Sterling Qualities of the ‘Normalized’ Montessori Child
I’ve been in Montessori (as a teacher, parent, or both) for over ten years. It’s become so much a part of my DNA that I automatically approach almost every situation – educational or not – from a Montessori perspective. When I think, “That child is normalized”, or “How can we work towards normalization?”, I don’t really think much about the word ‘normalized’ and how it sounds to other people. But I realize using that term can create confusion.
What Does ‘Normalized’ Mean in Montessori?
The dictionary defines ‘normalized’ this way: To make normal, especially to cause to conform to a standard or norm. None of the references I consulted defined it the way Montessori does, probably because Dr. Montessori borrowed the term and made it her own. Because there is more than one meaning, someone unfamiliar with Montessori might assume that we are attempting to make all Montessori children fit into a narrow box where everyone is perfect and perfectly behaved. This is definitely not true.
Rather, the term ‘normalized’ refers to special characteristics that Maria Montessori observed when children were allowed to work freely in a prepared environment. This quote from the North American Montessori Teacher’s Association sums it up nicely:
Dr. Montessori observed that when children are allowed freedom in an environment suited to their needs, they blossom. After a period of intense concentration, and working with materials that fully engage their interest, children appear to be refreshed and contented. Through continued concentrated work of their own choice, children grow in inner discipline and peace. She called this process “normalization” and cited it as “the most important single result of our whole work”.
What are the special attributes that Montessori observed in normalized children? Here they are, as enumerated by E.M. Standing in his book Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work: love of order, love of work, love...