The term “normalisation” in Montessori can be perplexing for parents who are just starting their journey. After all, aren’t children normal already? While the word normal is used to describe something that is average or typical, that is not the case when referring to your child.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that a child’s normal state is one in which they work with enthusiasm and curiosity, whether alone or with others, treating their environment with respect as they collaborate and contribute to a “community” with little direction. This is known as normalisation in Montessori and is a unique process that allows children to develop as a contributing member of their community.
Normalisation is about allowing your child to work independently within an environment by utilising Montessori materials to engage their interests and encourage self-discipline and harmony.
Here are four features of normalisation:
- Love of work: When you have the opportunity to choose what you enjoy, you’re bound to find joy in your work. Normalisation cultivates a love of learning or work.
- Concentration: It’s not always easy for little ones to concentrate, but normalisation allows them to develop the ability to work continuously and with interest.
- Self-discipline: When children choose what interests them, they become engaged, which helps nurture self-discipline.
- Sociability: Normalisaiton provides children with the foundation to help those around them, developing respect and empathy in the process.
According to Dr. Maria Montessori, normalisation is considered “the most important single result of our whole work,” and occurs in three steps.
Here are the three stages of normalization:
Children who are new to the world of Montessori or those aged three years old and younger are at the first stage. A new environment means getting used to a new way of doing things, and children are still finding their feet during this stage of normalisation. As such, they are introduced to practical life activities in order for them to practise making simple choices, and are encouraged to practise their skills of concentration and self-motivation. As children are still being introduced to the rules of the Montessori classroom, they are not given full reign of the environment and are guided by a dedicated Montessori teacher.
While children receive more freedom during this stage, they have not developed self-discipline and may still struggle with self-control and deep concentration. It’s not unusual for them to jump from one activity to the next as they struggle to complete their own work. However, they have learned not to disrupt the classroom or interrupt others as they work. Children at this stage are offered frequent Montessori lessons and presentations to help them discover their interests.
This is the third and final stage of normalisation. Children during this stage can independently select activities and complete them without jumping to the next one, demonstrating concentration and focus. Children will not disrupt the classroom during this stage, but will help younger students with their activities – an advantage of mixed group classrooms. Minimal supervision is required as children independently navigate the Montessori classroom, displaying self-sufficiency and patience.
The Montessori environment is designed to help navigate children through the various stages of normalisation. Special consideration is given to the fact that each child is unique and develops at their own pace, which is emphasised in the Montessori classroom. As children are guided by their teachers (and parents), they will eventually develop the necessary skills needed in their own time.