Normalization In The Montessori Preschool Environment

“Actually the normal child is one who is precociously intelligent, who has learned to overcome himself and to live in peace, and who prefers a disciplined task to futile idleness. When we see a child in this light, we would more properly call his “conversion” a “normalization.” Man’s true nature lies hidden within himself.  And this nature which was given him at conception, must be recognized and allowed to grow. —– In a child the normal psychic traits can flourish easily. Then all those traits that deviated from the norm disappear, just as with the return of health all the symptoms of a disease vanish.” – Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood (pg. 148).

What is Normalization?

Normalization means the stage of the child’s physically and mentally concentrating on work with joy, tranquility and happiness.

General characteristics of growth

In general, there are characteristics of growth that are known universally:

  1. Every organism develops in accord with preordained pattern. For example, a bulb of tulip is always bloom into a tulip flower.
  2. The development occurs at the expense of matter taken in from the environment by a selective process within the organism. For example, in order for tulip to grow, it needs an environment which provides such amount of temperature, soil, water and sunlight that meets the needs of tulip.
  3. The external matter taken in is assimilated by digestion in such a way that it actually becomes part of the organism. Tulip absorbs the food from the outside and grow from the inside.

Physical and mental streams of energy

There are two streams of significant energy in the growing child whose balanced interplay. The first one is physical energy of the body, specially the energy of muscular which are used in voluntary movement. The second one is the mental energy of intelligence which is an impalpable spiritual force. In Montessori’s view of the child, the two aspects of physical and mental or the psyche, mind and body should always be associated with each other. If these streams of energy are separated during the child’s development, the deviations from the normal will occur to the child.

Types of deviations

Montessori demonstrates signs of deviation that needs to be recognized in The Secret of Childhood and as a Montessori teacher we need to become familiar with them:

  1. The fugue. (From World English Dictionary website, “fugue” is a dreamlike altered state of consciousness, lasting from a few hours to several days, during which a person loses his or her memory for his or her previous life and often wanders away from home.) The mind of the child is drifting away and taken in imaginations and fantasy. Ishann, the boy from the movie “Like Stars on Earth” is a good example especially when he was drifting away and picturing images in his head all by himself without paying attention to the outside world and never finishing any work.Children who show fugue symptoms are in many cases thought to be very creative but a little messy and impractical. They seem to have no goal in life. The streams of physical and mental energy in the child are divided and not completely unified.In the right environment, it has been discovered that the child who is drift away into fantasy is easily normalized. As a teacher, we need to help the child meet his needs. Once the child is involved with the reality more fully, the child will learn more profoundly. The disorderly work habits will be vanished. He is then reaching the inner satisfaction and peace.
  2. The psychic barrier. It is a critical issue. The child unknowingly builds a wall to protect himself and to hinder the reception from the external side. The child pushes everything away from himself and is isolated from the world. If he is in the environment that he is being abused or neglected, he will develop a foundation of negativity in his mind which will be with him and becomes part of who he is.
  3. Unwholesome attachment to adult approval. The attachment that the child is very submissive, dependent, unable to make his own decision without adult. Adults finds this type of child easy. Unwholesome attachment to adult approval is a critical weakness of the child’s spirit.
  4. Possessiveness. There is an inborn natural powerful desire to use his faculties in the normalized child. The child grows through an environment rich with proper sustenance. If the child discovers no external stimulus to his growth, he appeals to things with the desire to possess. It is a diverging of energies away from love and learning.
  5. Desire for power is connected to possessiveness. The child starts to control and use adult through which the child can obtain power. For the love of our children, the important thing is we need to set the boundaries and have the courage to say “no” to the child when things go off limit or inappropriate. Many neuroscientists consider the number one goal of the child is to feel safe. Within the boundaries of where the child feels safe, the child has his power to explore, experiment things and to decide his own limits.
  6. The inferiority complex. In Montessori’s view, adults hold an obscure attitude of disrespect for their children as they think that the children in need of filling and correcting. The child is considered as the adults own possession and the adults show behavior toward a child he would never show with adults. Then the child clearly observes that he is considered to be unreliable and a source of breaking objects or causing troubles. He thinks of himself as a worthless and unable to do things by himself. If the adult often interrupt the child’s activity and being disrespectful to the child’s activities, the child will think of himself unimportant and hears the conviction of his own inferiority and impotence. The interference and harsh criticism of the adults toward the child lead the child to have discouragement, shyness, isolated, tears, difficulty in making decision and the whole part of inferiority complex.
  7. Deception covers and hides the soul. The child needs clear concepts, ideas, contact with reality, freedom of spirit and an active interest in the good and noble. Deception is a spiritual lie, it hardens the heart. For the child to be free from lying adults must not lie to the child and the child should be exposed to deceitful person.

