MONTESSORI FOR AGES TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN:
| Age 12 - 15
The Montessori program for the young adult from age twelve
to fifteen is very different from that of traditional school. Dr. Montessori
felt that because of the rapid growth, the increased need for sleep, and
hormonal changes, it is useless to try to force the adolescent to concentrate
on intellectual work. She recommended an Erdkinder, or Earth school, where
children would live close to nature, eat fresh farm products, and carry
on practical work related to the economics of supplying food, shelter,
transportation, and so forth. Intellectual work is still done, following
the child's interests, but without pressure.
Adolescence is an arbitrary, contrived category. In
past eras children were children until the early teens wherein, through
some rite of passage, they were ushered into and took their place in adult
society. Today there is no economic place for young adults and no rites
of passage. We have, instead, created a holding stage that keeps young
people in a limbo, into which children enter earlier and adults stay longer
year by year.
Joseph Chilton Pearce, Evolution's
A Classroom Example
Years ago I was teaching adolescents in a Montessori school
on a Caribbean island. A very bright thirteen-year-old boy was having
trouble concentrating on math and other purely intellectual subjects,
so I watched carefully to discover his real interests, which were: house,
job, music, and parenting.
In our class the children designed and developed long-term
research projects and presentations. This boy was behind in academic areas
so I helped him weave his interests into projects that would utilize skills
that he needed to practice. He spent hours planning his dream house, complete
with indoor swimming pool and skateboard area. In doing this he researched
houses of various cultures and used plenty of math, graphing, and geometry
in constructing the house plans. He did a feasibility study for beginning
a skateboard construction-and-repair businessrents, prices of equipment,
market value of skateboards and labor costs. He began to study piano,
recorder and guitar in class using classical and folk instruction books,
with help when he needed it. This study of music was probably the greatest
practice in self-discipline in scheduling daily practice, and the personal
and social rewards were immediate. It seemed to help him express the changing
emotions that otherwise would have no constructive outlet.
It was the interest in parenting which was most intriguing.
Here was this tall gangly, adolescent boy, leading the group on the softball
field, but if he heard a cry or yell of one of the children in the 3-6
class at the other end of the campus, he immediately put down the bat
and ran to see what was the matter! There was one three-year-old in particular,
Paloma, who seemed to have captured his fathering heart. They had only
just met at the Montessori school, but he could single out her voice from
all others, from quite a distance, and would always go to her aid. More
than anything else, at this time when intellectual skills were low because
of physical and emotional development, being needed as a protector by
the young gave him a feeling of worth.
Age 15 - 18+
For age fifteen to eighteen, when the rapid growth of
adolescence is slowing, a more rigorous intellectual schedule works, combined
with social work and apprenticeships in the work world.
The need that is so keenly felt for a reform of secondary
schools concerns not only an educational, but also a human and social
problem. Schools, as they are today, are adapted neither to the needs
of adolescents nor to the times in which we live. Society has not only
developed into a state of utmost complication and extreme contrasts, but
it has now come to a crisis in which the peace of the world and civilization
itself are threatened. More than to anything else it is due to the fact
that the development of man himself has not kept pace with that of his
But above all it is the education of adolescents that
is important, because adolescence is the time when the child enters on
the state of adulthood and becomes a member of society. If puberty is,
on the physical side, a transition from an infantile to an adult state,
there is also, on the psychological side, a transition from the child
to the adult who has to live in society. These two needs of the adolescent:
for protection during the time of the difficult physical transition, and
for an understanding of the society which he is about to enter to play
his part as an adult, give rise to two problems that are of equal importance
concerning education at this age.
The world is partly in a state of disintegration and
partly in a state of reconstruction... It is necessary that the human
personality be prepared for unforeseen, not only for the conditions that
can be anticipated by prudence and foresight. . . . he must be strengthened
in his principles by moral training and he must also have practical ability
in order to face the difficulties of life.
Education should not limit itself to seeking new methods
for a mostly arid transmission of knowledge: its aim must be to give the
necessary aid to human development. This world, marvelous in its power,
needs a 'new man.' It is therefore the life of man and his values that
must be considered. If 'the formation of man' becomes the basis of education,
then the coordination of all schools from infancy to maturity, from nursery
to university, arises as a first necessity.
