Normalization. If you already have your child enrolled in a Montessori school, you may have heard the school administration or teacher use this term when discussing the advantages of the Montessori Method.
But it is also very likely they have not.
In my own experience, I have often shied away from this term. These days, it sounds a bit loaded. Parents might get offended or worse, worry that there is something wrong with their child. We teachers will use this term “normalized” a lot with each other, to describe where a child is at, or where they are progressing.
So what does it mean?
Well, let me first tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t refer to the common synonyms of “normal”, such as typical, average, or usual. It does not refer to a process of conforming, or behaving the way adults think children should behave.
Maria Montessori noticed a pattern in the children that worked in her unique environments. She observed that once the children realized this space was meaningful, with meaningful activities to do rather than using toys, a transformation in their behavior took place, without the adults’ urging. She witnessed children deeply concentrating, assisting those in need, no children taking things away from one another, and keeping the space neat and tidy. She witnessed this many times over, as she opened more environments in Rome. Repeatedly, the children who came into the Montessori prepared environment would spontaneously demonstrate this “civilized” behavior, unprompted by adults, through the movements and interactions with meaningful activities. This is what she determined to be the “normalization” of the child: provided the right environment with the freedom to use objects that have a meaningful purpose, children would reveal the true human tendency, working side by side harmoniously.
There was no competition in these environments. No teacher telling their pupils they should be working harder like their peers, or being told they were the best at something and made to be an example to the other students. There was no pushing their children to learn to read or write. It was simply made available to the children should they show interest in it. Children were left to freely develop at their own pace, aided by one another. Time and time again, the child’s true nature would shine through in this setting. The child would normalize. The child would demonstrate glimpses of the adult they could be if allowed to continue in this setting.