When one initially enters the world of Montessori Education whether it is for incorporating the philosophy at home or sending the child to a Montessori institution, the sensation of being in a parallel universe often comes to mind.
Developed by an Italian Physician Dr. Maria Montessori in the year 1907, the Montessori Method of education is an autonomous method of teaching and learning that often feels like a refreshing change when compared to traditional methods of education.
The Montessori Philosophy of education unlike any other traditional method of education is based on the following key principles:
Principle of Absorbent Mind
Principle of Respecting the Child
Principle of Individual development
Principle of Intrinsic rewarding and non-punishing system
Principle of Auto learning
Principle of Prepared Environment
Principle of Sensory training
Principle of Motor training
Principle of Development from within
Amongst all these principles of the most misunderstood principle is the Principle of the “absorbent mind”
The Absorbent is often categorized as a broad term for “ the mind of a child” or “La Mente Die Bambino”. When infants are born, they are unaware of their surroundings but they start developing a foundation to become the person they have to become.
The child is considered to be an “unconscious learner” during this stage of their life. The principle of Absorbent is established in infants during the first plane of development between the ages of 0 to 6 years.
What is an Absorbent Mind?
The concept of an absorbent mind is one of the most crucial Concepts of Montessori Education. The absorbent mind is referred to the prolonged periods of intense mental activity that help the child “absorb” information from the surrounding environment without putting in any conscious effort.
This is a universal concept that every child between birth to 6 years of age possesses. Essentially Absorbent Mind denotes the sponge-like quality of the infant’s brain that has the ability to receive and absorb all the necessary stimuli, information, and knowledge from the surrounding environment.
Stages of an Absorbent Mind:
The Universal characteristic of an absorbent mind is predominantly present among children during the initial six years.
In conjunction with the Periods of sensitivity, The concept of the Absorbent mind records essential information and encourages the child to venture out of their comfort zone.
The period of the Absorbent Mind is effortlessly intertwined with the foundations of one’s future personality.
This Period According to Dr. Maria Montessori is divided into two distinct categories:
- The Unconscious Stage (0 to 3 years):
During the Uncosious Stage, the child is described as a “spiritual embryo” by Dr. Maria Montessori. Infants at stage naturally acquire information on the basis of their senses.
This stage is self-directed hence, the child is mentioned as an “unconscious creator”. The child independently learns how to walk, stand, or speak without putting in any conscious effort. The actions of the child during this stage do not have any predetermined purpose or aims.
The child’s actions are solely based on the laws of nature. The qualities a child acquires with the help of the Absorbent mind often become a part of their being.
- The Conscious Stage (3 to 6 years):
Starting from age 3, children start to expand their horizons and show visible signs of developing consciousness. The development of consciousness often indicates a developing memory in the child.
This is where the sponge-like Absorbent mind starts to receive and store information. During this stage, the child becomes aware of the surroundings and oneself, and the child embarks on the journey of life as a “conscious worker”.
The child is consciously able to interact with the surrounding environment and maneuver the objects deliberately. The child at this stage is joyful, curious, hardworking, easily entertained, and starts to concentrate.
Heavy emphasis is laid on the education sequence, order, music, letters, numbers, and sounds eventually leading to concepts of mathematics.
The child feels the need to be independent hence when given the chance to develop independently and freely we see the child’s inner potentialities, as well as personality, come out. This process is termed “normalization”.
How does the Absorbent Mind work?
The concept of the absorbent Mind in the Montessori method of education is often described by objects. These metaphors of the Absorbent mind describe different functions of the absorbent mind.
- The Absorbent Mind is like a sponge:
The Absorbent Mind is like a sponge that has the ability to absorb and store as much information as possible available in the surrounding environment. There is no specific information that it is channeled to absorb, hence it will store any information it comes in contact with.
- The Absorbent Mind is Like a Camera:
The unconscious mind takes complete mental images of information that get embedded in the mind. Unlike the adult mind that consciously selects elements of information, there is no discrimination between the information it will record, hence the absorbent mind will capture any information that it is exposed to.
What are the capabilities of an Absorbent Mind?
The Absorbent Mind is predominantly concerned with the actions occurring at the present and has nothing to do with the future. The capabilities of the absorbent mind are ever-expanding.
What are the Results of an Absorbent Mind?
The absorbent mind helps build the following tendencies in an individual:
- Self-Construction: through the information collected in the absorbent mind, infants have the capability to construct every vital aspect of their life.
- Adaptation: the child is able to adapt to the surrounding environment through the ineffaceable raw information stored in the absorbent mind.
Why is it important to understand the concept of the Absorbent Mind?
The concept of the Absorbent Mind may seem foreign to most individuals entering the world of Montessori.
But this unique principle of the Montessori method of teaching is the cornerstone of Montessori Philosophy. The Montessori Method acknowledges the basic needs and requirements that are vital for the child’s developmental process.
The Concept of the Absorbent is no different, in conjunction with the periods of sensitivity and planes of development, the recognition of the needs of an absorbent mind is integral for the child’s optimum development.
Upon Identifying, recognizing, and acknowledging the needs and requirements of an absorbent mind, parents, educators, as well as institutions can provide the child with effective materials and curriculum based on the child’s present needs.