It might not be obvious from the sidewalk out front, but a big shift has been happening in our home this fall: our big kid Jasper turned six. He’s interested in Thor, creates his own board games, and on an ordinary Tuesday morning, suddenly wants to know how tornadoes and hurricanes form. Things are different than they were a year ago.
It’s a frequent misconception that Montessori pedagogy ends when the pre-school years do, but one of the most amazing gifts Maria Montessori had to offer the world was her observations on child development into adulthood. She was one of the first to identify developmental stages and to see the way that meeting the needs of the developing child, at the right time, could lead to the kind of magic of spark of learning and growth that many of us have learned to recognize in our children.
Montessori identified four 6-year stages, or planes, beginning at birth, and ending at age 24!
First plane: birth to 6 years old (this stage is often divided into sub-planes of birth to 3 and ages 3-6).
Second plane: age 6 to 12 years.
Third plane: 12 to 18 years.
Fourth plane: age 18 to 24 years.
While Montessori identified the first plane as the most significant in later development of the child (an idea that has since been widely applied in public policy and proven by neuroscience), the planes that follow are, of course, important steps in a child’s growth, and equally useful for parents like me to understand.
I’ve got six years under my belt as a parent, done a whole lot of reading, and some training in the birth to three sub-plane, but even as I began to observe shifts in my growing kid over the past six months or so, I realized that I wasn’t sure what to expect from this next stage. The answer? More reading, of course!
As Dr. Montessori put it in her book The Absorbent Mind, “the next period goes from six to twelve. It is a period of growth unaccompanied by other change. The child is calm and happy. Mentally, he is in a state of health, strength and assured stability.”
The second plane is less dynamic than the first plane. It is a time of major physical growth (bye-bye baby teeth!), but less intense neurological development. Because of that, it can be a time of relative stability as a child settles into themselves and begins to understand their place in their world: in their family, community, and even the wider universe. Social life, and group dynamics with peers become more important than they were for the younger child. The child is less absorbed with physical order and is beginning to cultivate moral order — a sense of justice.
Though it’s lesser known, Dr. Montessori wrote a book called To Educate The Human Potential, all about meeting the developmental needs of the 6-12 stage. I haven’t finished reading it yet (busy co-researching tornadoes and hurricanes!), but this book has held some useful gems, including this:
“Knowledge can be best given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture.”
Read more about the second plane:
To Educate the Human Potential by Dr. Montessori
And of course, A.A. Milne’s book of verse, “Now We Are Six“