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Introduction to Montessori Lecture 1

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Now I think we ought to have a certain amount of background to the Montessori Method if you are going to understand the reasons why we do the things we do. And, perhaps one of her first and most important discoveries in working with children, and which she made it in the first Children's House, where she had already worked as a doctor, a specialist with women and children. She had worked as a specialist with educationally subnormal children and with the physically handicapped before she started her work with the normal children. And her work with the normal children arose because the slums, the terrible slums, where the many of the criminal class of Rome lived, where taken over by a philantropic group who cleaned out the houses, made decent flats, and relet them to people at a moderate rent. It must have been one of the very early attempts to housing for the people who could not very managed for themselves and you must read her description of these flats and the neighbourhood in the 'Montessori Method' and you'll find she had very advanced ideas on how to help the people and she very went in as a medical officer she established the dispensary so she could help anyone who wasn't well and have them had to get a medicine on the spot and things like this but the children of the flats if you are a thief or prostitute you do work all night and your days are spent in sleeping so the children of these people did run wild during the daytime the preschool age chidlren and school age in Italy was 7 years in that time, you see so the children left free to do whatever they like vandalise the buildings So in order to stop this vandalisation the people in charge thought of putting one of the flats on the ground floor aside for the use of the children in the daytime Again a very new idea. And these flats naturally being ? of courtyard and so having ground flloor flat for the children they had access freely to the courtyard and could run in and out and it was safe because it was an enclosed courtyard. And doctor Montessori describes the first day when about 70 children were collected into these rooms and they were put in charge of the porter's daughter a very nice girl about nineteen, eldest of a large family but that is as much as she knew. And Montessori always said she could never have done her work had a teacher being appointed. It was only because she had this very nice girl who liked children who was willing to do what she was asked that she was able to experiment and discover the things she did. But imagine the first day. The children were most unwilling. They didn't want to be there. There were lots of tears, and so on and they were aged two, two and a half up to seven. They were many toys, very beautiful toys because wealthy women of Rome had given money for this project. They were interested in it. They cared about the welfare of the children and they gave very expensive, very beautiful toys from their own nurseries. So there was no lack of that type of material. Doctor Montessori though gradually began taking in materials that she had been using with the defective children and the ones who suffered from some physcial defect and she began using materials that would help development and here she was very amazed at the difference in children she had been dealing with and the normal children And the differences led her to change her thinking about children which was the thinking everybody had in those days and to really watch the children from the point of view of normal development. People always thought that children cried a lot, that they clang to the mothers, that they had a very short attention span that you always had to bribe them with sweets so, you know, something like that. And she was amazed when she found that giving the right materials they have this tremendous power of concentration. She timed one of the boys with the cylinders and he worked for an hour and a half without stopping. Mind you, when they work they do move. They wriggle on their chairs, they stand up, They're still hardly at all and their hands are always active. Now after having worked with the children for certain time she brought up this theory that children from birth to maturity go through definite stages of development both physical and mental. ? whole child ? and each stage is completely different to any of the following stages And during one of these stages, any of these stages, nature, whatever you're right to call it, makes the child, brings the child towards gaining certain knowledge, developing certain attributes, you see. and the child is given a certain time in which to acquire certain atrtributes in a definite stage in life and it is the same for all children, you see. and once that period is over then the child goes into quite a different stage of development when he has a tottaly different work to do, you see, and the first period is over. Now, if the first period is not well utilised then the second period cannot take place so well because there's no foundation, you see. She divided these periods of development broadly into three periods: a birth to 6 years, 6 to 12, 12 to 18. And then she does subdivided them again but those are the broad stages. You will notice that Piaget takes the same stages. He founded his ideas on hers and what he has done is to set up to prove very what she said does work. He is interested in proving these steps in intellectual development. He hasn't very I think had said anything that she hasn't already done but he is giving you the proofs for all these things. I've asked her where her proofs where becuase you know lately we always wanted these experiments and proofs and she said: 'Oh Well, once I knew what happened nobody wanted to read through all my experiments I threw those away, you see, and what I did was to tell people what happened and once I knew what happened then I said what we now have to do is find out what help should be given, you see.' And I think that is where she differs from everyone else because having found out what happens she tells you it very clearly, describes the stages and what is required at each stage but she then tells you how to help development, you see. That's quite a different thing. During this course we were very thinking about the development up to five years of age five, six, the first stage of development. And here she pointed out that at this age the child is a tremendous worker. He is not a little person who plays all the time and wants a lot of amusement as we have previously thought. He works very hard practically from the moment of birth. The child lying there in the cot is doing a tremendous amount of work. And provided he goes through these first five years with the right help and here it is really the parents who are responsible and in particular the mother, Then if the mother does the right thing, father, any other adults involved by five, six years of age the child has done and acquired more then he is ever going to do in any comparable five years later. He works harder in the first five, six years than in any other time in live. So we must know what nature intense him to do, we must understand his development and then we must see that we make life easy for him so that he can develop to his highest potential instead of just managing to get through somehow, often in a very damaged state. And of these