Normalization refers to the focus, concentration and independence of the children, by their own choice. It means they have acquired the internal freedom to initiate work, be independent, and adhere (by choice) to the rules of the environment.
Normalization comes about through “concentration” on a piece of work. Dr. Montessori’s main discovery was the reality of the child’s true nature, the normalized child. During Dr. Montessori’s work in San Lorenzo, Rome, She was moved many times by what she observed the children doing. She wondered their accomplishments were “the work of angels”. She would say to herself, “I won’t believe this time. I will wait until the next time to believe (the secret of childhood). After forty years of work, Dr. Montessori was willing to say that “normalization is the single most important result of our work” (the absorbent mind Pg.204).
The process of normalization is a journey. It begins when a child is introduced to activities like the practical life materials. The materials help the child to develop his or her motor skills, acquire a sense of order, and begin the process of extending their ability, and desire for concentrated work. Maria Montessori felt that a child’s troublesome behaviours disappeared when they experienced concentration on meaningful activities “all we have to do is set (the child’s developmental) energy free”. It is as simple as that this is not given freedom to children in the common sense what is the use to children, if it is freedom to develop their deviation? When we peak of freedom in education, we mean freedom for the creative energy which is the urge of life towards the development of the individual. This is not casual energy like the energy of a bomb that explodes. It has a guiding principle, a very fine but unconscious directive, the aim of which is to develop a normal person. When we speak of free children, we are thinking of this energy which must be free in order to construct these children well. Maria Montessori (1989 Pg.12), it is the effort of the directress to ensure, a suitable environment well prepared for the children. DIKE MARYJANE
It is only through the prepared environment that the children will flourish and the process of normalization will begin and as a result, the development of these wonderful powers like spontaneous self-discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others will exhibit it selves.
The transition from one state to the other always follows a piece of work done by the hands with real things; work accompanied by mental concentration (Absorbent mind pg. 186).This can be actualised only in a well prepared environment. “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behaviour. He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon. This shows the importance of his surroundings, for one acting on the child from outside can cause him to concentrate. Only he can organise his psychic life. None of us can do it for him”. (Absorbent Mind pg. 202)
According to Montessori, in a growing child, there are two streams of energy, centre and periphery. The centre is the mental energy of intelligence and will, where the periphery is the physical energy of the body. Despite short attention sperm in children, normalization will set in if the centre and periphery work together. She also stressed that what enhances normalization is constructive work in children. It is through work that every child concentrates and attains self confidence. It is only when a child is denied of this harmonious work of his mind and body that he will be deviated. Dr. Montessori observed in her work with the children in Casa Dei Bambini that when the children first came, they were completely traumatized. Neither could they speak properly, nor behave correctly. They were unable to dress themselves; yet she noticed that these traits vanished as soon as the children became absorbed in the piece of work that attracted them. “What is to be particularly noted in these conversions is a psychic cure, a return to what is normal. When we see a child in the light, we would more properly call his conversion normalization” (Secret of Childhood, pg. 148) DIKE MARYJANE
The embryonic development of each of its parts, which is at first carried on separately from birth till three, must in the end become integrated, when it will be so organised that all of these parts act together in the service of the individual. This is what is happening during the next period from 3 to 6, when the hand is at work and the mind is guiding it. If outer conditions prevent this integration from occurring, then the same energies go on urging each of the partial formations to continue their activities apart from the others. This results in unequal development, divorced from its proper ends.
Normalization appears through the repletion of a three step cycle. The building of character and the formation of personality that we call normalization comes about when the children follow this cycle of work. Preparation for an activity which involves gathering together the materials necessary to do the activity: The movement and the thought involved in the preparation serves to call the attention of the mind to begin to focus on the activity. For example, You ask a child that you want to show him how to polish his shoes, using all the logical movements, the child is so excited and want to learn, he watches the way you move and that interests him .An activity which so engrosses the child that he reaches a deep level of concentration: When a directress presents an activity to a child who draws the child’s interest, the child engrosses himself with the activity. However, through repetition, the child constructs himself, concentrates, and fulfils the purpose for which the material is designed. Rest: This is characterized by a general feeling of satisfaction and well-being. It is thought that at this point some inner formation or integration of the person takes place. This means activity and happy with himself, returns the material to the shelf.
Dr. Montessori further stated the characteristics of normalised children through her observations with the children in Casa Dei Bambini. The children in our schools have proved to us that their real wish is to be always at work – a thing never before suspected, just as no one had ever before noticed the child’s power of choosing his work spontaneously. Following an inner guide, the children busied themselves with something (different for
each) which gave them serenity and joy. (Absorbent Mind pg. 184). However, spontaneous discipline struck the imaginations of the public, their profound spontaneous concentration, independence and orderliness was unimaginable.
A love of order: one can watch a small child in a Montessori class taking out a mat and unrolling it on the floor, ready to start to work. She observes a fleck of dust, gets the broom, and sweeps it off. Then with increased satisfaction and enjoyment, she proceeds to lay out her material. After she is done working, she returns the materials to the shelf, especially where she took it from. And another child who also might be interested in working with that same material picks it. This kind of order is not mere fussiness but a genuine respect for the materials with which they work and a generous consideration for the other members of their small society,
A love of work: some of the children in Montessori class choose for themselves fantastic amounts of work. For example: one child in a Montessori class went on with an exercise in long bead chains of 8 and it took her the whole period of working cycle and she never cared even when other children were having lunch until she was done. The next day, she came and announced that she was moving to the next level; long bead chain of 9. That was fantastic! We can truly see that when a child chooses a task and sees it to completion by himself, he is well on the way to becoming a free independent being.
