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Child as a spiritual Embryo

Every child is born with a unique psyche and this starts developing gradually. The child
will slowly reveal a pattern. Every child should be allowed to explore. How a chills
comes out to be is the outcome of how the adult handles him/her and the environment.

Man has two embryonic stages pre natal stage and postnatal stage. Pre natal stage is the
stage when the child is in the womb of the mother and the postnatal stage is the stage
when the child comes outside the womb of the mother.
In the embryos of mammals, and hence of men, the first organ to appear is the heart, or
rather, that which will become the heart – a vesicle that begins at once to beat in a regular
rhythm, beating twice as much as mother’s heart beat. And it will continue to beat
unwearyingly; for it is the vital motor that enables all the vital tissues to form, pulsing to
them the nourishment they need for life.

All this labor is hidden, and is wonderful precisely because it is done thus alone. It is the
miracle of creation from almost nothing. Those wise little living cells never make
mistakes, and find in themselves the power for far reaching transformations, some
becoming cartilage cells, some nerve cells, some skin cells and each tissue finds its exact
place. This marvel of creation is one of the secrets of the universe, rigorously kept; nature
envelops it in impenetrable veils and sheaths, and she alone can part them, when finally,
matured and complete, a new creature is born into the world.

But the creature that is born is not merely a material body. It, in its turn, is like a germ
cell, possessing latent psychic functions, of pre-determined type. The new body does not
function through its organs only; it has other functions – the urges that cannot be seated
in a cell but in a living body, in a creature already born. Just as every germ cell bears
within itself the pattern of the organism to be, though without visible sign, so every new
born body, whatever its species, bears in itself a pattern of psychical instinct, of functions
that will set it in relation to its environment, for the fulfillment of its cosmic mission. This
second phase, which concerns psychic life in relation to, the outer environment is
inherent in the first, in the embryonic life that nature isolates and hides. Indeed when the
new creature is formed it is like a spiritual egg, bearing within it a mysterious guidance,
which will result in acts, characters, labors, in short, in functions upon its outer
environment.

This outer environment must provide not only the means of physiological existence, but
stimuli to the mysterious mission inscribed in every creature that is born, all of which are
summoned by their environment not only to life but to the exercise of a necessary office
for the conservation of the world and its harmony. Each according to its species.

And thus the newborn child is not only a body ready to function as a body but a spiritual
embryo with latent psychic capacities. It would be absurd to think that man alone,
characterized and distinct from all other creatures by the grandeur of his mental life,
should be the only one with no pattern of psychic development.
The spirit may be so profoundly latent that it will not be apparent like the instinct of the
animal, which is at once ready to reveal it in given actions. The absence of fixed and
determined guiding instincts, such as possessed by the animals, is the sign of a fund of
freedom of action, demanding a special elaboration, almost as though it had to be created
and developed by each individual, and was therefore unpredictable. There is thus a secret
in the soul of the child, impossible to penetrate unless he himself reveals it little by little
as he builds up his being. It is the same as in the segmentation of the germ cell, where
there is nothing but an invisible pre-determined pattern, which there is no means of
discerning and which will manifest itself only with the gradual creation of the details of
the organism. And therefore only the child can bring revelation of the natural pattern of
man. But because of the delicacy of all creation from nothing, the psychic life of the child
needs a defense and an environment analogous to the sheaths and veils that nature has set
round the physical embryo
Normalization and False Fatigue
The term normalization in Montessori philosophy does not have anything do with
normalcy or expected standards. Normalization is a gradual process wherein the child is
completely acclimatized to his environment on his own, without any external force or
direction. It can also be summed up as “self discipline self imbibed”.
From 3 - 6 years the child begins to explore the outer environment through more
purposeful movement and exercise. This period is when the brain begins to order and
classify experiences, bringing order to the innumerable sensations coming into the brain.
The child also begins to refine these experiences and to utilize them in a more purposeful
way. The period from 3 - 6 years is an absorbent time. Sensations are still being
registered effortlessly, but the child is now beginning to act more consciously towards the
world around him.
Most of the time, children have developed mental barriers because of over
protective and passive parenting. These barriers prevent the child from being active and
often develop into extreme timidity, lack of confidence and a fear of committing errors.
In a Montessori environment, the child is exposed to various platforms where the teacher
guides him in such a manner so that he acquires the courage of his own individuality and
begins to be active. Sooner or later urged by a personal impulse, he begins to act by
himself, thus coming into contact, with an external object. By becoming spontaneously
active, each child overcomes the barriers to his development and returns to normality- his
real inquisitive, orderly nature.
For a new child, when at teacher presents an object for a practical life exercise
with all its details, in all its completeness to the child, the child becomes acquainted with
these actions. So, little by little he begins to work. When the personality becomes
normalized and develops to a point where the child begins to fix his attention deeply
upon something, the material is taken out and presented to the child. In the case of a child
who has already been in the school, he enters an environment in which the work already
exists, where the other kids are already normalized. When we say a child is normalized
we mean that his interest has been aroused, there is a self urge to do an activity, a need for
silence to facilitate the thought process and accomplish the task to perfection with utmost
concentration.

