Montessori Perspectives on Normalization - Part 1 of 3Normalization “is the most important single result of our whole work.” ~Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, (Chapter 19)
I was looking at our local Montessori preschool’s website today and noticed that they advocate parent involvement in the classroom after the children have “normalized”. This got me thinking: parents who are familiar with the term ‘normalized’ would understand this, but new parents will not. It is a term that can cause confusion or unease if you are not sure what it means.
Normalization is the term Montessori used to refer to children who are able to concentrate and work freely in the Montessori environment, exercising self-discipline and peace. It is in no way meant to suggest that children who are not able to do this are not normal. It simply means they are in a different stage of their development and personal journey.
Montessori said there were three stages each child goes through on the way to normalization. The first stage is when children do something because they want to. This is typical behavior of toddlers and two year olds. As the child matures, they move to stage two and do things when they are asked of them. The third stage is when the child does something because they know it is the right thing to do.
1. The child does something because they want to.
2. The child does something because he/she is asked to do it.
3. The child does something because they know it is right.
Children who are normalized not only know the ground rules, they follow them because doing so leads to peace and harmony in their environment. They are patient with themselves and others. Normalized children are respectful of all things, living and non-living. They exercise self-control and self-discipline. In short, normalized children are independent which leads to greater learning. “In the normalized child, his freedom to take an interest in all kinds of things, leads to his focusing his attention... on the knowledge he derives from them.” The Absorbent Mind, (Chapter 22)
The Montessori environment is structured to lead the child naturally and gracefully through the stages of normalization. Normalization can neither be forced nor coerced. Each child is a unique individual with a unique timeframe of development. The Montessori materials were developed to help the child develop these necessary skills by presenting learning challenges incrementally. With repeated practice and built-in self-correction (also known as “control of error), the child learns to develop his focus and concentration as well as developing a curiosity for what comes next. The Montessori teacher and parent is a gentle, loving presence who uses positive guidance and redirection to help the child acquire independence.
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As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.