Montessori's View of Normalization

NAMTA (The North American Montessori Teacher's Association) developed an updated version of Kathleen Futrell's classic, The Normalized Child. The booklet, available from the Aquinas Montessori School (Alexandria, Virginia) since 1970, has successfully presented the concept of normalization to generations of Montessori parents. NAMTA has now reissued this time-tested text in an updated format. Practical examples and straightforward language convey Montessori's comprehensive view of child-rearing and education in one sitting.

The Process of Normalization

In Montessori education, the term normalization has a specialized meaning. "Normal" does not refer to what is considered to be "typical" or "average" or even "usual." Normalization does not refer to a process of being forced to conform. Instead, Maria Montessori used the terms "normal" and normalization to describe a unique process she observed in child development. Montessori observed that when children are allowed freedom in an environment suited to their needs, they blossom. After a period of intense concentration, working with materials that fully engage their interest, children appear to be refreshed and contented. Through continued concentrated work of their own choice, children grow in inner discipline and peace. She called this process normalization and cited it as "the most important single result of our whole work." (The Absorbent Mind, 1949).

She went on to write, “Only "normalised" children, aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others. . . . An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child's energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self-mastery. . . . One is tempted to say that the children are performing spiritual exercises, having found the path of self-perfectionment and of ascent to the inner heights of the soul.”
(Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1949)

E.M. Standing (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, 1957) lists these as the characteristics of a child who is living up to his/her potential and is in the process of normalization.

The child exhibits a:
  • love of order
  • love of work
  • spontaneous concentration
  • an attachment to reality
  • love of silence and of working alone (this is for the child under 6, the older child loves to work with others)
  • sublimation of the possessive instinct
  • power to act from real choice
  • obedience
  • independence and initiative
  • spontaneous self-discipline and
  • evidence of joy

Montessori believed that these are the truly "normal" characteristics of childhood, which emerge when children's developmental needs are met.

The definitive article about Normalization was written by Kathleen Futrell and I have copied it here below in it's entirety:

THE NORMALIZED CHILD by Kathleen H. Futrell

Kathleen H. Futrell holds the AMI Primary (ages 3-6) and Elementary (ages 6-12) diplomas, She founded The Aquinas Montessori School (Alexandria, VA) in 1965 and continues as a directress there. In addition, she has lectured at the Washington (DC) Montessori Institute and spoken at several NAMTA and AMI conferences. The Normalized Child is a publication of The Aquinas Montessori School. Copyright 1970, 1971 by Kathleen H. Futrell. Reprinted by permission. Kit Futrell's classic article, based on a parent talk she first delivered in 1966, is reprinted in this NAMTA journal issue because it has successfully presented the theme of normalization to generations of Montessori parents over the last 30 years. Its practical examples and rigorous adherence to the theory have strong implications for child rearing as well as the classroom.

"Maria Montessori believed the purpose of education is to be an aid to life. It should go far beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge in various areas of culture. She believed further that the child on whom this "burden of education" falls has a nature quite different from that of the adult. While the adult has reached the norm of the species, the child is a being in a constant state of metamorphosis, creating for himself the person he is to be. And the environment in which he evolves will shape him just as surely as his genetic inheritance.

While Sigmund Freud was doing research on the abnormalities of behavior, which have their roots in early childhood, Montessori approached the problem of the child's psyche by suggesting that the ideal environment be prepared for each developing human being, that a child's needs at every stage be studied, and that a way be provided for these needs to be met. The first groups of normal children whom Montessori undertook to study gave her the opportunity of observing these needs.

Montessori was ideally suited to do this observation because of her background in anthropology and her understanding of the physiology and neurology of the child. Further, because of her previous work with children classified at that time as defective, she had studied the works of Drs. Seguin and Itard and had added to her research on the child's cognitive processes. However, these first charges must have been a challenge even for Montessori. She describes them as "sixty tearful, frightened children, so shy that it was impossible to get them to speak; with bewildered eyes, as though they had never seen anything in their lives."

