The infant’s independence is such hat she has already succeeded at being weaned, learnt to talk, walk and run, she knows what she needs to continue developing and if given the necessary freedoms and supports she will follow her ‘inner guide’ to greater physical and psychical independence. Independence is granted to other animals instinctively at birth, but for the infant the independence needs to relate to the local social context, so her Horme drives her to creatively develop. As a spiritual embryo she worked to construct herself in the family home and without obstacles she will continue to adapt to her local culture and develop her unique personality and a strong will. Movements and speech are accessible ways to demonstrate her character and her needs, the Exercises of Practical Life supply her with the means to be independent, to take care of herself physically and socially and also build up her capacities for work by providing a framework for her co-ordination, self-control and will-power to emerge.
The infant’s movement was unconscious as a spiritual embryo, at two and a half the infant being to be able to consciously express what she has learnt, through the efforts of her will and intelligence, she is now able to converge the separate achievements she has made, unifying her spirit, mind and body. This period of orderliness presents a critical stage for the converging and uniting her will, movement and intellect and success here will help her to normalise and meet other developmental goals. The Exercises of Practical Life, especially the Elementary Movements are short, simple activities not only do they strengthen her physical movements, but they also put her co-ordination under the power of her intellect, her power to plan, solve, reflect, to guide herself and her will, her capacity to choose, persevere, to innovate or inhibit a movement. Thus the harmonising of these elements provides the basis for a strong, unified personality to grow.
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The Exercises of Practical Life are opportunities for the conscious active worker to absorb, and through the repetition of parts or whole activities attain a state of focus on the details transmitted to her by the adult. Through this focus or ‘Polarisation of Attention’ a drive towards self perfection is experienced, the psyche has the opportunity to organise itself or ‘crystallise’ and the child is said to be on the path towards ‘normalisation’.
Driven by the ‘Link of Love’ and by her tendency towards gregariousness the infant has an intense desire to become part of her local community and if this is met she feels emotionally secure and has confidence. The Exercises of Practical Life allow her to adapt her individual nature to that of her culture, her time and place; to find a niche in the social hierarchy where she can find fulfilment. Children do not want to be mocked, scorned or judged, exercises in ‘Care of Self’ and ‘Grace and Courtesy’ allow infants to develop dignified habits.
Development of a Healthy Work Attitude
As these activities meet her tendencies and Sensitive Period for order they are intrinsically enjoyed, they stimulate attention, maximum effort, concentration and satisfaction, the infant determines to challenge herself with increasingly complex tasks and enjoys the real but attainable challenge. As the activities are presented on the shelves in order of difficulty she is able to anticipate with relish her future work where she will be able to do those activities which currently belong to her older peers.
The exercises develop muscular and sensorial co-ordination, prerequisites for self control, and gracefulness, allowing the infant to experience empowerment, self knowledge and a strong, resilient personality.
Dignity of Work
The Exercises of Practical Life are purposeful and as they are done by adults they are perceived by the child as having worth, the child is proud that she is able to perform them, that adults expect her to have the ability and trust her with the tools. Memories of this positive experience with work are stored in the Mneme and retained by the adult, who continues to value self reliance, order, independence and to have respect for other’s who work and the products of their labour.
All of the activities help to build on hand-eye and convergent movement, to refine the senses and to harmonise equilibrium and grace. The body develops in accordance with the mind; the senses being the basis for the intellect and hand as the will of the mind, so the physical development has psychic attributes.
The Children’s House introduces the infant, used to the Prepared Environment of home to a wider network of peers, many slightly older than herself, reflecting the real experience of living in the world. The infant has strong drives to adapt to this new social realm, she now has a context for developing the social skills she has already observed and can use language to communicate her needs and to orient herself to the social environment. She develops an understanding of waiting and turn taking as most materials have only one set, she learns to tidy up and care of the shared environment and is inspired by the achievements of her peers.
As the Absorbent Mind and Mneme are still readily accessible the Exercises of Practical Life are able to rectify maladjustments already made to the psychic construction of the infant in the less scientifically Prepared Environment of the home. If problems and negative experience still occur in the child’s life, the Children’s Home provides her with respite, a safe environment where she is known, respected, free, without obstacle and therefore able to re-adjust and develop her strong personality.
All of the ‘Practical Life Activities’ reveal the inner force of the child’s personality and strengthen it. In particular the child develops emotional enrichment and self judgement.
Emotional Enrichment; the child feels secure, empowered and joyful at being given the freedom she needs to follow her inner guide, to choose her own activities and to work in her own style, at her own pace and follow her sensitive periods. Working in this way she develops concentration, and as she adapts to her social environment, empathy and shares her joy with her peers.
Self Judgement; the materials allow the child to measure her own success, to be aware of error and to attend to points of interest and thereby control error, the points of interest secure her attention and so concentration grows, developing perfection her satisfaction grows. Children make maximum efforts towards perfection, strengthening the will, becoming confident, independent, secure and intelligent. The personality becomes resilient in the face of challenge and not defeated, strengthening the will to work, achieve and conquering the co-ordination becomes conquering the personality, a determined, strong character emerges which is not prone to giving up, blaming others or feeling shame when her mistakes, and sense of self worth, are evaluated by solutions prescribed by others.