Love of silence: in a Montessori class, there is far more interaction than one would see in a traditional classroom where the children are silent by decree rather than by choice. Here, the children are free to discuss their work with each other, to dictate movable alphabets words to each other, to work together in pairs or in small groups. However, one child may not just join another who is working alone without first obtaining permission. The right of a child to work alone is respected. Sometimes, we play what we call “the silent Game”, in which the children try to sit perfectly still and maintain complete silence for few minutes and listen to the sounds around
them. It can be a time for introspection and peace. When the few minutes are up, frequently the children applaud. They seem to be so delighted with the period of silence they impose on themselves.
Profound spontaneous concentration: one might be wondering, how children who are of different ages could stay and work in the same class. In a Montessori classroom, children who work differently and with no distraction, concentrates individually on their work. When a child is doing table scrubbing, another is doing hand washing and maybe another group working with mathematics material known as bank game which requires much counting aloud and exchanging of units for tens, tens or hundreds, and so on. This profound concentration is the result of s long inner growth. It can be developed by the exercises of practical life, which help to focus the child’s attention on real things and give him an opportunity for a lengthened cycle of work.
Obedience: Montessori speaks of three levels of obedience: on the first level, before the child is 3, he cannot obey unless the order he receives corresponds with one of his vital urges. The second level is reached when his powers are consolidated and can be directed not only by his own will but also by the will of another. On the third level, he obeys with astonishing readiness and seems anxious to do so. That one can take directions as a sudden discovery that brings with it a new kind of enthusiasm. A normalized child should have reached the third level of obedience. And one could see this as the children in Montessori DIKE MARYJANE
class obediently co-operates with the Directress knowing there’s a grand rule guiding them. Independence and Initiative: The Directress in a Montessori classroom will make every attempt to guard this independence and initiative by not interfering with the child when he has chosen his work, unless he is obviously misusing it or disturbing someone else. The materials itself fosters this independence by having within it a control of error, which frees the child from the needless help of the adult. After the material has been introduced, the child may work with it on his own. He is thereby working for his own formation, his own progress, not hanging on the approval
of those around him or working to please the teacher.
Spontaneous Self-Discipline: Maria Montessori said “It is clear that the discipline which reveals itself in a Montessori class is something which comes more from within than from without. But this self discipline has not come into existence in a day, or a week, or even a month. It is the result of a long inner growth and achievement won through months of training”. This is the period in which discipline becomes established in one of active peace, of obedience and love, when work is perfected and multiplied, just as when tiny flowers of spring get their colours and prepare a distant harvest of sweet and nourishing fruit.
Attachment of Reality: Dr. Montessori believed that the child needs to sort his impressions, to learn what is true and what is not true. What Maria Montessori decried was the tendency of adults to add to a child’s confusion by presenting stories of fable or fantasy before he can readily distinguish the truth from fiction. For example, if you say to a small child, “If you turn this knob just so, and pull-like this – the door will open.” He will find that just as exciting as and far more helpful than if you say, “If you open this door, you will see a tiger on the other side”.
Joy: To the normalized child, learning is a happy experience. If one is able to harness a child’s innate delight in discovery, to make use of this self motivation, there is no reason why this enthusiasm for school should fade. For example, I got a part time job to teach a child from a traditional school who finds it difficult to do addition in maths and can’t even go further to subtraction and the rest. When I introduced him to decimal using golden beads exercises and we progressed to stamp game and bead frame. The boy’s interest suddenly changed positively. He would feel so happy after work and so much occupies himself when am gone. However, one would see in a Montessori classroom that children work to satisfy themselves. There is inner joy that comes from within because they chose their activity rather than being imposed by the teacher.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRE-NORMALIZED AND NORMALIZED CHILD
One would ask first of the behaviours of a child who has not been normalized. We know that all negative personal characteristics take place from wrong behaviour towards a child during the first period of his or her life. If during this period the chid is neglected, his mind will be empty as it was not provided with an opportunity to form and this could be referred to PRE-NORMALIZATION. For example, why a child from a traditional school is brought into a Montessori class, you could notice that the child at the initial time sees the materials as objects to play with rather than work. He or she lacks respect for orders but after periods of time, the child will adjust. On the other hand, a normalized child is the child whose environment has been well prepared, making available constructive materials to helps the child to unfold its potentials, deepen his concentration and invoke normalization. While a pre-normalized chid is the child who has been neglected as an n empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge by an adult, which can make the child to withdraw from the environment and might not unfold his potentials. So therefore, if a child has not been groomed in such a conducive and well prepared environment, the child could be pre-normalized.
However, I quote Dr Montessori; only “normalized” children aided by their environment show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others”. (The Absorbent Mind page 188) An interesting piece of work, freely chosen which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self mastery. One is tempted to say that, the children are performing spiritual exercises, having found the path of self-perfection and the ascent to the inner heights of the soul.
Kathleen Futrell, The Normalized Child, The Aquinas Montessori School, 1970, 1971. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, Ballantine Books New York. Standing, E. M., Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, New York, New American Library. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent, Oxford ABC-CLIO ltd.
Elizabeth G. Hainstock, The Essential Montessori, USA, 1997.
STUDENT NUMBER: N/07/13/00144
TOPIC: “only “normalized” children aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we described: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others” (CMS vol 1, The Absorbent Mind, pg. 188)
Discuss this statement and describe the difference between
Pre-normalized and normalized child.