These 60 children were given to her along with an untrained aide because the landlord in the tenement where they lived wanted to keep them busy, more or less to keep them from defacing the walls and vandalizing his property. Since she did not have the intention of evolving a pedagogical system, she began with no fixed ideas of what to teach these children. Instead, she observed what they needed to do and learn, and she prepared materials to help with these acquisitions. She observed what obstacles they had to overcome and set about removing them.

What followed seemed incredible even to Dr. Montessori, for these deprived children blossomed under this freedom and under the possibility of doing work suited to their needs. They revealed to her not only their enormous capacity for intellectual accomplishment but a strange character of sweetness and serenity. They displayed a truly uncorrupted spirit, scorning rewards and punishments, and finding their joy in the prodigious work which involved them. They came from these labors refreshed, as if from a creative experience, and as they worked, they grew in inner discipline and peace. The sight of these children, who displayed the truly "normal" characteristics of childhood, was the force that motivated Montessori for the remainder of her life.

This "secret of childhood" she pursued with all the vitality of the genius who has found her raison d'être, and, from her tireless observations and efforts, she evolved her perception of the child's psychic personality. As she traveled from country to country, lecturing, training teachers, helping to establish school after school, this same phenomenon was observed wherever conditions promoting its growth were perfectly realized. This normalized child is the image which Montessori teachers keep uppermost in their minds. This is what we are striving for, what we hope to achieve.

However, this child will appear only if we conscientiously prepare ourselves and our classrooms and if we can build on the proper preparation in the child's home. We must build on the enormous growth that has taken place in the child from conception up until the time he reaches the environment of the Montessori classroom. If we consider the very first environment of a child-in the womb of the mother-we realize that nature has given us a clue to an ideal environment. Here the child has warmth, nourishment, security, shelter, protection, and freedom to develop without interference in response to nature's plan for him.

The second environment the child encounters is that of the home. How perfect that will be depends entirely on how clearly the child's needs are understood and how lovingly and unselfishly these needs are provided for. We must consider the needs of the child just as analytically as we would consider the needs of a plant we were about to grow. One could not expect a perfect plant to develop if the plant's need for sunlight were ignored, or if the sunlight were provided and the need for water ignored, or if both of these needs were remembered but the plant were forced to grow in poor soil.

What are the needs of the child from infancy to age three? First, a child has the need for movement. He needs to move, explore, manipulate, and store up impressions he will be able to classify later on. His first room should not be so sterile, antiseptic, and stark that there is nothing in it on which his mind can feed. He should not be compelled to stay in it like a being sealed in a vacuum for endless hours. As soon as he is able to move himself about, he should be free to do so. Playpens, restraining devices, and such have their place, on occasion, for the child's safety, but their use should be carefully limited if the child is not to be stultified or frustrated. He will not be ready for precise, graceful movement at three years of age if he has had little opportunity for movement at all from birth to three. Certainly, a child under three should never be encouraged to watch television. This is far too passive, uncreative, and non-productive in a period of life when his development cries out for activity, manipulation, exploration, and storing up of sensory experiences.

He needs to hear language spoken, obviously. He needs to be in the company of those whose culture he will adopt as his own. An infant will watch with great intensity the adults around him, watch their mouths as they speak, sometimes even attempt to touch their mouths. Later, he will imitate sounds, babble. And still later, all without anyone ever consciously teaching him, he will have constructed a language for himself, complete with nouns, verbs, a tense structure, and all the intonations and inflections he has heard. This is another reason for not shutting the infant up in the nursery for endless hours.

Montessori admired the primitive mothers who carried their babies with them wherever they went: to the marketplace, visiting a friend. Everywhere, the child was able to hear and was intensely interested in the talk going on around him. A child needs to hear not only the elementary language concerning itself with his needs-i.e., eating, sleeping, caring for himself but the precise language of every area of culture. If he asks about a piece of music, we can answer him with the exact name of the composition, even its composer. A tree which he notices has a particular name; its leaves have a distinctive shape. A bird which attracts him can be given its specific name and special characteristics.

