Nature provides every child with a set of genes. Not one child is the same. The eating patterns and sleeping patterns differ, and so does the manner of making contact, the likes and dislikes. The time a child starts to walk, talk and socialise is also different thus all together giving us a glimpse on what kind of child we have in front of us.
The child has a natural urge of wanting to develop. Nature is amazing and has built in common sensitivities during the different stages of development. Thus assisting the child in developing an array of characteristics and skills. Montessori called these sensitive periods. Madeleine Nash, in the article named ‘Fertile Minds’ used the term ‘windows of opportunity’.
So development can be seen as a kind of matrix. On the horizontal bar we have the windows of opportunity and on the vertical bar we have the learning styles. A child will have a predominant set of characteristics and simultaneously nature offers moments in life to develop these deeper and wider.
Knowing that every child is different should force the world to rethink education. One size does not fit all! Grouping children with peers of only the same age is not an answer either since the personality and the learning styles differ.
Because we are all different, human kind needs to learn an array of skills so that he/she in the future can live, work with and respect all these differences. Practising this from very young onwards helps the child in building an open mind that is flexible and adaptable.
The Montessori classroom gives many opportunities to each child to develop into the one he is originally meant to be and simultaneously work on developing a large set of personal and interpersonal skills. The teachers work ‘in between’ the children, thereby knowing the curriculum by heart and simultaneously have a deep understanding of the strengths and challenges of each child. They can then adapt planning, presentations, curriculum and lessons to the individual needs of each child at all times. This does not mean ‘giving the child what he/she wants’, it is giving what the child developmentally needs in such a way that harmonious growth takes place.
Children and older students also learn a lot from each other. The teachers offer a variety of activities, materials and knowledge to small groups of children, thus making sure that an array of work is happening at the same time. This stimulates children’s interest and motivation enormously, as they see what other activities they can do and learn.
Individualised education continues in Secondary. Even though students are divided in small groups according to their Year, they find themselves in an open plan classroom, observe what others are doing. have lots of contact with all students and can change within groups per subject as their level and motivation allows. Due to the small size of our secondary section, teachers know all students well and can work on the academic as well as the social and emotional development.