Normalization through work

In Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, E.M. Standing states “There is one sovereign cure for all these forms of deviation—one only—says Montessori, and that is normalization through work—She started with children –the free children in the Prepared Environment—and they demonstrated it to her: first in Italy, then in Spain, then in America and after that in every part of the globe.” (pg. 173).

The process of normalization is always into the ordered, serene and harmonious atmosphere of the Prepared Environment in Montessori classroom and is ready for the deviated child to enter. Standing mentions more about the interaction of the teacher toward the child’s normalization state in Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work:

“If the directress has done her duty properly, if she has treated him with a mixture of firmness and respect, if she’s been tireless presenting him with occupations, if she encourage him without coercion and left him free to wander round at will—provided he disturbs no one—and if she has let him choose his occupations, then one day will come the great event. One day —Heaven knows why—he will choose some occupation and settle down seriously to work at it with the first spontaneous spell of concentration that he has ever shown.—He is now at a new phase of life, almost a new life. His feet are now on the path which leads to normality” Standing also says that “Concentration is the key that opens up to the child to latent treasures within him.”

Children may have different form of deviations but when they enter to the spontaneous concentration and keep repeating until it turns into habit, each child has their certain time and place, ultimately they will enter normality. The two streams of energy; physical and mental will be unified

Characteristics of the normalized child

The following are the summarization from The Characteristics of the normalized child, in Maria Montessori’s Her Life and Work by Standing:

  1. A love of order. The child seeks and finds order around it. The order which is within the child goes out to meet illuminate the order without.
  2. Love of work. It means any activity which involves the child’s entire personality and has its unconscious aim the construction of personality. But it is work and not play.
  3. Profound spontaneous concentration. This concentration often isolated the child from his environment. It is a biological phenomenon. We might call it the attention of life.
  4. Attachment to reality. The mind constructs itself through contact with reality not through make-believe.
  5. Love of silence and of working alone. The child likes to concentrate on his work and when the aim of work is more conscious and external –the children frequently work together in spontaneously formed groups.
  6. Sublimation of the possessive instinct. The active possibility of interesting themselves in any object leads them to a stage where it is no longer the objects but the knowledge.
  7. Power to act from real choice and not from curiosity. This children are now motivated in their actions by real choice and no longer by mere curiosity.
  8. With the process of normalization through work, they pass through a sort of novitiate in this virtue. To carry out the command of another has now become a form of self-expression, just because it involves the joyful exercise of a newly developed faculty—the will.
  1. Independence and initiative. The child should acquire as much independence as is possible for him to acquire at each stage of development. As a teacher, we must always deduct the limit of intervention in children’s works. The whole goal of Montessori system can be summed up as the “valorization personality” at each stage.
  2. Spontaneous self-discipline. In a normalized classroom, the children have their self-discipline, they work to meet their inner satisfaction not for the order of teacher. It is one of the most valuable prize of freedom.
  3. Joy. Joy is the crowning characteristic of normalized children. This joy is something far more than pleasure or the happiness of being entertained. Dr. Montessori saw in it a deep mysterious emotion, the joy that nature always grants as the accompaniment to the right use of our faculties.

How Montessori preschools assist normalization

Normalization is the great result of the work in Montessori preschool. By properly and carefully prepare the environment for children, the child will be able to enter normalization. Teachers should limit the interference while the child is concentrating on his work and allow the child the freedom of choice. Normalization can help children who have variety forms of deviation. With the teacher’s love, tireless and never give up hope of the child, one day, the child will eventually enter the stage of normalization. Through the work in the Prepared Environment of Montessori classroom, the child has the love of working and the joy of learning. Normalization brings peace, serenity and happiness to children.