Later, in the Montessori classroom, he will be offered the expanded vocabulary of many areas of culture, such as geometry, geography, and biology, but the groundwork for this can be laid at home. A child has an appetite for specific vocabulary. Long words do not frighten but fascinate him. A great deal of time could be spent conversing with the child even at this early age. And a great deal can be done in training him to follow specific directions such as "bring me the large book" or "please take this blue vase to the kitchen table" or "pick up your chair and carry it across the room; put it down near the window," gradually increasing the complexity of our commands. He can be helped to listen for sounds, isolated sounds.

In our culture, daily life is filled with noise-with sounds of traffic or construction, background music, voices, or television-so much that a child's ability to listen is sometimes dulled. When there is never an opportunity for silence, the child will miss out on the precious ability to collect his thoughts, to compose himself. The adults in the child's home can help also by deliberately softening their voices when they speak to the child, so that he will later be responsive to suggestions given under the decibel level of a shout.

Children like to play the sound game, isolating sounds they hear in words. We play it at school by saying, "I spy with my little eye something in this room that begins with 'm' or 't."' If this is done with your child at home, isolate the sound that each letter makes-not the letter name as it is heard in the alphabet. The vowel sounds we use first are the short ones. One mother told me she and her child were glancing through a magazine. The child became very excited and pointed to some letters and said, "Look! There's S, and there's F." Certainly, stories read to the child at this early age can only help to increase his appreciation of the beauty and power of language.

It could be a rule of thumb never to do for a child that which he has learned or is trying to learn to do for himself. This will require great forbearance, patience, and planning on the part of the mother. When the child shows an interest in learning to dress himself, he should be given enough time to practice without hurrying. If we are teaching him a new skill, we should try to isolate the difficulty and teach one step at a time. If we really want our child to grow into an independent and resourceful adult, we should stop pouring his milk as soon as he has learned to pour it himself and stop fastening his buttons as soon as he can fasten them himself.

In the period of infancy, the good mother does a great deal of physical tending to the child's needs. The good mother should be watchful for the moment to arrive when she must discontinue this physical tending. If she does not, the child may become indolent by having things done for him long after the time when he needs or desires help. Or he may despair of learning to care for himself and be started on the road to an inferiority complex.

In The Secret of Childhood (1936/1966), Montessori describes the "deviated" child who suffers from "attachment, a lack of vital energy and indolence." She diagnoses the cause: "Without realizing, an adult with his useless assistance and hypnotic influence has substituted himself for a child and impeded his psychic growth." She describes another set of characteristics, "timidity, hesitancy in making decisions, a withdrawal before difficulties or criticism, frequent tears, an appearance of despair." She attributes the cause again to an adult "constantly interrupting the child and breaking into his environment." This powerful being directs the child's life without ever consulting the child himself. This lack of consideration makes the child think his own activities are of no value.

It is hard for us to believe that our children need constantly the reassurance that we love them. A child translates our love into the quantity and quality of time we are willing to give him. He will know for sure that we love him only if we spend time with him. He wants from us not gifts, not things, but ourselves. He will just as readily translate our preference for an all-consuming career, a golf game, a bridge game, or work which is not necessary, as a rejection of him.

One summer at school, we had a small five-year-old boy who was the envy of all the older boys because he could toss a baseball into the air and nine times out of ten hit it accurately with his bat. We learned that his father was a Boy Scout leader, accustomed to spending great amounts of time playing with his boy in the company of other boys. This little boy had not only acquired this physical prowess but was characterized by a considerable amount of poise as well as the self-assurance that comes from feeling loved and secure.

A child needs to be taught respect for the rights of others just as his rights are respected. If he is treated with consideration, he will more readily adopt the attitude of extending the same courtesy to others. Montessori said, "A child readily obeys an adult. But when an adult asks him to renounce those instincts that favor his development, he cannot obey. When an adult demands such a sacrifice to his own personal instincts, a child's tantrums and rebellions are nothing more than the aspects of a vital conflict between his creative impulses and his love for an adult who fails to understand his needs. We should remember that a child loves, us and wants to obey. A child loves an adult beyond everything else."

