The Second Plane Has Landed

The Second Plane Has Landed

Throughout the whole of my parenthood experience, I have fancied myself somewhat of an expert. I have had years of formal education as well as real-world education and all of this prepared me very well to be a mom…until now. My area of expertise is what Dr. Montessori calls the First Plane of Development. This plane is defined by the first six years of life. My daughter is creeping up on 6 ½ and it is clear that my expertise in working with her is waning, and I’m terrified.

According to Montessori theory, there are Four Planes of Development. The first, as I already stated, is from birth to six years old. This is the time of the Absorbent Mind when the child is coming to understand the world and form independence. The Second Plane is from age six to twelve and we will be exploring it in-depth in just a moment. The Third Plane is from twelve to eighteen. This plane (as if I have to tell you) is concerned with social development. The final phase of development happens from ages eighteen to twenty-four, when humans begin to discover their station in life. When you think about these periods in your own life, you can see how there are clear divisions in our developmental stages and it really isn’t until around age twenty-five that we feel as though we’re starting to get this “adult” thing figured out. The thought of her being an adult is way too much for me to handle right now, I’m still freaking out about her being in the Second Plane.

This new stage of development is marked by three very specific traits in the child, which Dr. Montessori would refer to as a “reasoning mind child.” The first, as indicated by the name, is the child’s need for reason and justice. This is the period of development in which the child’s sense of moral order is established and, because the child is so interested in morality, he needs to know the reason why everything happens. Dr. Montessori also spoke of children at this age as having a “need to get out of the traditional impositions set by the narrow circle of the family and the school.” In other words, they need to be involved in challenging activities that don’t involve their parents or their teachers as a central part of the experience. Gulp. That means I have to let go of control of her experiences and allow her to engage with the world on her own…letting go of control isn’t necessarily my strong suit.

The third and final indicator of the Second Plane comes in the form of a significant intellectual development. Along with the ability to reason comes the ability to form mental abstractions. This frees the child to advance academically with leaps and bounds (this is incredibly helpful since our intellectual capacity is essentially shut down by our hormones during adolescence). This week her teacher checked out a chapter book from the library for her to read…on her own. Her teacher also let me know that she will be introducing her to long division, something I still can’t do without a calculator. I fear that her intellectual leaps are going to leave me in her dust.

As children work to define honor and virtue and integrate it into their moral compass, they need opportunities to experience “right” and “wrong”. This is most often facilitated by them in the context of their own behavior. Or, in more simple terms, they begin testing limits. We have seen this moral development realized in our home in ways that are delightful and challenging. She has recently attempted to refuse to do things such as wash herself and brush her teeth, similar to what she did as a toddler. Except that this time she is trying to understand the reasoning behind hygiene as well as her role in treating her own body respectfully. Do you want to know the stellar response I gave her when she inquired as to why I was requiring her to wash and brush? “Because it’s what everyone does.” Clearly I am unprepared for this stage. Oh dear.

We are, however, experiencing the positive side of her moral exploration. She has become inclined to spontaneously offer to do chores or cook us dinner (good thing she got all of that Practical Life experience in during the First Plane). She has also taken to setting up “surprises” for us in our bedroom. She will, for example, make our bed and then adorn our night stands with various toys, drawings, and occasionally frozen blueberries covered in chocolate syrup (which is totally gross, in case you are wondering). After doing such a thing she will say several times over the next few hours, “Weren’t you so surprised and pleased when you saw what I did in your bedroom? Didn’t it make you feel good to know how much I love you?” This part of the Second Plane is something I can handle. It is beyond endearing.

Children at this age are ready to understand the concepts of social justice and charity. While kindness exists in the First Plane, it becomes conscious and intentional in the Second Plane. I can see that she is now ready to understand the complex, and often sad, history of our nation and the world. We can tell her about our family history and all of the joys and sorrows that come with her heritage.

She is ready for so much and I know that I must give it to her. It is time to take a deep breath and accept that she is not the tiny, incapable and vulnerable person she once was. What makes me sad about this is that developing a sense of morality requires her to see and know the terrible things people are capable of doing and this knowledge will change her profoundly. Innocence will be lost and, while I know that is supposed to happen, it doesn’t make it any easier to see happen before my eyes. The moral formation of a human being is a massive responsibility and I am resolved to swallow hard and do my best to model good choices and let her be free to form herself. I have to let go of the pains in my heart and trust my reasoning mind. I wish you all the best when your turn comes…

“There are three points which serve to guide us: the child’s need to get out of (1) the traditional impositions set by the narrow circle of the family and the school; (2) the great intellectual development; (3) the building up of the moral constitution in the human soul. Getting out of the narrow circle means the need of a social experience which will enable the child to exercise and form moral sensibility, and attached to this there is all the development of culture.”

-Dr. Maria Montessori

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~ by vegucationmama on February 2, 2013.

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