The signs of normalization are:

 Love for order


 Love of work
 Obedience
 Independence and initiative
 Spontaneous self discipline
 Love for silence and working alone.
In a Montessori environment there are three stages in a child’s typical workday:

 No-line activity
 False fatigue and
 Great work period.
Explanation of the diagram:

- Enters class.
- Chooses simple activity
- False fatigue
- Settle down with deepest concentration levels
- Is relaxed and refreshed.

The “No line activity”, as the name suggests, is the period when there is very little or no
activity. This typically happens when a child comes in to school in the morning. He is
still getting settled mentally to spend the next few hours at school. During this time he
usually will choose an activity that is not very challenging or which doesn’t demand his
complete concentration, maybe something easy that he has already done before.
False fatigue period is the recess when the child winds down after doing a simple/familiar
activity early on in the day. He may feel he needs a break: this is sometimes snack time
for children. This is a very crucial time for the child because his mind is at work figuring
what he wants to do and how he is going to go about implementing it. Outwardly it may
seem at this time that the child is aimlessly wandering around and is disinterested but
inwardly he is furiously thinking, contemplating what challenging activity to undertake
next based on previous presentations by teachers or observations of peers. It has been
observed that children are at their maximum potential after the false fatigue period, they
have been known to concentrate diligently and execute activities of a challenging nature.
Since the child has the freedom to choose what he/she wants to do, the child chooses an
activity based on the order of difficulty he/she has achieved and thus masters new skills
and self realizes the feeling of ‘a task well done’. It is best not to disturb the child or ask
him to be engaged during this brief period, as it would interrupt his flow of thoughts.
Great work period is the final period of the day when the child after carefully thinking
over his choice of activity during the false fatigue period gives his best to that activity.
All the thought process that has occurred in the ‘break’ time is put into action and the
child independently and freely chooses an engaging/challenging activity and works with
diligence and attention to detail. -Usually children have been observed to be doing
complex math or social activities at this time. When the child has performed his chosen
activity to perfection, he leaves for home, happy, content and confident.
Why do you need a 3-hour period?

Therefore we realize that a 3-hour period as set down by Dr. Montessori is an ideal frame
of time for a child to spend at school. This gives him enough time to settle down, interact
with peers, make silent observations, do a familiar activity, take a short break and then
undertake a greater activity which actually propels him to think and deliver with
perfection. A 3-hour period also does not overly tire the child or drain him of his energies.
At the end of the school day, the child goes home refreshed and content after exercising
his capabilities towards a challenging activity.

What happens if you shorten the work period?

A shorter work period would amount to shortening any one or all the 3 stages, which
would create a sense of rush and thereby interrupt normal flow of thoughts in the child’s
mind. If the child cannot take some time off during the period, he will not execute
himself to the best of his abilities, and will thereby lower his confidence levels. A
constant, natural flow has to be maintained in a child’s mind for him to deliver his best
and this cannot be achieved in a rushed manner. This will eventually hamper his
development.
Moreover, if the time period is shortened, the child will not have enough time to complete
the complex activity he has undertaken after the false fatigue period and will eventually
(over a few days) settle down to either leaving the activity unfinished or not doing any
activity at all. This habit is not good for his development as it sends him the wrong
message that “leaving an activity unfinished is okay”. That is why a 3-hour period is
optimum for Montessori classrooms, shortening it will lead to the child becoming
frustrated, restless and lazy.