The Absorbent Mind is one of the fundamental discoveries that underlie the philosophy of a Montessori education. Dr. Marie Montessori recognized the concept during her extensive observation of active classrooms. During the first six years of life, infants and children have a tremendous, almost volcanic capacity to learn, a capacity that is never matched in later life.
So what are the qualities of this absorbent mind?
From Chaos To Order
A child is born without any sense of the world outside the womb, and how chaotic it must seem! And yet, immediately, that child begins to absorb the lessons of its infant senses. Soaking up experience like a sponge soaks up water, a young child, within a year, will learned to master the movement of his or her own limbs, rise up and balance on his or her own feet, communicate with their parents, and begin to explore the world beyond the crib. In another year he’ll be running, she’ll be speaking in sentences, he’ll be feeding himself, and she’ll be climbing stairs. These accomplishments are achieved effortlessly and indiscriminately.
Unconscious To Conscious Development
The plane of development that Dr. Montessori called the Absorbent Mind has two distinct phases. The first involves unconscious learning, for it’s done without any particular intent or will, just by dint of a growing brain hard-wired to absorb and process senses and experiences. This phase lasts until about the age of three.
The second phase involves conscious learning. This is when the child begins to direct their experimentation and exploration according to the whims of their own boundless curiosity. They’re predisposed to pick up language, mathematical concepts, music, movement, and the idea of order in the world.
The Benefits Of Biology
The absorbent mind is unique in Dr. Montessori’s four planes of human development, in part because of the biology of a young child’s brain. Almost 90% of the core brain structure is fully developed by the age of five. In the years that follow, there will be refinements and continued development, but those refinements will never match the rate of growth and complexity of interior connectivity as in those important five years.
The Absorbent Mind In The Classroom
Montessori schools set up their classrooms to take advantage of this unique learning phase. Younger students are offered rich sensory experiences, plenty of room to move, and lots of well-crafted toys tailored to advance their development. Children in the conscious stage of the absorbent mind are offered freedom to explore safely, plenty of opportunity for movement, and the kind of stimulating toys that encourage mathematical, language, and fine motor skills.
The Absorbent Mind is only one concept in the rich philosophy of the Montessori Method, but it forms the heart of how certified Montessori teachers use the philosophy in the classroom.