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Who was Maria Montessori? She was an Italian physician and an educator, and was the first woman to receive a medical degree in Italy.  Born in 1870, she developed a psychologically rooted method of educating children.  She devoted her life to this work and was honored and respected throughout the world at the time of her death in 1952.

What are "sensitive periods?"  Montessori's name for age periods when the child shows unusual capabilities in acquiring particular skills.  A modern name for this phenomenon might be "formative periods" or "periods of specific maturational aptness."  These sensitive periods are times in which the child is psychologically attuned to learn or acquire given ideas or skills more easily than at any other period.  Modern psychologists refer to "critical thinking periods" and often stress "developmental tasks."  For example, the sensitive period for learning to write is between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 years of age for the average child, learning reading and numbers at the age of 4 to 5, for precise movement and coordination at 2 1/2 to 3, and for acquiring a sense of order at 2 1/2 to 3 1/2.

What is the philosophy of socialization in the classroom?  Young children develop at individual rates.  Some children are observers while others live for their friends.  The age of 4 is usually centered on social growth.  A child at the age of 4 has often mastered his or her language and can easily articulate their needs.  After being in the classroom since the age of 3, the child feels comfortable working out social interaction inside the classroom and out on the playground.  The Montessori classrooms are usually a hum of soft verbalization as the children move from one activity to another.  Working on socialization and refining a child's social skills is an essential part of Montessori education.

What is the Montessori concept of discipline?  Discipline is the second prerequisite condition for learning.  Montessori discipline is an "inner discipline" - an inner control which the child develops over their own behavior through working with the Montessori materials.  Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children are really frustrated due to lack of proper stimulation and inadequate opportunity to achieve.  She also noted that they become happier and self-controlled after a period of time in a Montessori class in which they experienced challenging tasks absorbing their energies and resulting in a sense of personal achievement.

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