The Montessori Adult’s action must be guided by the Assistantial Approach this, ensuring that the Prepared Environment stimulates her freedom and allows her to work at boosting her freedoms and creativities. The adult’s activities should protect the achievements already made and all the capacities a learner has already acquired for themselves and show their faith in the her, the adult’s confidence affects the learner’s self belief. As the adult’s presence has a dramatic effect on the learner the Montessori Approach aims to lessen the impact by working indirectly.
Indirect Preparation: A Definition
New knowledge that we acquire s built on our past knowledge and experiences and our present prepares and influences our future learning. Everything we learn can be broken down into small components, into its smaller parts if we gain a thorough understanding and experience of these parts we build up a solid experiential foundation of knowledge now, to build on later. Indirect preparation makes it easier for the learner to develop in the future, across the four areas of the Casa and at later Phases of Development.
- Direct Aim: Satisfies needs of the present moment
- Indirect Aim: Anticipates needs which are in the process of arising or will arise soon, according to patterns of developmental succession
The director as a professional, emotional and intellectual has a duty to indirectly prepare herself and the children through the three areas of indirect preparation:
- Reviewing the process being learnt (analysis of component parts, attainment of pre-requisite skills and presentation of an overview of what is being learnt)
- Presenting the topic being learnt in the context of other learning
- The understanding and involvement of the whole child
Three Stages of Indirect Preparation
Mere exposure to the materials in the Children’s House is not enough for the child, she needs to be initiated with a full analysis of it’s components and the opportunity to apply her understanding to the material and real world experiences.
- Reviewing the process being learnt. The Directress analyses the process with a view to it’s component parts, (e.g. to scrub a table includes sub-processes of using a mat, jug and sponge, she must ensure that she has presented the prerequisite practical skills which involve these components (e.g. the elementary movements of carrying a bucket of water, pouring water from a jug, squeezing a sponge, applying soap with a brush). She must help the child gain an overview of all the stages so that she can combine various known activities into a new whole ensuring that the Directress has made available all the knowledge and experience necessary for the child to complete and repeat should she have the interest and ability.
- Presenting the topic being learnt in the context of other learning, each piece of learning relates to other learning, within the four areas of Exercises of Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics and Language and between them, from in the Living Room of the Children’s House to the family Prepared Environment and the Outdoors are all complementary. The child’s interest in a preliminary step of any one area can be logically combined with new activities to increase her scope of activity and will form the foundation of links to be made in the future.
- The understanding and involvement of the whole child, that is the physical (e.g. motor movements, level of sensorial refinement, physically comfortable scale) intellectual (e.g. ability to calculate, make independent judgements and clearly think through and come to decisions) and psychological aspects of the child (e.g. her level of security, confidence and sense of self).
She has self confidence in her abilities and her training, makes good decisions and can explain her actions to students, colleagues and parents well, without being arrogant, as she is self-reflective and a good listener, she is able to acknowledge mistakes and refine efforts in the light of new experiences. She has faith and love for the inner child, and believes in his ability to learn, she respects the achievements he has already made at home. She practices self restraint, neither praising or blaming, punishing nor rewarding and dos not interfere with the child’s inner processes.
‘It is the adult who produces in the child his incapacities…[and] the adult who affects to correct the errors…Until adults consciously face their errors and correct them, they will find themselves in a forest of insoluble problems. And children, becoming in turn adults, will be victims of the same error, which they will transmit from generation to generation.’
She ensures the environment is stable and alive to meet the needs of his absorbent mind for sensorial stimulation and practical life orientation. To do this she utilises her observation skills and as she introduces the activities at times that they are important to the child he develops his confidence in hr. She affords him freedom of movement, choice, to repeat, request a presentation and this produces happiness, gregariousness and satisfaction in the child.