Dr. Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence
Money & Apprenticeships
In Montessori elementary classes children learn how to
balance and schedule their time, to set work goals and to accomplish them,
and the skills in budgeting and handling money.
In an Erdkinder ("Earth Children" a term coined by Dr. Montessori), for ages 12-15, children will have had as much experience as possible in handling money. By high school they really are becoming adults and can participate in planning the budget of the home.
| One of the most important lessons
is the experience of learning how much time and work is involved in earning
money. There are few jobs for teenagers, and those which pay a salary are
usually not educational. A better place to learn might be an unpaid apprenticeship.
It is time-consuming to take an untrained person in and
share the work, and often, because of the lack of training and the short
hours, having an apprentice is more of an expense than a help to a business.
Young people should be aware of this and look for what they can offer
or learn, instead of what they can get in the way of salary. Apprenticeships
are not paid positions, but they can be extremely beneficial to the students,
and sometimes open up important job possibilities in the future.
It is important that young people get in the habit of
using what money they do earn for necessities such as food and transportation,
or they will lack the skills to move out into the world and be independentneeding
forever to live at home!
By the 80s, three out of four high-school
seniors were working an average of 18 hours a week and often taking home
more than $200 a month. But their jobs, often in fast-food chains, were
rarely challenging and earnings were immediately spent on cars, clothing,
stereos and other artifacts of the adolescent good life. Indeed, researchers
at the University of Michigan find that less than 11 percent of high-school
seniors save all or most of their earnings for college or other long-range
In short, teenage employment has only intensified the
adolescent drive for immediate gratification. Instead of learning how
to delay desires, students are indulging what University of Michigan researcher
Jerome Bachman calls "premature affluence." The problem, says
Bachman, is that these adolescents tend to get accustomed to an unrealistic
level of discretionary income which is impossible to maintain at college,
unless they have extravagant parents. "And if they dont go
to school," he observes, "they will have to continue to live
at home if they hope to keep up their personal spending habits."
One of the sources of this problem is TV, according to Ralph Nader, who says in Co-op Americas newsletter, Building Economic Alternatives (Fall 1989) that children see 25,000 television ads by the time they are seniors in high school. Our leaders have exposed millions of children to a pattern of commercial exploitation that even shocks Western European merchants because they live in countries where childrens ads on TV are banished since small children are not able to distinguish between programs and ads."
Kenneth Woodward, Newsweek,
Many educators recommend a year off between high school
and university to give young people a chance to experience real life and
its effort and responsibilities, and to learn who they are and where their
A substantial majority of big British companies, and nearly all universities support the idea of students putting in a year at work immediately after school and before going to university.
"The Education Guardian",
London, England, 2/24/87
Both of our daughters had that experience, and both, at
different times, had apartments within a few blocks of our home which
they paid for by working. I remember the end of the first week of our
first daughter's experience: "I can't believe how much time it takes
to go to work, do the laundry, buy food and clean. It takes all my time
when I am not at work. I don't know how you do it!" Ahhh, she was
starting to learn . . . .
It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through
it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed
personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding
of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the
beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he - with his specialized
knowledge - more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously
developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings,
their illusions and their sufferings, in order to acquire a proper relationship
to individual fellow men and to the community.
These precious things are conveyed to the younger generation
through personal contact with those who teach, not - or at least not in
the main - through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and
preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the 'humanities'
as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the fields of history
Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature
specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on
which all cultural life depends, specialized knowledge included.
It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening him with too much and with too varied subjects (point system). Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.
"Education for Independent Thought"
And how far, we may ask, does it take one to hold a
degree these days? [Written in 1949] Can one be sure of even earning
a living? ...And how do we explain this lack of confidence? The reason
is that these young men have spent years in listening to words and listening
does not make a man. Only practical work and experience lead the young
My vision of the future is no longer of people taking
exams and proceeding on that certification from the secondary school to
the university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence
to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort
of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.
Dr. Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence
Copyright 2015, Susan Stephenson www.susanart.net
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MONTESSORI MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL