Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Perception Action Cycle of Sensorial Refinement: Ages 0-6

We have spoken about movement in human beings, our senses and their role in our daily life. We have said a lot about how it is the intelligence which guides our actions, with the will being the motivating factor. We have spoken about how the senses are forming the basis for intelligence, and movement supports all of that. The eye, for example, takes in size, shape, color, and so many other elements for consolidation; but it is the child's work during those first three years, referred to by Montessori as the spiritual embryo.

We are seldom even aware of our body in space, a sense called proprioception. Our brains perform proprioception, mapping the space of the body oriented toward other objects. The auditory and visual senses are universally understood as important, but the sense of proprioception is understood as more and more critical. The child is forever operating in spaces that are not suited for her size; therefore, the Montessori teacher expends a great deal of energy drawing himself in, to occupy an appropriate amount of space in the children's' classroom. Perception does not develop without movement. It is only through use that our movements become more refined, which will inform our actions.

The preparation to understand the child and her development begins way before the observable skill. Even something we take for granted, like walking or sitting, results from months of preparation, and the refinement will only occur through more work. There is so much conversation in education right now on the subject of executive functioning, but this is just another name for Montessori's integrated personality, where the intellect informs the will and manifests in movements.

What does the memory informing the will mean? Since Montessori's writings, it is understood that the executive memory of the child moves from the phyletic motor skills, to the acts, to the programs, the plans, and finally the conceptual memory; likewise, the perceptual memory  begins with the phyletic memory, the polysensory memory, then episodic, semantic, and finally conceptual memory connective to the executive conceptual memory.

Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas. 

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