This does not mean that we must foolishly indulge his every whim or allow him to be disorderly, disruptive, destructive, or inconsiderate. For the small child, there should be very few rules. But those few should be consistently observed. They can be enforced not by coaxing, haranguing, or bribing but simply by setting certain limits and, as much as possible, consistently and firmly seeing that these limits are adhered to. We are well aware of the effort it takes to be firm and consistent. We realize you are dealing with your children not for just a few hours a day but all day and night, and, in some cases, with an infant, throughout the night. Therefore, this advice is given in all humility. To be sure, "it is easier said than done."

Montessori believed that a child comes to internal order through external order and that this internal order is prerequisite to intellectual expansion. When a child comes into the world, it must appear to him chaotic. He must learn to classify, categorize all the objects he sees, learn their names and their uses.

We can help him by making his home environment as orderly as possible, not constantly shifting things about, and by giving him an opportunity to keep his own possessions in order. When he has toys, there should not be so many of them that he cannot possibly arrange them or care for them. The toy box is not very helpful along this line because it encourages the child to throw in the doll on top of the truck and the stuffed rabbit on top of both of them and the ball on top of all that, without regard for the preservation of their individual beauty and repair.

Low shelves can be constructed and a place designated for each toy. Clothes rods can be set down where he can reach them to put away his clothes. A place can be set aside where he may work with crayons or paints. It should be possible for him to keep this place in order by himself if we provide tools that fit his small hand and that lie is capable of using without help.

If all these needs are met In the environment of the child from birth to three-that is, movement, language, independence, love and security, discipline, and order-and he arrives in the Montessori class at the proper age, 2 1/2 - to 3, lie will be ready for expanded development in the prepared environment of the Montessori class.
He will have here the opportunity for social development, for living in a community with older children and younger children.

He will have the materials and the equipment he needs to classify his impressions and the keys to learning in mathematics and language.

He will have the opportunity to further his development in independence and the control of his movements.
He will have the opportunity to work with materials leading to precision and concentration.

After a period of time, with the true cooperation of school and home, with a true understanding of how to meet the child's needs, this normalized child will appear.

How does Montessori describe the normalized child? Perhaps you have one at home and didn't realize what a treasure you have! While we are examining the list of characteristics, we can also examine how the school and the home can provide for their growth.

One can watch a small girl in a Montessori class taking out a mat and unrolling it on the floor, ready to start to work. She observes a fleck of dust, gets the broom, and sweeps it off. Then, with increased satisfaction and enjoyment, she proceeds to lay out her material. This orderliness is jealously guarded and carefully promoted in the classroom.

Montessori teachers are told, "All the apparatus must be meticulously in order, beautiful and shiny, in perfect condition. Nothing must be missing, so that to the child it always seems new, complete, and ready for use."

To show you what lengths we go to in aiding the construction of a child's mind and helping his ability to classify, a shoe polishing set might have a red ribbon, a red apron, a red applicator, a red brush, a red buffer. It will be obvious that these things belong together. The silver polishing set has a pink ribbon around the basket, a pink polishing cloth, a pink mat, a pink sponge, and so on. When a child has finished with any of these polishing exercises, she puts soiled cloths in a laundry bag (another child will wash these later), discards any used cotton or paper, replaces all these items with fresh clean ones, and returns the basket to its place on the shelf, ready for the next child's use.

This kind of order is not mere fussiness but a genuine respect for the materials with which they work and a generous consideration for the other members of their small society.

Some of our children choose for themselves fantastic amounts of work. For instance, one child decided to transcribe approximately 50 printed phonogram cards into cursive writing. It took her several days. But this was work she chose herself. It was certainly far in excess of what any teacher would choose for her.

One child went on with an exercise in long division for two days in succession. He divided 81 and then 80 and then 79 and then 78 and so on down to I with all possible divisors, using a board and beads. He was full of enthusiasm for this work right to the end. He would come into class in the morning and announce, "I'm starting on 31 today."

Another child did a story on the voices of mammals, researching the text on the back of our biology cards, choosing the section pertaining to the subject that interested her, the various sounds the mammals make. She wrote the story, made a booklet, and drew a picture on the front cover, a matter of three days' work.

When a child is working and chooses some task that holds his attention, we are careful not to interrupt him either to correct him or to praise him. This might disrupt the powers of concentration which are so important for his development.
This attitude toward the child could readily be extended at home. If a child undertakes any job, for example, to make his bed, we should never do it over again, regardless of how inadequate a job we believe lie has done. We can simply reteach at another time what we seem to have taught him improperly.

The child in a Montessori class has a possibility of working for long periods of time on one task. His ability is not fragmented by having 20 minutes of art, 20 minutes of spelling, and 20 minutes of mathematics. This room is dedicated to him and he is free to move about in it and to apply himself to all kinds of formative work. He is free to pursue one area of learning or many in one day.

When a child truly chooses a task and sees it to completion by himself, he is well on the way to becoming a free, independent being.

In a Montessori class, there is far more interaction than one would see in a traditional classroom where the children are silent by decree rather than by choice. In his book How Children Fail (1964), John Holt asks, "Who in the classroom needs the most practice in speaking? The children. Who gets the most? The teacher." Here, the children are free to discuss their work with each other, to dictate movable alphabet words to each other, to work together in pairs or in small groups.

However, one child may not just join another who is working alone without first obtaining his permission. The right of a child to work alone is respected.

Sometimes, we play what we call "The Silence Game," in which the children try to sit perfectly still and maintain complete silence for a few minutes and listen to the sounds around them. It can be a time for introspection and peace. When the few minutes are up, frequently the children applaud - they seem to he so delighted with this period of silence they impose on themselves.

You will notice the absence here of graded papers. There is no work strung up on the bulletin boards, pasted over with stars which praise some but automatically condemn the children who never, no matter how hard they work, see their work so rewarded.

We believe competition among small children is not only bad for those children who can never succeed, or are convinced at an early age that they cannot, but bad also for those who are made to feel superior, in whom are sown the seeds of arrogance and pride.

Children forced to compete are encouraged to work for an A, a 100, or a star, rather than for the knowledge to be acquired or the joy of learning itself. We believe in giving the children an opportunity to help each other, in fact to teach each other.

We have discovered that some of the children are marvelous teachers-and why not? They are fresh from the experience of learning what they seek to teach; they may perceive all the stumbling blocks to comprehension better than an adult. They are full of enthusiasm for this task which is still appealing to them.

The mixture of ages in the classroom makes it possible for an older child to help a younger one without any resentment being felt. This help benefits the older child by strengthening his qualities of leadership and competence and the younger child by providing the help he needs and allowing him to trust and respect his older friends.

As an example of the harm that can be done by competition, one year I taught 63 children in the fifth grade in a traditional school. In this class, there were IQ levels ranging from 79 to 138. All these children were expected to work together in lockstep, everybody on page 38 at the same time. All that year, I kept thinking of the irreparable damage done to the psyche of these children, forced to work together and compete with each other, some bored and some uncomprehending and struggling. This was the year I began to read Montessori's books and found her suggestions so eminently reasonable.

When I later had the opportunity to visit the Montessori schools in Europe, I was most impressed with how tranquil and self-reliant the children were, because each child was working at his own level.

It is not unusual here to see a child reading or working so intently that he is oblivious to the work being done around him. Perhaps next to him there is a little child scrubbing a table vigorously. And on a mat nearby there may be three children working with the mathematics material known as the bank game. This requires much counting aloud and exchanging of units for tens, tens for hundreds, and so on.

This kind of concentration is not possible at first; the children new to the classroom seem to be characterized by instability of attention. This profound concentration is the result of a long inner growth. It can be developed by the exercises of Practical Life, which help to focus the child's attention on real things and give him an opportunity for a lengthened cycle of work.

Montessori speaks of three levels of obedience:

On the first level, before the child is three, he cannot obey unless the order he receives corresponds with one of his vital urges.

The second level is reached when his powers are consolidated and can be directed not only by his own will but also by the will of another.

On the third level, he obeys with astonishing readiness and seems anxious to do so. That one can take directions is a sudden discovery that brings with it a new kind of enthusiasm.

