It is a concept that lies at the base and heart of the way children (and for that matter adults) learn. Montessori observed from the moment every child is born they have the capacity to absorb and learn from their surroundings; this happens first unconsciously and then consciously. Every child has the innate ability to comprehend, make sense of their world acquiring skills and knowledge.
From a modern day perspective the pressure for children, at an increasingly early age, is to aspire to a perceived ‘academia’ (for little ones this is often translated into a fixation on learning numbers, letters and sounds). In aiming for such results, this can often be accompanied in the loss of value of the nature of the absorbent mind; or to put it another way – the problem with adults imposing a directed structure of learning on children results in a compromise and interference of the absorbent mind and subsequently children can miss out.
Having lived the Montessori method now since our eldest daughter was a toddler (she is now approaching 20) I can say with certainty that my belief in the correctness of the ‘absorbent mind’ is emphatic.
The Montessori nursery provides all that is needed for positive, happy and successful learners. Montessori’s genius ensured that all the milestones and learning concepts for children could be achieved by placing them in an ‘enriched’ setting. The shelves in a Montessori nursery are laden with materials that are aesthetically pleasing and entice the children to play with them, at their own will and direction, and figure them out. And once they are satisfied in their understanding of how something works they move on to the next activity or they continue with the same materials organising and working with them in a more complex way.
I could go on like the nerd that I am about this but I will refrain!
The urge to make me write this was sparked by one of our four year olds who drew a fantastic picture of the staff team on the white board. What struck me was multi fold and I will keep it brief! First the detail of all the staff – I had curly hair, Lesley had sparkly earrings, Donna had a bun and so on. Second, that there was a process of elimination that went on – who first, who next, and who was there still to draw? Third, the skills and precision of her mark making. Fourth – the joy which the child got from doing it and also the joy that all felt in seeing it. And lastly and most importantly – that the child had chosen to do this on her own. She was creative, precise, imaginative and valued her own ability and achievement. The child has been at the nursery since the age of two (she is now four) and in that time, like all the other children, she has gently and happily gone from one activity to another, exploring, discovering, enjoying and learning.
Suffice to say here was the absorbent mind showing itself in all its wonderful glory!