefers to catch frogs or play in the street.

The spider’s web occupies a much larger space than does the animal itself.

As is the web, so is the mind of the child constructed according to an exact plan. The abstract construction enables him to grasp what happens in his field, which was out of his range heretofore.

This is why we must respect the interior construction and its manifestations, which may at times seem useless to us. The construction is necessary. It is thanks to this work that the child enlarges his psychic field and subsequently his receptive powers.

An education that suppresses the true nature of the child is an education that leads to the development of anomalies.

A turning toward the intellectual and moral sides of life occurs at the age of seven.

One of the most curious characteristics to be observed is the interest that occurs in the child when he begins to perceive things which he previously failed to notice.

To think that the problem of morality only occurs later is to overlook the change that is already going on.

The sense of justice, so often missing in man, is found during the development of the young child. It is the failure to recognize this fact that engenders a false idea of justice.

The first period saw the child engaged in activities which we have called ‘exercises of practical life’. They constituted an effort to stretch the limits of the activities we considered possible for him at that age. In this way the child, who has himself stretched the limits, has won his independence. This is what makes these exercises of patience, of exactness, and of repetition so all-important.

But the acts of courtesy which he has been taught with a view to his making contacts with others must now be brought to a new level.

While the younger child seeks comforts, the older child is now eager to encounter challenges. But these challenges must have an aim.

The scouts accept a regimen the rigours of which go far beyond what are considered possible for children of this age. Thus the long hikes, nights in the open air, responsibility for one’s own actions, fire, camps, etc. all represent collective efforts. The basic moral principle requires a commitment from the individual: the commitment of the individual to the group. And that is what is essential.

It is a rich world in which the acts accomplished by men will interest him more than the things.

All that used to attract him sensorially now interest him from a different point of view.

That is, he is beginning to become aware of the problem of cause and effect.

The adult tires and responds by answering the abundance of questions either by begging the child to keep quiet or by giving excessively long explanations.

It is essential for the child, in all periods of his life, to have the possibility of activities carried out by himself in order to preserve the equilibrium between acting and thinking.

The role of education is to interest the child profoundly in an external activity to which he will give all his potential.
The foot is noble. To walk is noble. Thanks to the feet, the child who already walks can expect of the outdoors certain answers to his secret questions.

Let the teacher not lose sight of the fact that the goal sought is not an immediate one-not the hike- but rather to make the spiritual being which she is educating capable of finding his way by himself.

Knowledge and social experience must be acquired at one and the same time.

One cannot awaken the conscience by talking about it.

The second period child is living two parallel existences, his home existence and his existence in society.

A small child still interests himself in little things even though his intelligence is capable of bounding toward much more advanced concepts. One could say that even though a child can escape on the intellectual plane, on the practical plane he remains tied to his age.

Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them in cupboards.

There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving.

All the hygiene, centered on the physical person, has made the world neurotic. It is noted that mental health has diminished in spite of the progress which improves physical health. If tension among adults has increased abnormally, it is because they have formed an erroneous idea of life.

When the child was very small it was enough to call him by name for him to turn around. Now we must appeal to his soul. To speak to him is not enough for this; it is necessary to interest him.

Imagination was not given man for the simple pleasure of fantasizing. It does not become great until man, given the courage and strength, uses it to create.

He who does not possess the world of the imagination is poor. But the child with too much fantasy is a disturbed child.

Touching for the younger child is what imagining is for the older one.

For example, let us say that the world is this globe on whose surface we live. But let us say immediately that this planet receives reflections from the world of the stars. One cannot, then, isolate it from the whole; one cannot content oneself with observing it all alone.

It is understood that one is obliged to begin by the study of a detail. But since nothing exists that does not constitute a part of the whole, it is sufficient to choose any one detail which will then become a point of departure in the study of the whole.

We must hunt, therefore, for everything that may be accessible to the mind of the child in order to create the bases for future development.

We must here again have recourse to the imagination to create the impressions and to reach conclusions little by little.

Nothing can speak to his imagination better than science, because he sees in it a sort of magic.

During the war Germany used the nitrogen of the air to obtain explosives. It is curious to note that one gas of which the air is made up burns and that the other explodes. What is more, oxygen and hydrogen unite to give us water.

And while we are on the subject of the creation of a substance, we inform the child that chemistry is the study of newly created substances.

The small child is already using symbols. The letters of the alphabet are symbols. He has only a small number, but, combined among themselves, they form words, poems. The musical notes are symbols, dots. Music makes us happy, makes us sing and dance. So why would we not be able to symbolize another phenomenon, that of creation?

The point of view from which we present to the children these sciences in their embryonic state must be well understood. Our presentation must be sensorial and imaginative, given by means of clear visual symbols which permit details to be determined.

We are trying to arouse the child’s interest. Should we fail to arouse it immediately, we must still trust the same principle while we make our presentations in a specific environment and await the reaction.

A question that always exists in our adult minds is whether these problems, which already seem to us to be so difficult, will be well understood by the child.

But it is not a science we want to bring to him at this time. It is nothing else than a germ capable of arousing interest and which will develop later.

