In Her Words

These selected passages come from Dr. Montessori’s recently published The 1946 London Lectures. Published in 2012 by the Montessori-Pierson Publishing House in conjunction with AMI, edited by Dr. Annette Haines, these lectures “became the foundation of AMI’s 3-6 courses.”

In her chapter on “The Planes of Development,” Dr. Montessori writes:

“The period from birth to eighteen years of age is usually divided, by modern psychologists, into three periods—three very definite periods—that can be distinguished clearly from one another. These periods are equal in length. The first goes from birth to six, the second spans the years from six to twelve, and the third is from twelve to eighteen years. We know that man goes on developing until he is twenty-four and then his development is complete. He is mature. Each of these six-year periods can also be divided into equal periods of three years each. So life is broken up into short periods of three years each…. 

“Anthropological research demonstrates that growth has rhythms. If we take the measurements of the first period of growth, we will see that during the first year there is tremendous development, during the second year this development begins to wane, and during the third year it slows down even more. This rhythm repeats itself in each of the other periods. In each section of these three-year periods, a period of great effort is followed by a period of rest. So life develops according to a law. All life follows the same law and the periods are the same for every child.

“These three periods, from birth to six, from six to twelve, and from twelve to eighteen, are clearly distinguishable from one another, in terms of both physical and mental development. But body and mind develop concurrently.”

“The mission of the little child is to shape the man he will later become, so nature gives us energies that manifest themselves in our psychic development. Each period is a preparation for the next, and it prepares us very carefully, every day. Nature has given us laws and energies so that this construction can take place.”

“The perfect development of the first period gives greater facility to the second. The period from birth to the age of six is a life in and of itself. If this life has been well lived, then the child of six wil be very intelligent with a great love of work.”

“The conclusion is that children should start primary school well before the age of six. Some are now saying that children should begin school at five years of age. But even this is too late. At three, a kind of lull sets in, a waiting for the next period. Suppose we start at three or even two years of age. It is possible for the child to gain a great deal of knowledge before the age of six, without fatigue, because nourishment does not fatigue. If a child becomes tired from being taught, it is a sign that we are presenting the wrong knowledge at the wrong time. The child must enjoy learning because he is an intelligent, free creature in the world. The characteristic of man is intelligence and so it certainly should be a joy to exercise one’s intelligence. It should give satisfaction and enthusiasm for work.”

“This first period is a preparation for the second and the more you can do to assist its development, the more you will be doing for the second, and the better the second will be in every way—mentally, physically, and intellectually.”

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