A normalized child should have reached the third level of obedience, the level at which he is eagerly, joyfully responsive to the will of the adult in authority.

It frequently astonishes us here at school that when asked to choose several activities or exercises, a child will make a list for himself of precisely what he needs to do. In fact, a teacher may realize with a shock that he has chosen for himself more wisely than she would have chosen for him. And on his own initiative he will set for himself tasks far in excess of any she might propose to him.

We make every attempt to guard this independence and initiative by not interfering with the child when he has chosen his work, unless he is obviously misusing it or disturbing someone else.

The equipment itself fosters this independence by having within it a control of error, which frees the child from the needless help of the adult. After work has been introduced, the child may work with it on his own. He is thereby working for his own formation, his own progress, not hanging on the approval of those around him or working to be a "teacher pleaser."
This independence and initiative can be encouraged at home by allowing the child time to complete work he has chosen to do or tasks that have been assigned to him. These tasks will not only foster independence but add to his security by allowing him to feel he is a functioning, worthwhile member of the family.

No matter how young he is, he can contribute something to the care of the home in which he lives. He can water the plants, set the table, or dust the furniture. We can even help a child become more independent by giving some thought to the kind of clothing he wears, choosing suits, dresses, coats, boots, and hats the child will find easy to manage for himself.

I quote Montessori: "It is clear that the discipline which reveals itself in a Montessori class is something which comes more from within than from without. But this self-discipline has not come into existence in a day, or a week, or even a month. It is the result of a long inner growth and achievement won through months of training."

This inner discipline indeed will not reveal itself at all if there is a complete dichotomy between the home and school environments of the child. If the home environment of the child is overly indulgent and permissive, or if it is stultifying and rigid, it will not be possible in the short period of time the child is at school to change his outlook.

However, if the true purpose of a Montessori education is understood-if at home and at school he receives similar direction-this discipline will arrive. Montessori describes the atmosphere in a class of self-disciplined children in this way: "The period in which discipline becomes established is one of active peace, of obedience and love, when work is perfected and multiplied, just as when tiny flowers of spring get their colors and prepare a distant harvest of sweet and nourishing fruit."

It might be well to clarify here the position of Montessori with regard to stories of fantasy. Montessori believed that the child needs to sort his impressions, to learn what is true and what is not true. What Montessori decried was the tendency of adults to add to his confusion by presenting stories of fable or fantasy before he can readily distinguish the truth from fiction.

It is not necessary to entertain a child by telling him wild tales. If you say to a small child, "If you turn this knob just so, and pull-like this-the door will open," he will find that just as exciting and far more helpful than if you say, "If you open this door you will see a tiger on the other side." Montessori did not say that there is never a place for imaginative tales but that they should not be introduced until the child is able to judge for himself, "This is a myth. It is great fun but it is not true." There will be more than enough time for the beautiful fairy stories and fables which form our literary heritage when the child is 5 1/2 to 6+, and perhaps able to read them for himself.

I think I can say without equivocation that television's distortions, its violence, its vulgarities, its invitation to passivity, can be one of the worst possible influences on the lives of children. It would be worthwhile to explore together also how much time each child spends a week watching TV and measure it against time spent developing physical skills or in active creative experiences. (Thirty years after this was written in 1966, the ill effects of too much television watching have been well documented by many studies.)

Montessori believed that envy and competition are signs of a restricted mental development, of a limited outlook. Here, children own only what they know. They share the use of everything, and if something is in use which they would like to work with, they learn to wait until it is free. There are no individual pencils, seats, books, or equipment. They are all common property, to be understood, enjoyed, and replaced, ready for the next child's use.

Again, to quote Montessori: "If a child finds no stimuli for the activities which would contribute to his development, he is attracted to things and desires to possess them. A man's attachment to many things and his reluctance to give them up, even if they are of no use to him, is a deadly poison that can upset his basic equilibrium."

