Important Words And Their Meanings

Absorbent Mind

The absorbent mind, to Montessori, is a ‘type of mentality’, one reflected by the manner in which the knowledge absorbed by a child also forms her/his mind (The Absorbent Mind, p.25). This mentality exists from birth to six, but is absolute in the first subphase. “The first half of the first period of life is a period of growth and creation. The second half, from three to six years, is a continuation of the first - but during this second half, children do not create anything new, they only enlarge and perfect the acquisitions of the first.” ( The 1946 London Lectures, p.145). [See also Unconscious Absorbent Mind and Conscious Absorbent Mind]

Activities of Everyday Life

An example of such an activity is a tray on dry pouring (ages 2.6 - 3); on the tray there can be two small jugs, one empty and one quarter-filled with pebbles or rice. There are some items that do not fit on a tray, these are allocated a special area in the classroom.

Attachment Theory

This theory refers to the field of study regarding the nature and function of the very first relationship formed by a child - which relationship is regarded as having the greatest impact of all the relationships formed (present, past and future) by an individual. The pioneering work on attachment theory was done by John Bowlby, British psychologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. According to Bowlby, “Attachment behaviour is any form of behaviour that results in a person attaining or maintaining proximity to some other clearly identified individual who is conceived as better able to cope with the world...Nevertheless for a person to know that an attachment figure is available and responsive gives him a strong and pervasive feeling of security, and so encourages him to value and continue the relationship.” (Bowlby, J, Secure Base, 1988, London, Routledge, p. 29-30.)

Bowlby, John

John Bowlby (1907-1990), was a British psychologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He is widely known for his work on attachment theory.

Children’s Houses

The preschools that Montessori had directed in Rome from 1907 - 1909, called Casa dei Bambini.


Concentration develops hand-in-hand with work. Montessori mentions that the child’s power to concentrate was first discovered in the Children’s Houses - she realised that it is an innate drive, spurring the child’s development further. Concentration, with work, constructs the child’s personality. She gives it the highest importance, stating that a concentrating child has to be protected from disturbances.

Conscious Absorbent Mind

Also known as the social embryonic stage. It exists from the age of three to six, when the child starts to exist independently, has become mobile, is more aware of other people, can talk, and learns new skills because she/he decides/agrees to. While still absorbing from the environment, the child learns new skills through deliberate effort (through the will), hence the term, conscious absorbent mind. The horme starts to decrease and is slowly replaced by the will. The child is now ready to leave the family for short periods. She/he is now beginning to make friends, is beginning to demonstrate signs of empathy and engages with social conventions of her/his culture. By the age of six, the child has constructed “his mind step by step till it becomes possessed of memory, the power to understand, the ability to think” (The Absorbent Mind, p.27). “The result is that the child’s character is formed. ...It is created through the formative activity of the three to six period.” (The 1946 London Lectures, p.154).

Control of Error

Montessori’s method of dealing with mistakes, is the introduction of a rule called ‘the control of error’. This rule allows the child to be able to independently ascertain from the learning materials, whether a mistake is in the making, and to be able to make the necessary correction/s.

Correcting a child

Refrain from correcting a child when she/he makes ‘mistakes’ while working. A child can also not develop freely if an adult keeps on pointing out ‘mistakes’. These are not mistakes, but experiences on the road to success and the child should be guided along the correct path in a manner that promotes independence. Constant corrections have a “lowering effect” on the child’s “energies and interests” (The Absorbent Mind, New York, 1995 p. 245).


In this learning area, the child gets opportunities to explore by following samples made by the teacher. Activities include, but are not limited to painting, ripping and pasting, sticking, and open-ended options.

Development of the Hand

Montessori sees the hands as instruments of human intelligence, The hand “...not only allows the mind to reveal itself but it enables the whole being to enter into special relationships with its environment.” (The Secret of Childhood, p.81). With their hands, people transform their environment, and in the process, they affirm themselves as members of the species. Due to this dual importance of the hand in human existence, she calls it a ‘manifestation of the inner ego’ (Ibid, p.82). From this fundamental purpose of the hand, Montessori deduces that the development of the hand must be of vital importance in the development of the child.


Madame Montessori rejects the traditional approach according to which “Discipline is made to rest on threats and fear…” (The Absorbent Mind, p.256). She sees the child as inherently good and naturally geared to ‘make progress and to develop her/his powers’. Where the child engages in disorderly and violent conduct, such behavior are signs of ‘emotional disturbance and suffering’, and, if treated as such, the teacher should be in a position to help the child to come into her/his own. Montessori argues in The Absorbent Mind, that the child possesses the inner powers required for disciplined conduct, but that these may be slumbering and waiting to be awakened. If these powers are properly developed and aided by the environment, the result will be ‘spontaneous discipline’, meaning true and lasting discipline - true meaning discipline coming from within. She vehemently opposes the notion that a disciplined child sits still and is totally quiet. “The discipline that we are looking for is active. We do not believe that one is disciplined only when he is artificially made as silent as a mute and as motionless as a paralytic. Such a one is not disciplined but annihilated.” (The Discovery of the Child, p.49) According to the Montessori method, the child “is disciplined when he is the master of himself and when he can, as a consequence, control himself when he must follow a rule of life.”


The environment is given the highest level of consideration in Montessori education and has to be set up in such a manner that children can manifest their ‘natural traits’ freely (and spontaneously) in it. The classrooms have to be very attractive. Components of this environment are the classroom and the school generally, the educational objects and materials, and the teacher as the most important part of the environment.