PLANES OF DEVELOPMENT
After decades of observing children around the world, Maria Montessori began to notice common physical and psychological characteristics present during certain times in a child’s life. We use these characteristics in guiding each child’s development instead of subscribing to age-based plans as you might find in the traditional school system.
Why are the Four Planes important to know?
It is important to understand the four planes of development to understand how Montessori environments are prepared – each environment is prepared with the characteristics of each Plane in mind:
The First Plane: The Absorbent Mind
The most important of the four planes is the first, generally occurring between birth and 6 years. Most traditional theorists believe that the capacity for knowledge increases with age—people tend to think that older students need more information than younger students. But in fact the mind has a great deal of power from birth, despite our inability to get clear feedback on how much the child is learning. Traditional education believes that school and education should start at first grade but this misses a crucial period of lingual, emotional and interpersonal skill development. During this first Plane of Development the child has what we refer to as an “Absorbent Mind” – he absorbs everything from his environment regardless of whether it is good or bad information. There is no reasoning to what they are learning; they take in everything. The child is learning what the world is – how it is made up. They explore the world with their senses. They don’t want to know how and why the ice cube came to be – they want to feel it; they want to know the essence of an ice cube. Everything to the child is real and literal at this stage, so we try to expose the child to the greatest diversity of practical, real-world experiences while limiting access to fantasy and make-believe.
The Second Plane: The Reasoning Mind
We typically see children within this Plane between the ages of 6 and 12. As the child develops the ability to distinguish fact from fiction, real life from fantasy, we begin to introduce work that involves developing his imagination. The child takes what he has learned in the first plane and uses this information to begin forming abstract thought. These children are fascinated with the reasons behind facts—they have a natural drive to understand and rationalize. They use this “reasoning mind” to find out why things are the way they are, and how things should be. Children in this Plane are very interested in right and wrong, morality and social justice and fairness.
The Third Plane: The Social Mind
This young person, typically aged 12-18, is going through an enormous amount of physical and psychological change once again. He is very interested in his social life, his peers become very important to him—parents tend to have a diminished influence during this time. He is ruled by hormones and emotions. The reasoning mind starts to take a back seat to instinct and emotional urges, and firmer boundaries are needed alongside continued love and patience from parents. We have to be sensitive to their needs as emotional fragility sets in, and greater physical transformation means appropriate schedule changes (e.g. more sleep).
The Fourth Plane: Citizen of the World
The young adult is going out into the world, trying to discover who he is and how he wants to make a difference. He wants to find out what his path is, leveraging the stability and independence built over his childhood and adolescence by observant parents and guides.