The Director dresses and behaves in a calm, simple way, neat, tidy and fresh, prepared for professional yet physical activities. She uses graceful movements, indirectly preparing the child for clear and fluid sitting, walking, standing postures, she does not use confusing or unnecessary movements and gestures nor does she practice poor habits or hygiene. She plans how to move carefully for presentations and carries this grace to her whole being as the child constantly absorbs her behaviours, manners and appearances. She always speaks with respect and uses a soft voice so as not to alarm children or disturb their concentration, she resists speaking to the whole class unless it is very necessary and just speaks loud enough for the child she is presenting to to hear her. When speaking she uses mature vocabulary and speaks clearly.
To enable him to utilise his freedoms of independence and choice the Prepared Environment must be organised so that he can access it, with different areas for different activities clearly maintained, the furniture must be at his size and light enough for him to use, the Children’s House should be utilitarian and aesthetic, stimulating the will and intelligence to act on the tendencies , the objects should stimulate the senses and objects and knowledge of local culture, providing a firm basis for later abstractions. There must be an appropriately large range of materials to cover the four areas of development, in succession from simple to difficult, (this helps the child to anticipate, plan and reflect on his learning journey) but there should not be no object which is unused superfluece material causes distractions and disorder.
The help offered differs from country to country, with locally appropriate greetings, maps and activities for example sweeping up is done differently in India and in the UK and to an individual level, sometimes only parts of the presentation may be delivered, if that is sufficient or the child may help with the presentation.
The Link of Love that the child has inspired her to follow members of her local community and inspires her with the goal of developing to be like them, therefore the child is always watching even minute actions of the Directress, absorbing her movements and speech and storing this information in the Mneme, it is therefore essential that the Directress is self-aware, graceful, moves mindfully (completes one action at a time) and speaks in a calm, respectful tone.
The Director first does those preparations’ which do not involve the child, they are to observe the needs of the child and notice that needs are suggesting a certain presentation be given, she chooses which type and checks the materials availability and condition.
Now the Director invited the child, she names the activity and uses enthusiasm so it is easy for the cild to say ‘yes’, but not impossible to say ‘no’, at the point of invitation is when the presentation begins. If the child agrees the Directress and the child go together to collect the materials.
Once the material is in a suitable place, chosen by the child the Director begins the presentation, using a soft tone she repeats the name of the activity and introduces the relevant vocabulary, speaking only when she is not moving. If the child has already bee shown some of the movements in the presentation the child does them. The new activities are done by the Director, silently, with careful movements that emphasis the points.
To indirectly prepare a child for the goal of writing the following physical, intellectual and emotional preparations would occur.
- Motor Movements; The Exercises of Practical Life prepare the motor movements to open and close Bottles, hold a Polish application cloth, strengthen the wrist by Pouring, the Sensorial materials physically prepare by holding the knobs of the Cylinders and Geometric Insets with the three writing fingers
- Prehensile Co-ordination; this is developed by holding correctly the Sensorial materials for the understanding of dimension
- Lightness of Touch; lightness so as not to damage either the instrument of writing or the paper is developed by all of the materials used to explore texture. In addition familiarity within bounds of the left-right and vertical movements associated with the Rough and Smooth Boards and drawing the Insets prepares for the use of the instrument of writing. Indirect preparations are also found in the Exercises of Practical Life where brushes to polish shoes are used with varying degrees of pressure.
- Tracing forms Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise; are prepared for by the use of the sandpaper letters, tracing the Geometric Insets and their frames and in the Exercises of Practical Life where cloths, sponges and brushes to polish, clean and wipe and used in various directions are used with varying degrees of pressure.
Rich experience provides inspiration for the subject matter of writing from stories, poems, jingles, news sharing, free conversations, discussions and opportunities for ‘circle time’ discussions focus the child’s attention on certain ideas and demonstrate the sequential arrangement of narrative. Vocabulary is increased in quantity and quality through the ‘Three Period Lesson’ for Sensorial objects and their qualities, when using objects for the Exercises of Practical Life, formal social language is given in Grace and Courtesy demonstrations and the use of nomenclature cards. The movable alphabet enables the child to begin to express her ideas in writing and later to read the ideas of others.
