Saturday, September 7, 2013

"What is Montessori" 3.0- Sense of Order

When we think of order, most often the image or idea that comes into mind is things in a row, things perfectly lined up, clean, neat, tidy, structured, etc.  There is a bit of a confusion when culturally (today) we refer to things having order.  In some ways, it's militant.  Children are supposed to be "orderly".  Things are supposed to be in order.  We must obey orders, so on and so forth.  However, when Dr. Montessori referred to a child having sensitive periods and one of the earliest and strongest being their "sense of order," she did not imply my previous descriptions. 
So, what is a child's sense of order?  To understand this sense of order, it is best to understand the sensitive periods or "windows of opportunity".
From birth to 6 during the absorbent mind the child goes through creative periods or windows of opportunity which are transitory blocks of time in which he is passionately absorbing with one aspect of his environment to the exclusion of others.
            These (passions) actions allow him to acquire a certain skill or capacity. The sensitive period has well defined activities guided by an unconscious inner drive towards the environment. The child looks fascinated with what he is doing. It makes the child repeat and repeat with enormous interest so he can establish the function.

Dr. Montessori talked about 4 main sensitive periods: language, order, refinement or movement, and refinement of senses.  They are characterized as transitory: they will only remain for a definite and limited time and disappear to never return. They will disappear if the skill has developed or not, and they all run parallel for those initial 6 years.  ALL children have and go through these periods.

Specifically then, a sense of order is by repetition; providing the proper steps for success and allowing a child to do it over and over.  Once perfected, a child knows how to do something with the appropriate steps needed to finish a task. It's allowing a child the opportunity to do it on his own. This gives him his own sense of order that is more valuable than emulating someone else. A sense of order is from within, and will manifest in various ways.  Each child will have their own unique sense of order that is different and varied than the one we originally presented them.

A child will know, to sweep up a mess the steps are: to get a broom, sweep all items to a pile carefully, place the boom back, get a dustpan and brush, take the brush out, sweep it many times catching the dirt in the pan, emptying the pan into the trash can (the trash can may need to be opened, then closed), then place the brush back on the dustpan, and then return it to it's place.
This is a sequence of steps, but mostly as an adult we just say "sweep up" or "clean up", but to a child this is a sense of order in which he must repeat his/her actions to accomplish something, and that something being a lengthy sequence of steps. Therefore, for a child, order contains within it a sequence, and  they are in need of repeating those sequences.  It is when we disturb this need to repeat these sequences and offer them a "short-cut" or see the repetition as unnecessary that children yell and scream and put up tantrums.  Allowing them the chance to finish this sequence as often as they need to, in as many ways as they need to, this will lead them to success in mastering a task and mastering themselves. Doing things for them is a disservice as we don't allow them to obtain the skills necessary for life.
Orderliness is NOT a sense of order. 

In my own two children I have seen their sense of order come and go, I have seen them stronger in one, then at times stronger in the other and both at different ages.  My older daughter had a very strong sense or order when she was really young, and at times still does.  We had to do the same routine.  My husband and I would joke that she would be upset if we did something differently, and we'd have to walk back and repeat the motion in the way in which she knew it should have been done.  Now, my second child who is two and a half is exhibiting very similar patterns now.  She had other things which she was captivated by in her younger months.
I wish I could take a photo of their 'sense of order' as I do with other things.  In fact, I was tempted to post a picture of how at a very young age the older one took all our shoes and lined them up.  And yes, in some ways, that is order, but that is the need to see things in order.  Order will manifest itself externally, but as mentioned before, it's the repetition and the innate desire for repetition that allows for that order within to develop.  Forced orderliness, is just obedience, and often when a child is forced into obedience at a young age (0-6) what manifests in the later years (12-18) is often disobedience.  We must allow a child to develop their sense of self early and rely upon their abilities in knowing and trusting who they are.  This way, the tools have been given early and we can trust that they know what to do with those tools later in life.

Since a photo can capture order, but a video can give you a sense of their movements (exhibited and inhibited), repetition, and order by which a sequence of actions lead to a task, I wanted to share a few which have captured their sensitive periods.

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