What can be done at home to sublimate this possessive instinct? This will require enough self-control on the part of mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather to limit the number of possessions a child has. This means not buying him a two-wheeled bike which he will not be ready to ride for another year, or not allowing her to receive five dolls for Christmas from well-meaning relatives. How can the tenderness and budding maternal instinct which a doll usually brings forth in a little girl appear, when she is forced to cope so early in life with the advent of quintuplets? Our society will fight against your good resolutions. Even the supermarkets are so constructed that they foster greed in a child. Right near the cash register are placed the final lures, candies and trinkets which the child will have time to beg for while the grocery bill is being tallied.

The TV commercials, especially before Christmas, are particularly insidious, as they encourage the child to tell mother he wants specific toys for Christmas. If we allow ourselves to be overly indulgent and we build up this possessive instinct in a child, we need not wonder if we see him playing with other children and observe that he cannot share nor take turns.

To the normalized child, learning is a happy experience. If one is able to harness a child's innate delight in discovery, to make use of his self motivation, there is no reason why this enthusiasm for school should fade.

I know of one family whose members were all standing breathless beside their radio one snowy morning. There were two older children who were listening for the words, "All Fairfax County high schools closed because of snow"; the mother, who is also a teacher, was listening for an announcement of a DC school closing; a younger child who attended elementary school waited to hear her school's name mentioned; and finally, there was a Montessori child watching all this interest and excitement. As each of the announcements came: "Closed because of snow" there was much clapping and celebrating. The small child was completely bewildered and, perhaps, scandalized. He said to them, "But don't you like to go to school?"

One summer we had children up to 12 years old here at our summer program. We introduced the older children to the Montessori equipment and allowed them to use it during the period right after lunch. The children who were learning multiplication tables were shown the Montessori multiplication board. We let them use the geography maps, the biology, history, and language material. Their comments were, "You mean to say you let little kids use this stuff?" or "I've eaten my lunch. Can't I go in and work now?" Their joy in work was revived for the time. However, if children are kept year after year in lockstep learning, where they have no hand in initiating their activities, where they are, as Montessori describes it, "like butterflies pinned to their desks," their enthusiasm for learning will diminish or disappear completely.

To recapitulate, normalized children have a love of order, a love of work, profound spontaneous concentration; they are attached to reality, they have a love of silence and working alone, they have sublimated the possessive instinct, they are cheerfully obedient, and they possess independence and initiative. They are cooperative and mutually helpful. They possess self-discipline and joy.

Montessori said in her last published work, The Formation of Man (1955/1962):
"It is possible to conceive a universal movement for human reconstruction which follows a single path: its sole aim is to help man preserve his balance, his psychic health, and build up a secure orientation in the present conditions of the outer world. In the light of this, education should be a social and human endeavor of interest to all. It must be based on psychology in order to safeguard the individuality of the child. It needs a syllabus which can give an understanding of the conditions of man in modern society, with a cosmic vision of history and the evolution of human life."

We ask you, the parents who are joined with us in this work on behalf of the child, to consider the insights of Montessori: not only her discoveries of the child's cognitive processes but her formula for the ideal environment in which a child can grow. Our efforts here will be fruitless unless you, whose impact on the child is greatest, truly understand and approve of our purposes. Perhaps by working together we can make these normalized children our contribution to society-our society whose search for peace and a cure for its ills must turn eventually to the individual man and his evolution, his orientation to life.

REFERENCES Holt, J. (1964). How Children Fail. New York: Pitman. Montessori, M. (1966). The Secret of Childhood. South Bend, IN: Fides. (Original work published 1936). Montessori, M. (1962). The Formation of Man. Adyar, Madras, India: Kalakshetra. (Original work published 1955 as Childhood education).

(This is the definitive article about Normalization written by Kathleen Futrell. The Normalized Child is a publication of The Aquinas Montessori School. Copyright 1970, 1971 by Kathleen H. Futrell. She holds the AMI Primary (ages 3-6) and Elementary (ages 6-12) diplomas, She founded The Aquinas Montessori School (Alexandria, VA) in 1965 and continues as a directress there. In addition, she has lectured at the Washington (DC) Montessori Institute and spoken at several NAMTA and AMI conferences.)