A child asks his father why the leaves are green. Happy to seize the opportunity, the father launches into explanation of chlorophyll, air, light, seeming never to finish. The child listens politely but thinks ‘what a shame to have provoked all of that!’

For humanity, the atom is man. If a man be subdivided he is no longer a man. Going from this example we can say: mand and woman are two atoms of humanity. A man and a woman together form a molecule. Which is to say that a molecule is composed of at least two parts.

All living beings need something or someone to help them to live. And here rises before us the problem of the secret of nature, so important in education.

All living beings are destined to contribute to the wellbeing of other living beings. It is difficult to establish a parallel between the phenomena of nature and those of human life. But a parallel does exist, and principally because men, as a group, must have a great task in creation, although on a level considerably higher than that of nature. Each man works for other men. Industry and commerce may be considered as an active relationship comparable to those found in nature. Could we not restudy the history of humanity from this new point of view?

If we examine nature and the supernature constructed by man side by side, all that belongs to the former elucidates what happens in the latter.

Plant cells are rectangular, or prismatic. Their membranes are thick, strong, and only slightly permeable. They give an impression of the strength of vegetables and the power of their defense. Also, as they grow they spread in all directions. They are characterized by branching.

Animals begin their cycle as spheroid cells the membrane of which, being very fine, light, seems to be in continual danger. Timid of aspect, they limit themselves, unlike the plant cells, and do not invade the space without. As they grow they fold back over themselves in one, two, or more layers.

Which of the two has superior characteristics? The animals are considered to be on a higher level of nature, and yet we usually consider the characteristics of the plants superior.

It could be thought that the animal is always in battle against the vegetable world, and yet the two forms are necessary to each other and give mutual assistance to each other.

Then, by determining the correlation between things with the child, and thereby obeying an essential impulse of the human mind, we create a philosophy for him. And why may not the child philosophize?

Here is an essential principle of education: to teach details is to bring confusion; to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge.

Schools as they are today, are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the times in which we live.

More than to anything else it is due to the fact that the development of man himself has not kept pace with that of his external environment.

ADAPTABILITY- This is the most essential quality; for the progress of the world is continually opening new careers, and at the same time closing or revolutionizing the traditional types of employment.

The problem of reforming the secondary schools will not be solved by cutting down ‘culture’ nor by losing sight of the necessity of training for the intellectual professions. But it is essential that this training should not turn out men who have been lulled to sleep by a false sense of security, who are incapable of confronting the unforeseen difficulties of real life, and who are totally ignorant of conditions in the world in which they are destined to live.

The secondary schools as they are at present constituted do not concern themselves with anything but the preparation for a career, as if the social conditions of the time were still peaceful and secure.

Thus not only do they not correspond to the social conditions of our day, but they fail to protect the principal energy on which the future depends: human energy, the power of individual personality.

The young people, the men of the future, are formed into a mould of narrowness, artificality and egotism. What a wretched life of endless penance, of futile renunciation of their dearest aspirations!

The feeling of independence must be bound to the power to be self-sufficient, not a vague form of liberty deducted from the help afforded by the gratuitous benevolence of others.

Educations should therefore include the two forms of work, manual and intellectual, for the same person, and thus make it understood by practical experience that these two kinds complete each other and are equally essential to a civilized existence.

The teachers must have the greatest respect for the young personality, realizing that in the soul of the adolescent, great values are hidden, and that in the minds of these boys and girls there lies all our hope of future progress and the judgement of ourselves and our times.

In every boy there can be seen a reflection of the picture of Jesus in the temple who amazed the old men with his wisdom.

A person without mathematical training today is like an illiterate in the times when everything depended on literary culture.

General education may be classified into three groups:
The study of the earth and of living things

The study of human progress and the building up of civilization.

The study of the history of mankind.

The part of history that is most important during the first period of adolescence is the history of scientific discoveries and of geographical explorations. Accounts should be given of the most important inventions accompanied by pictures of social life before and after the discovery. This would show how men have improved through civilization.

If one considers the question, acquisition of culture includes the idea of receptiveness. But life is not all receptiveness; rather it is an active and expansive energy that endevours to realize its own creation on an external environment. In other words, merely to study is not to live, but to live is the most essential condition in order to be able to study.

Being active with one’s own hands, having a determined practical aim to reach, is what really gives inner discipline. When the hand perfects itself in a work chosen spontaneously and the will to succeed is born together with the will to overcome difficulties or obstacles; it is then that something which differs from intellectual learning arises. The realization of one’s own value is born in the consciousness.

The inert child who never worked with his hands, who never had the feeling of being useful and capable of effort, who never found by experience that to live means living socially, and that to think and to create means to make use of a harmony of souls; this type of child will become a selfish youth, he will be pessimistic and melancholy and will seek on the surface of vanity the compensation for a lost paradise.

The adult is the result of a child. Every adult is the achievement of a grown-up child.

One who studies at the university knows already that he will have to study all his life or lose his value.

Each human being possesses the strength of becoming aware of, and of facing the dangers, the temptations of the world so as to become inured to them in order to overcome them.