Normalization: The Absorbent Mind – Child’s Contribution to Society
By Morenike Taiwo
Dr Maria Montessori gave an assertion that NORMALIZATION is “the most important single result of our work”.
When the child, “difficult child” is given freedom and put in a good Montessori environment, what the guide/adult does is to offer the child an environment rich in motives for activity, in which the child can choose what he will take and use. In this choice, the child is free from the guide’s control, or from any adult’s control in general.
The magic of a normalized classroom where the children are working without any supervision!
By the time a child gets normalized, all the traces of deviation will spontaneously disappear in him, and the stronger traits of normalization will be manifested. when this happens, it is said by Dr Maria Montessori that “the most important single result of our work is normalization” – because now the child is independent of the guide or adult around him.
There is a connection between Dr Maria Montessori’s idea of normalization and the sensitive periods in the child’s development years.
For the child, there are different sensitive periods - order, movement, language, and refinement of senses. All these skills are developed during the sensitive periods in the child. Skills like to keep things in order, well arranged and organized. The child develops the love to order his environment and things around him. This in turn leads to normalization.
It is the sensitive periods that gives the skill to do all the things that the child can do and help him to perfect the act of doing them, which is said to be normalization. This is a period when the child can now do things on his own without being guided by an adult.
As the guide, it is during this sensitive period that we observe and know when the child is ready for the next lesson presentation. For example, when the child shows continuous interest in working with a particular activity. Then the guide does observe and know he is ready to be shown that activity.
There is a strong connection between normalization and the sensitive periods because normalization comes about through concentration on a piece of work which is the motive of the activity that forms the child’s interest that will provoke his deep attention.
The success of this is dependent on the use of the materials for the purpose they are intended to serve which is connecting to the child’s mental order when used with care and precision, this leads the child to the “co-ordination of his movements”.
Dr Maria Montessori said, and I quote “The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality”.
The child’s whole personality in this context is referring to the child’s totality – his brain, mind, hands, and body. This whole personality involves the child’s attention level, focus, concentration, and coordination. The child’s mind is at work, so also is his brain, hands, and physical body movements. All of these comprises of his whole personality.
The task which the child is working on will get the whole of his attention, the task will be so interesting that it will take his full concentration. His movement will be well coordinated because the task has aroused all in him. All his being, his brain, mind, hands and the whole of his body is being immersed in the work fully. He will be less distracted. Even when he is deviated, he quickly gets normalized within a short time with little or no intervention from the adult.
Examples of ‘tasks’ in the casa environment that the child engages in that involves his whole personality can be taken from all areas of the pedagogy, beginning with the Exercises of Practical Life, followed by the Sensorial Activities, next are the Cultural Extension/Geography Activities and the Language Activities, starting with the Spoken Language to Function of Word Activities and lastly are the Mathematics Activities.
All the above-mentioned areas of the Montessori pedagogy are what the child works with in the casa environment which engages his whole personality. For example, in the Sensorial Area, activities like Cylinder Blocks, Geometry Cabinets, Graded Geometric Figures and Trinomial Cubes.
These are just a few out of the many activities that are presented to the child in the environment that can engage his whole personality. Building the Trinomial Cubes successfully takes full attention, concentration, and coordination as well as mental reasoning and physical movements.
The characteristics appearances of NORMALIZATION include but are not limited to the following:
1. Concentration – the child can focus on the task he is working on.
2. Work – the child is not compelled to do the work. The love, energy, and eagerness to work comes from the normalization he has attained. He does not need any force or coercion or being locked up in a space with toys before he can work independently. Even the locked-up space does not help him to attain normalization. He chooses his task freely and works at his own pace.
3. Discipline – the child is disciplined and dedicated to his work in the environment. He does not get easily distracted. He picks his materials and works with them independently, afterwards he replaces the materials back to its shelf. He maintains order with everything around him.
4. Sociability – the child develops social skills to co-habits with other children in the casa. He is courteous and graceful. Greeting others, offering to help when asked, asking for help when needed, respecting other people’s body and materials by not touching, not interrupting when others are talking.
5. Super social – this trait increases the child’s sociability skills – being compassionate, loving, caring, giving, sharing, kindness etc. the child becomes more aware of his sociability status. For example, if a younger child or a special educational need child is within the environment, he will be readily available to be of great help by showing the younger some of the activities for his age thereby developing himself with more practice with the work.
He will also be willing to render support in any way he could to the SEN child to make his time in the casa a successful, enjoyable, and interesting one by also showing him activities he already knows himself.
Super-social activities can also be in form of giving back to the society – for example, the child when normalized will joyfully engage in community work like weeding, cleaning up the outdoor environment by picking recyclable and unrecyclable items and sorting them out (chicken parade), as well as gardening which are activities in the care of environment area of practical life.
Morenike Taiwo, a Montessori Education Consultant is the chief executive of Ren-Mork.