What is Normalization? A Montessori Perspective
If you are a new parent to Montessori, the term “normalization” may seem scary and confusing. You may ask yourself, “Isn’t my child normal already?” Rest assured, normalization in no way implies that your child is not normal! Rather, it is an ongoing process of learning.
Normalization “is the most important single result of our
whole work.” ~Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind,
Dr. Montessori believed that a child’s normal state was one where he worked enthusiastically alone or with his peers, treating each other and the beautifully prepared environment with respect. Additionally, he was able to exist in his community with little direction, having the freedom to start working on lessons of his choice, be independent, and choosing to follow the rules of the environment.
When you tour Villa Montessori in Chantilly and observe our classrooms, you will encounter children working independently and in small groups joyfully and respectfully. You will see them deep in concentration trying to master their lessons at their own pace with teachers observing and helping when asked. Rather than yelling, running around, and snatching things from other children which you might observe in a typical daycare setting, you will hear a quiet buzz of children at work.
Dr. Montessori said there are three stages of normalization in a Montessori setting.
The First Stage
The process of normalization is a journey which begins when a child first enters the classroom. They are new to the beautifully prepared environment and are uncertain of how things work or what is expected. During this stage, children can sometimes be disruptive to the classroom and may interact with the materials inappropriately. Thus, the teacher will spend extra time interacting with the child and get them acclimated to the rules of the classroom.
Practical Life activities are introduced to these new students as they tend to promote independence and immediate gratification. For example, a 3-year-old new to Montessori may be introduced to wiping the table, dusting, watering the classroom plants, pouring water or juice, and easier dressing frames such as the snap frame or the button frame. Once mastered, the child will feel immediately satisfied and proud of their success. She will want to practice these activities repeatedly building onto her sense of purpose and self-esteem.
This is where normalization begins – through the satisfaction of completing the practical life activities and through the concentration of repeating these activities independently.
The teacher’s role is to observe what the child is interested in and to gently encourage the child to complete the lessons. Once a child is ready to select another activity, the teacher will show them that each activity must be returned to the shelves in its designated spot. The child begins to develop a sense of order.
This is how the child becomes accustomed to working and understanding the work cycle in Montessori – an uninterrupted period of 3 hours where children self-select activities and work to master them.
The Second Stage
Children who have entered the second stage of normalization have yet to fully develop their inner discipline and they may still struggle with self-control. At this point, they have become familiar with the rules of the environment and are less likely to disrupt the classroom or interrupt other children at work. They may, however, struggle with completing works and will move from one activity to another very quickly.
Teachers during this stage, help their students discover their interests by presenting various lessons in the other areas of the classroom. Students will begin sensorial lessons which develop the five senses.
They may work on understanding how to sort by size using the Pink Tower, Brown Stairs, or Knobbed Cylinders. Lessons within the size category help the child discern the differences in size and weight which will prepare the child for mathematics. Additionally, the child will be given presentations using forms such as Geometric Solids and Bases, Binomial Cube, Trinomial Cube, and Constructive Triangles. These geometric lessons help the child to visually discriminate shape and form. Indirectly these lessons prepare the child for writing. By working from left to right and from up and down, the child prepares for reading and writing. They will develop coordination, concentration, order, and above all, independence.
The Third Stage
The final stage of normalization is when the child can work independently by selecting activities and completing them as well as any lesson extensions. He does not interrupt others but may instead act as a mentor to younger children in the classroom by either assisting them with the work or by complimenting them on a job well done. The child develops leadership skills which is one of the best things about a mixed-age group classroom!
She does not require much intervention from the teacher, although she will be continuously observed for new interests or need for more challenging extensions. She is happy, calm, kind, and considerate. She has now developed inner-discipline and self-control.
Once a child has been given the ability to normalize, these are the characteristics that develop:
- Love of Work
- Love of Order
- Ability to concentrate
- Joy of Learning
Through normalization, children begin to recognize their own potential and their place in the world around them. By providing a carefully prepared environment and allowing the child the freedom to choose their own work, we are helping them to normalize. Through their work, children become calm, peaceful, and active in their own development of self.
Interested in learning more about Montessori and how your child will flourish in our beautifully prepared environment? Schedule a tour by calling 703-327-0884.