P. Donohue Shortridge/Children/Montessori/The Child, the Adult and the Prepared Environment
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The Child, the Adult and the Prepared Environment
The task of each human is to fully develop himself.
To begin to actualize this lifelong endeavor, the child
first seeks grounding in his body, in the environment
and in reality. Additionally, the child seeks out
respectful, sensitive adults who will accompany him
through his formative years. These sensitive adults
offer the world to the child in small, manageable
chunks that balance the child's need for emotional and
physical safety with his impulse to explore. Hopefully,
these foundations are present in the family setting.
Ideally then, the Montessori prepared environment
is another place where the child will find conditions
ideally suited to his cognitive, physical, emotional
and spiritual development. It is here that the child
will come to know himself and others in an environment
expressly designed for his life. In other words, the
purpose of the Montessori prepared environment is to
offer an ideal setting where the child's life can
Children are born equipped to follow their
unique developmental path. Their natural impulse to
know the world drives them to learn, each developmental
milestone mastered in its own time. The child feels
safe in the Montessori prepared environment because his
needs are met respectfully and faithfully. From this
safe base, the child becomes confident in himself
enough to explore ever more widely. The adult's
respectful approach of positive guidance or discipline
fosters in the child an internal locus of control. The
child learns that he is capable, that he can contribute
in a meaningful way and that he can influence what
happens to him.
If it is the child's job to construct the adult he
is to uniquely become, then it is incumbent upon the
adult to facilitate that growth rather than to impose
her own will on him. The Montessori adult willingly
relinquishes her own agenda for the child and instead
learns from him what he needs next from the adult and
from the environment and faithfully provides it.
Fundamentally, the adult removes external obstacles to
the child's learning which are ironically often
precipitated by the adults themselves.
The adult models grace, self love and a sense of
wonder about the world. She guides the child in his
quest to make sense out of everyday experiences. She
breathes life into the words she speaks, she moves
slowly and gracefully at a pace that puts the child at
ease. She is confident that the child will reveal his
true nature given the appropriate mix of a carefully
prepared developmentally appropriate environment and an
insightful adult, keenly aware of herself and of the
young person she guides.
My experience has shown me that the extent to
which the adults do this, is the extent to which
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This essay Copyright 2001-2003 P. Donohue Shortridge
All Rights Reserved
No usage rights granted without the written permission
of the author. Inquires: here.
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