Much has been written about Maria Montessori’s Theory of the Four Planes of Development, so I will only give a brief overview here.
Through scientific observation, Maria Montessori identified
four distinct phases in the maturity of a human being
from birth to the age of twenty-four.
She called these the Four Planes of Development.
Each phase lasts approximately six years. Thus, the First Plane encompasses birth to about six years old, the Second Plane six to twelve, the Third Plane twelve to eighteen, and the Four Plane eighteen to twenty-four years of age. Again, these phases are an average time span. Children commonly display characteristics specific to each Plane of Development. The First and Third Planes are parallel planes, as are the Second and Fourth Planes.
Furthermore, Montessori noticed that each plane was further divided into subplanes, each lasting approximately three years. During the first subplane, the child is absorbing information from the external world, which is then being processed throughout the second subplane. This has been likened to the waxing and waning of the moon in its phases.
A child has distinct needs during each plane, which means that there is an optimal environment which the parents can provide in which the child can best thrive and develop. A simple analogy to these Four Planes are the four distinct phases in the metamorphosis of a butterfly: from an egg, to a caterpillar, to the chrysalis stage, to the mature butterfly. In each stage, this creature has different feeding and environmental needs. From a Montessori child raising perspective, once parents understand the distinct phases and how to provide the optimal circumstances for a child in each Plane, child raising becomes much more manageable.
Common characteristics in the Four Planes:
First Plane: Joyful. Innocent. Inquisitive of the surrounding physical environment while at the same time very focused on self. Order-seeking, both in terms of routine and physical order, and can become very disconcerted when these become disrupted. A time of great physical growth, with freedom of movement being imperative for proper development. Child moves from a prone being incapable of movement from place to place, to an upright mobile individual. Trying to discern his place and role in the physical surroundings. Particularly in the second subplane, independence-seeking, wanting to do everything on her own or only accepts help on her own terms. Ideally, everything should be kept as real as possible for the First Plane child, who needs a strong foundation in reality.
Second Plane: Speaks whatever comes to mind (which Montessori dubbed “the age of rudeness”). Very concerned with justice. Becoming increasingly aware of the world outside of self. Child’s opinions can still be very influenced by those of the parents. Socially oriented, loving conversation and social contact. Loves to take on and organize larger projects that benefit others. Imagination, both of what is possible to accomplish in the world at large, as well as within the mind, strengthens during this time if the child had a strong foundation of reality in the First Plane.
Third Plane: parallels the First Plane. Pre-teen to teen can become very self-conscious and withdrawn, or spends time with a few select friends made during the Second Plane. A time of physical transition to adulthood. Begins seeking adult role models beyond parents. Mentally trying to discern her place and role in the impending adult world. Important for the child to have strong role models outside the family, but who are deserving of trust by the parents. Most recognizable, even by those completely unfamiliar with Montessori thought.
Fourth Plane: again becoming more social and opinionated (paralleling the Second Plane child). Here, opinions can be greatly influenced by adults outside the family. (Side note: the college environment can be very helpful or harmful to a child in the Fourth Plane.) For a family that has remained close-knit during the child’s previous planes, parents can still be a great, positive influence for their child before they move out of the home.
One of the finer points of the Montessori Four Planes of Development Theory, discussed in another post, concerns the recognition of the transitions that occur from one Plane to the next.