Purpose and Goals
Dr. Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person. The young child possesses what Montessori termed "the absorbent mind" and seeks to build or construct his/her very being. Truly educated individuals continue to learn long after the hours and years spent in the classroom because they are motivated from within by a natural curiosity and quest for knowledge.
Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate the child's own natural desire to learn. Most lessons in the Children's House environment are given as individual presentations because the young child is creating his/her own intellect and personality.
In the Children's House environment, this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his/her own choice rather than by being led; and second, by helping the child perfect his/her natural tools for learning, so that the child's abilities will be maximized for future learning situations. Montessori materials have this dual, long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.
For young children, there is something special about tasks which an adult considers ordinary--washing dishes, paring vegetables, polishing shoes, etc. These tasks, which to adults may seem mundane, are intriguing to children because they allow them to act as adults do. Imitation is one of the strongest urges during the child's early years. One of the child's first and fundamental tasks is to adapt and orient himself/herself to her immediate environment.
In the Practical Life area of the classroom, the exercises and activities help children perfect their coordination as they repeat and become absorbed in an activity. Children gradually lengthen their span of concentration and also learn to pay attention to details as they follow a regular sequence of actions. Finally, through the exercises of practical life, the children learn life-long working habits: orientation to tasks, perseverance, self-directedness, satisfaction and a confidence they transfer to later academic work.
The sensorial materials in the Montessori classroom help children to distinguish, to categorize, and to relate new information to what they already know. Dr. Montessori believed that this process is the beginning of conscious knowledge. It is brought about by the intelligence working in a concentrated and ordered way on the impressions the child has collected through his/her senses.
Children learn about their world by comparing. sequencing and abstracting different heights, lengths, weights, colors, sounds, smells, shapes and textures. Through working with concrete materials that help them abstract these qualities, children build their intellect by generalizing from the concrete to the abstract.