(A note from the author: This post is the first in a series addressing common misconceptions about Montessori theory in general, as well as Catholic Montessori theory in particular. Read the next post here.)
When parents find out that I coach other parents in Catholic Montessori child raising, a frequent remark I hear is, “Oh, I’m interested in Catholic Montessori for my child someday,” explaining that their child is under the age of 3. In the minds of people somewhat familiar with Montessori, 3 years old is the magic age when a child is “ready” for Montessori. These parents fail to realize that Maria Montessori recognized the development of the human person as unfolding over a period of approximately 24 years, starting at birth.
The Absorbent Mind
From birth, babies have what Montessori coined as “The Absorbent Mind”. They are constantly soaking up their surroundings through their senses. This gathering of information is heightened in the first three years of life, which emphasizes the great importance of providing a proper home environment to meet the specific needs of a child of this age. During this time, parents have a wonderful opportunity to create and expose their newborn and infant to some of the greatest influences for their entire lives.
This information is then more specifically processed during the ages of 3 to 6. More formal learning begins to take place during this time. The entire span of the 0- to 6-year-old spans what Montessori called “The First Plane of Development”.
The Time is Now
Maria Montessori quipped, “Show me the 6-year-old, and I will show you the man.” Though this may be perceived as lighthearted and witty, it is quite serious. Of course, through God’s grace and our human effort, change and improvement are always possible. Unfortunately, oftentimes greater effort is needed and character change is slower for children past the age of 6. In other words, past that age, the rock of child raising gets heavier as we push it up an increasingly steeper hill.
To the parents who have learned about Catholic Montessori while their children are still newborns and infants: you have been given a great gift. You have the opportunity to understand and provide for your child’s deepest needs from birth. Use that gift!