The child develops the confidence, a sense of well-being and security to express herself in the Prepared Environment. Self -worth, dignity, and confidence strengthen the will and the tendencies towards independent action, communication, gregariousness, adaptation, belonging and spiritual wellbeing flourish.
The three stages of the Process of Learning
The Process of Learning has three aspects which can be seen at all levels through Montessori’s theory and practice, from the ‘Three Period Lesson’, the development of the child through phases and in acquiring each skill. The phases can be understood as three time phases, the past, present and the future.
- The Past, that which arouses the Child’s interest.
It is the adult’s duty to arouse the child’s interest by linking her to the environment, on entering the Children’s House the adult links her experiences in the present to her past experiences at home by the Exercises of Practical Life, she actively observes the child closely and has knowledge about the individual child’s past, the knowledge and skills she has attained and what she is likely to principles next, by being aware of universal child development principals. This allows the Directress to make educated guesses about what will interest the child next, so she is able to entice the child into giving her consent to presentations and representations in an accurate, helpful and engaging way to link her past achievements and current needs to her developing potentials in the present.
- The Present, letting the child set the pace.
The child may flow her tendencies to work at the presentation given which responds to her interests if she is given the freedom to follow her tendencies to choose,move, explore, work, repeat, perfect. After performing the presentation the adult must withdraw and allow the child to actively modify the presentation in any concentrated, precise manner which will reflect her abilities, interests and style; to do this the adult must be able to differentiate between the natural state of the Absorbent Mind and ones which shows deficiencies. This is a lengthy, active phase which cannot be hurried or improved by an adult telling the child that which she cannot experientially grasp, but can be easily interrupted and damaged by thoughtless corrections, praises and intrusions. The child is motivated by her tendencies, Sensitive Periods and Absorbent Mind to apply maximum effort if she is given the freedoms to do so.
- The Future, completing the learning cycle
If the child’s concentration is safeguarded from disturbances she will naturally complete the learning cycle to the best of her ability and interest, she must be allowed to analyse the presentation given and apply it to real world and other learning scenarios and materials. This phase is when the soundness of her learning material is measured by ‘The Control of Error’, often this is found in the material itself, which Montessori calls the harshest teacher because the material will never bend the rules, it will either allow a child to see her success or need to repeat. The child accepts the feedback from the material with less discouragement than from an adult, who must be very careful to let the child rehearse and repeat rather than emphasis her error. Being able to see her own error brings independence, self-confidence, dignity, secure decision making and an empowered will and ego. When the Control of Error lies with the adult it is essential to alert a child to a mispronunciation at the end of the ‘Three Period Lesson’, often a misunderstood material can be subtly replaced and returned to later, such as balancing a basket on the head while walking on the line or the child can continue working with the material and her senses will sharpen and reveal her error, such as grading the colour tablets.
The process of learning is reflected in the ‘Three Period Lesson’ in that;
- In the First period new information is given, a ‘materialised abstraction’ calls forth a new idea which is crystallised by a given adjective or noun
- In the Second period an active work cycle ensues, bringing repeated exposure to the new term and practice linking it to the quality or object expressed by the ‘materialised abstraction’
- In the Third period the child expresses her knowledge, confirming her knowledge to herself and the Directress, controlling her error proves that the crystallisation took place
When children in the Montessori environment are observed they usually follow a similar pattern known as a ‘Curve of Work’, as while disorder presents abundance of varieties normalisation is a convergence of harmonious traits. Firstly, when children enter the classroom they cannot focus on one task, are disorderly and have a low attraction for the objects in their surroundings, secondly, the children become involved in an activity and focus their attention on preliminary work for an hour and a half after which there is an increase in noise and movement in the infants and teacher and there is a temptation to stop the class, but if the teacher continues to allow the class to work this becomes a rest period and the students enter into a third stage of focused efforts for a longer time with a final elevated stage where activity becomes calmer, more disciplined and this is when the most important work is likely to take place.
M. Montessori The Child in the Family p.159