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Introduction of the concept Normalization At the beginning of her educational career in San Lorenzo, Rome, Dr.

Montessori was moved many times by what she observed the children doing. She wondered if their accomplishments were "the work of angels". She would say to herself, I wont believe this time. I will wait until the next time to believe. (The Secret of Childhood). After 40 years of work, spreading her scientific pedagogy around the world, Dr. Montessori was willing to say that Normalization is the single most important result of our work. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 204). She had given up all her other workmedicine, anthropology, psychology, and even prestigious positions to lecture in Universitiesin order to concentrate on bringing this message to the people of the world. The message is that there is much more to childhood than is currently recognized. She saw the normalized child as a new level of humanity. Children all over the world and in all socioeconomic levels have exhibited this new level of humanity. The normalized children possesses a unique character and personality not recognized in young children. Normalization is a technical word borrowed from the field of anthropology. It means becoming a contributing member of society. Dr. Montessori used the term normalization to distinguish one of the processes that she saw in her work with the children at San Lorenzo in Rome. This process, the process of normalization, occurs when development is proceeding normally. She used the word normalization so that people would think that these qualities belonged to all children and were not something special just for a few.

When does normalization appear? Normalization appears through the repetition of a three step cycle. The building of character and the formation of personality that we callnormalization come about when children follow this cycle of work. (1) Preparation for an activity which involves gathering together the material necessary to do the activity. The movement and the thought involved in the preparation serves to call the attention of the mind to begin to focus on the activity. (2) An activity which so engrosses the child that he reaches a deep level of concentration. This step is what all educator and parents recognize as important for education. (3) Rest, which is characterized by a general feeling of satisfaction and well-being. It is thought that at this point some inner formation or integration of the person takes place. In our Montessori groups, we see this third step as the time a child is putting away the materials, perhaps talking with friends, and is exhibiting a aura of satisfaction with himself and the world. We recognize this cycle as the normal work cycle in a Montessori environment.

A Philosophy of Normalization Dr. Montessori explained the process of normalization philosophically as well as practically. She borrowed the term, horme, from Sir Percy Nun, an English philosopher. Horme refers to life force energy. It can be compared to the elan vital of Henri Bergson or the libido of Sigmund Freud or even to religious terms, the Holy Spirit. Horme is simply energy for life. It must stimulate and activate the individual because that is its nature. When the child is surrounded by plenty of suitable means (work of development) for using this energy, then her development proceeds normally.

Characteristics of Normalization There are many personality types of course. However, when children enter the process of normalization the same characteristics appear. There are four characteristics that are a signal that the process of normalization is happening: (1) Love of work (2) Concentration (3) Self-discipline (4) Sociability. All four characteristics must be present for us to say that a normalized type common to the whole of mankind is appearingno matter how brief the appearance of the characteristics. The process is usually invisible to us because the process of normalization is hidden by characteristics not proper to the child. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 202)

Love of Work. The first characteristic of the process of normalization is love of work. Love of work includes the ability to choose work freely and to find serenity and joy in work (The Absorbent Mind, p. 202).. In the fall I like to observe new three-year-olds who were phased in during the month of September. Some of them have six weeks or so in the group and have their little routines of the work that they love. Some still have no clue about "their work". Kindly and experienced adults lead them into various activities. Some of the activities evoke concentration but most of them do not. It usually isn'tt until the child has learned to do several orderly activities that the missing element of choice will enter the childs work life.


The second characteristic of the process of normalization is concentration. Concentration appears as individual children in a group became absorbed in their workeach one in a different, freely chosen activity. To help such development, it is not enough to provide objects chosen at random, but we [teachers] have to organize a world of 'progressive interest' (The Absorbent Mind, p. 206). We must continue to present the next appropriate challenge. The frequency of continual periods of intense concentration will depend on the child and on the teachers' knowledge and attitudes about guiding the process of normalization.

Self-discipline The third characteristic of the process of normalization is self-discipline. Self-discipline refers to persevering and completing cycles of activity that are freely begun. Dr. Montessori says: After concentration will come perseverance . . . It marks the beginning of yet another stage in character formation . . . It is the ability to carry through what he has begun. The children in our schools choose their work freely, and show this power unmistakably. They practice it daily for years. (The Absorbent Mind p. 217)

Sociability The fourth characteristic of the process of normalization is sociability. Sociability refers to patience in getting the materials one wants, respect for the work of others, help and sympathy for others, and harmonious working relationships among members of the group. There is only one specimen of each object, and if a piece is in use when another child wants it, the latter if he is normalizedwill wait for it to be released. Important social qualities derive from this. The child comes to see that he must respect the work of others, not because someone has said he must, but because this is a reality that he meets in his daily experience. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 223). Sociability also refers to the human response to turn to other people after finishing a job. If the work when well, then the social interactions are "colored" by the emotional satisfaction of the job.