Maria Montessori, montessori, multi-age classrooms, Planes of development, seasons, three-year age group
At the produce stand today, the change of seasons is apparent. The berries of summer are replaced by pumpkins and apples, freshly picked from a nearby orchard. The flowers that were prolific in June and July are no longer around, but mums are everywhere in varying colors and sizes. Though the temperatures remain warm, fall is here. You can’t stop some things from ending their fruit-bearing season or others from bursting into full bloom.
The same is true for children – in fact, for humans of any age. There is a time for everything, a time of dormancy and a time to blossom. Maria Montessori carefully observed children and determined their growth generally fell into what she labeled the planes of development. Those planes take place over spans of six years (from birth to age 6, 6-12, 12-18 and 18-24), not one growing season. There is great wisdom here. She acknowledges the typical growth of children over time, while allowing for the fact that each of us grows in different ways at our individual pace. One child may learn to walk at nine months, another at 12 months and yet another at 15 months. All are completely predictable trajectories of developing this skill. The same can be noted in the acquisition of language, social skills and regulation of emotions. When asked to do something they weren’t ready to do, it is typical to see toddlers screaming and being incredibly unreasonable – not so a 12-year-old.
All of this is easily understood when our children are at the front end of the typical development and not so easily accepted when they take longer to arrive. That is human nature. What Dr. Montessori knew, and what we need to continue to remind ourselves of, is that most children will develop the skills needed to become adults over time. We, as the adults who guide, nurture and love them, need to develop the patience needed to wait for their season of growth and flowering. Trusting children to well-informed educators, specialists in their field, gives children the opportunity to take the time necessary to develop the social, emotional and academic skills they need. It allows them to bloom in their time – some ahead of the typical time frame and others taking more time – and grow into themselves as the amazing humans they are meant to be.