My daughter is six and a half and entering her last few weeks in her Children’s House classroom. By June 1st, she will officially be a Lower Elementary student and fully in Montessori’s second plane of development. (For an overview of the planes, look here.) I have already begun to notice her interests, interactions, and personality change. She is no longer a first plane child trying to get command of her body; she is now far more interested in exploring her mind.
My first clue that I needed to look into what on earth a second plane child is all about came when I began to notice the changes in my children’s relationship with one another. Although the age gap remains two years and two weeks, the gap currently feels much larger. We had at least one full year of the kids enjoying similar things and playing in similar ways. Now they still enjoy spending time together and enjoy some of the same activities, but they approach them differently and my daughter is more interested in separating herself from her brother than she ever has before.
This is completely uncharted territory for me. As a parent I obviously have no experience with second plane children, but I also have no experience as an educator because I work solely with third plane adolescents! So the question burning in my mind is: how can I, as her parent, help her in this new plane?
First we should look at what she needs (from Merry Montessori):
Needs of the second plane:
• Security of home and family balanced by movement out into the world
• Social interaction within a peer group
• Opportunities to explore all aspects of the natural world
• Opportunities to explore human experience in the natural world
• Concrete materials as a basis for abstract studies
• Physical exercise tied to purposeful activity
• Collaborative work
• Opportunities to explore roles in a fixed society
• Opportunities to explore ethics and morality
• Ideal exemplars of behavior and achievement who are excellent and
trustworthy role models
What does this look like in our family’s lives?
- The number one thing that will not change from plane to plane is our family’s stability and reliability for our children. Our goal is to ensure that we keep our family and home life as a “home base” for our children as their lives continue to change.
- The approach to friends and friendship will change. My son will continue to explore friendships, but my daughter’s friendships will become even more important. We will need to have discussions on how to choose friends and what happens when someone who says they are your friend sure doesn’t act like it. This is also the time when I feel comfortable having her stay over at a friend’s house for an extended time or even overnight.
- We will continue to explore the world outside our door, both the natural aspects and those that are man-made. My son will experience these adventures based on the “what” and my daughter on the “why”. As parents, my husband and I need to be aware how they may view a family outing differently and think of ways to accommodate them.
- We need to encourage her to find her own answers to the “why” through independent research. We are taking a trip to Minnesota this summer to visit some friends. My daughter is very excited about this trip. She developed many questions about the trip and Minnesota. Instead of sitting her down to tell her about my own experience visiting, I directed her to a book we have on the states and she looked up the section on Minnesota. She learned all about the lakes and that it is very cold in winter. She then decided to write about it in her journal. This is such a Montessori thing to do and I know it is being taught at school. I am happy to continue to encourage the same research-minded learning at home.
- There are many more things that will come up and change in this new phase of childhood. I will write about our experience in this plane as we experience it.
I am eager to continue to learn about this next phase in our lives. This is the beginning of a six year journey and all things don’t have to be implemented at once; but it is important for me as a parent to understand truly that my daughter’s needs are changing and will differ from the needs of my son for a few years.