To Help Life
by Dr. Maria Montessori
A child of 14 finds it difficult to memorize words, whereas a child of 5 years can memorize them , easily and with pleasure. It is not true that with development we increase our powers. There are different abilities. Little children can do things that older ones can no longer do. Children from 0 to 6 years have a power that we no longer have, for then they are in the age of creation. We cannot produce even one tooth, for instance, while they grow a whole set. That is a physical power peculiar to their age. But the same is true in the psychological field. There are periods in psychic development that give the child a capacity that no method can give. These are sensitive periods in psychological development, during which the child has very powerful capacities.
We must make a new plan. We must study the child in relation to these powers from the beginning of his life, from birth. We must study and observe the mysterious event: the beginning of the psychic life of man.
The little child is the creator of the adult he will become. This creation must be studied in the sequence of its phenomena. We must know the psychology of the child if we are to help life.
We know that we must utilize hidden energies, and that to do this we must first know of these hiddenenergies. We must make a plan of development with the guide that the child gives us through the powers that he reveals. We must not proceed on our own ideas or on our own prejudices, not on a preconceived method, but by observing the child. The personality of the child stands loftily in the midst of the problem of education: it is the only possible master of this plan.
This child who comes before us with his marvelous hidden energies must lead our efforts. When we say that the child is our teacher, we mean that it is his revelations that we must take as our guide. Our starting point must be the revelation of the characteristics of the human individual. I say that we must take the child as our teacher. You will probably object saying we must educate the child, we must give him this or that information, he must learn this and that. But I tell you not to have these prejudices, because when his energies are freed, the child is better able to learn than before.
And so I say that this is the child’s method, not the Montessori method.
From a lecture delivered at an International teacher training course in London, 1948.