six years, probably the first year is the most important and certainly the first three years and those are the three years when probably we do the most harm because we do not understand what is happening. I think today, as well, there are certain things happening which are worse than previous periods of the stages of ? Very serious things are happening. This child lying in the credo doesn't only need to be kept clean and be fed. Those children who are only kept clean and fed and left lying in the cot by six month may be mentally defective because they can be put out of it if they have a one to one relationship with one person but left they very often die or they very often end up as defectives. So we have got to really re-look at what we are doing with our small babies. It's all right to talk about our rights but we also have duties. Nobody is talking about our duties. And if you take on another life you have it choose to have a baby then the child's rights supersede your rights because you have elected to bring this little helpless creature into the world. And you have better to find out before you decide to have a child what it entails. I think a lot of us have a rosy picture of a nice doll to play with but it's not going to be like that. Well, now, when this baby is born, the actual moment of birth is terribly important. and here we are beginning to realize this. The medical world has been very ? it has treated, we still treat children as though they were just possessions or tadpoles. We don't give them this feeling they are people in their own right. They have a personality and so on. And they are very vulnerable. Now, the baby has the struggle to be born and then when he is born, that's fine, he's got to have a good reception in this world. He's got to be treated very gently. Having come from the dark it isn't good for him to be in a blaze of light. It isn't good to him to have a party going on around him, you see. All the animals retire into privacy, a quite spot to have their babies alone. They don't have a lot of spectators around. You see, there has to be a doctor and a midwife for granted. Well, the baby when he is born should be just folded up and not bathed. Doctor Montessori even felt that this mucus covering was a protection agains germs at the beginning. Wrap him up in a clean cloth and at once gave him to his mother. Now we know from the animal world and from noticing children who are taking away from their mothers at birth and put in a room which has been a practice and still is in many hospitals, putting in a room full of babies by themselves and the babies are terrified. You see, they spend a lot of time screeming well, babies are not meant to be left screeming. But, in any case, this is terrifying for him. And the mother doesn't have her baby to hold and so she doesn't know her own baby. And there are many cases that mother goes home with the wrong baby. And how could that happen? Now, during the first hours of life and the times does vary for the different animals, for some is quite a short time, for some is a longer time, the mother has the baby and what we call imprinting takes place. The mother knows the baby. The baby knows the mother and they could never not know each other again. And it is essential that imprinting takes place. If you have a baby lamb on and the mother doesn't get it at once, if she has it at once she always knows her own lamb from all the hundreds of lambs gambling around her, and she will never accept the wrong lamb. But if she doesn't get it at once, it's with ? too, she doesn't know it and she won't accept it. So this is happening with the human mothers. And the mother - child relationship is not taking place and is never as same thing, you see. So in the first hours the mother must have the baby as soon as possible to hold and then it is a cot beside her so the mother and child will not have the separation. Doctor Montessori said that many children who get this rather rough reception, they're put on cold scales and weighted. Why do you have to weight a baby? You don't need to know his weight. He's held up by his heels. He is terrified, you see, clenching his little fists. Why should he'd need to be held like that to be measure? There's no need to measure you. It's obvious if the baby needs special care or not and you have to look at it, you know. You don't need to do all those things. So this, rather rough soulless sort of handling can cause regression. And instead of going forward with courage into life, (you've been through a struggle, you're triumph and you're one, you've got your mother and you enter a new phase of ?, you're happy, you go forward ?), you regress. Now, nature meant the child to be breastfed. She gave the mother perfect milk. you see, the one and only food that really suits the baby. Any other food gives it wind, gives it tummy pains and gives you an awful lot of work. Preparing those bottles, take ?, prepare a feed ? to sterilize the bottles and so on It's either ? or anybody ever does it. And it's also better for the mother. She produces certain glands that make her quiet and peaceful and happy and not so anxious. And it makes her organs shrink back to normal and all the rest of it. Whatever suits one also suits the other. And the baby gets this right tactile connection with the mother, the mother loves the baby, she pets it, she handles it. She gives it all these signs of human affection without which the child can not develop. So we can not have a baby, put it into daycare and go back to our jobs in three or four days, you see. Nobody else can do what the mother should do. And if you want a happy, healthy, intelligent child then you stay at home and you look after for him. And all the recent testing just ? out: the breastfed child, the child who is looked after by a good mother at a year of age tests as much more intelligent then the child who has been put into a daycare or left alone when he cries. Now in this first year of life the baby goes through certain stages in the development of movement in the development of speech, in the absorption with his environment, you see and so on. He accomplishes a great deal by one year of age. So there again he needs to be free, he mustn't be kept up tightly, he mustn't have restrictive clothing. He would be better without any clothing, ?, hot enough to go without anything. And he doesn't need to sleep twenty hours a day. You can't develop when you're asleep, you see. So he sleeps and he wakes and in this waking periods he moves, he rigles(?). He's in circulation, he moves as much as is able to. When he's free he moves a good deal. He kicks, his arms flock about. Movements are not very under the control of the will at first but all these movements get the circulation going and stimulate the development of the intelligence. And he makes discoveries, his hands flock about and he finds every time he hits the bars of his cot then they hurt.

Video Details

Duration: 45 minutes and 37 seconds
Year: 1978
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Montessori World Educational Institute
Director: Margaret Homfray
Views: 3,406
Posted by: mwei on Oct 20, 2009

An introductory talk on the needs of the baby and young children with an emphasis on the importance of language. This is part of a lecture series on the Montessori approach to the education of young children as presented by Margaret Homfray, student and colleague of Maria Montessori

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