17th Century Learning

It's always fascinating to see the context of our work. Below is an excerpt from a great article regarding what many consider to be the first picture book dedicated to the education of young children, Orbis Sensualium Pictus – or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures, as it was rendered in English in 1705.

The researcher Charles McNamara explores how the book can be seen to be as much about the invisible world as the visible--a theme that probably resonates with a lot of Montessorians.

John Comenius’ Orbis Sensualium Pictus (or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures) is, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “the first children’s picture book.” Originally published in 1658 in Latin and German, the Orbis — with its 150 pictures showing everyday activities like brewing beer, tending gardens, and slaughtering animals — is immediately familiar as an ancestor of today’s children’s literature. This approach centered on the visual was a breakthrough in education for the young, as was the decision to teach the vernacular in addition to Latin. Unlike treatises on education and grammatical handbooks, it is aimed directly at the young and attempts to engage on their level.

The Orbis was hugely popular. At one point it was the most used textbook in Europe for elementary education, and according to one account it was translated into “most European and some of the Oriental languages.” Its author John Comenius, a Czech by birth, was also well-known throughout Europe and worked in several countries as a school reformer. His portrait was painted by Rembrandt, and according to an 1887 edition of the Orbis, Comenius was even “once solicited to become President of Harvard College.” Even if he is less celebrated today by name, his innovative ideas about education are still influential. In his Didactica Magna, for example, he advocates for equal educational opportunities for all: boys and girls, rich and poor, urban and rural.

Illustration for the sounds, from the 1705 English edition of Orbis Sensualium Pictus

Despite his progressive aims and lasting educational influence, Comenius does not come off as a thoroughly modern schoolmaster. When we turn to the first page of the Orbis, we find an opening sentence that would seem peculiar in today’s children’s books: “Come, boy, learn to be wise.” We see above the text a teacher and student in dialogue, the former holding up his finger and sporting a cane and large hat, the latter listening in an emotional state somewhere between awe and anxiety. The student asks, “What doth this mean, to be wise?” His teacher answers, “To understand rightly, to do rightly, and to speak out rightly all that are necessary.”

The first chapter of the Orbis looks to the third of these goals in what reads like an early version of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Children learn how “to speak out rightly” by imitating animal noises. These two pages are a trove of Latin onomatopoetic verbs and peculiar renderings of animal sounds: cats cry out “nau nau” instead of “meow meow,” and we learn that “the Duck quacketh," “the Hare squeaketh," and “the Crow crieth.” This introduction to animal noises is familiar territory for modern educational toys. The teacher explains that first the student must learn “the plain sounds…which living creatures know how to make, and thy tongue knoweth how to imitate.” After mastering these noises, the student and teacher “will go into the World, and we will view all things.”

After thirty-five chapters on theology, elements, plants, and animals, Comenius finally introduces man. He again opts for the Biblical account and addresses Adam and Eve before more immediate topics like “The Outward Parts of a Man,” where we learn that women have “two Dugs” and that below the stomach we find “the Groyn and the privities.” The anatomical terminology is vast, including words for each finger and for a number of bones in the body. But amid instruction on the corporeal and familiar, Comenius again injects the abstract and invisible into his picture book with Chapter 43, a discussion of “The Soul of Man.” A dotted outline of a human, opening his arms as if to welcome the students’ gaze, stands at the top of the page. Despite this illustration, Comenius’ discussion of the soul is not dumbed down for children. He lays out the categories of souls for his young students: the “Vegetative” soul of plants, the “Sensitive” soul of animals, and the “Rational” soul of man.

Illustration for “The Soul”

Opening illustration of Master and Child

Opening illustration of Master and Child

The final page, mirroring the first, again shows the teacher speaking and the young student listening attentively. But in his second appearance, the student says nothing: we might say Comenius’ lesson was not a matter of dialogue and discussion but of assiduous memorization. The teacher, too, seems to have changed his approach. He tells the student, “thou hast seen in short, all things that can be shewed,” but he recommends that the student also “read other good Books diligently” so that he may become “learned, wise, and godly.”

Read the original full article here.

Let Your Baby Teach US!

**Thank you to all the people that contacted us--We are no longer looking for additional infants.**

Montessori Northwest invites you to a very special opportunity to enrich your child’s earliest experiences! 

Download a flyer here.

Download a flyer here.

Our Assistants to Infancy course trains adults to care for children from birth to three years of age. As part of their training, our students participate in observing and supervised practice teaching with infants and toddlers. 

What to Expect

In a warm, home-like setting, students gently care for your baby’s needs: playing, feeding, soothing, changing, and assisting with sleep, under the supervision of experienced teachers using Montessori principles. Other students observe from a discreet distance. You remain close by, observing or participating as you and baby feel comfortable. Please note that this if for babies 0 - 10 months old.

Meet Your Montessorians

Participating parents receive support and guidance from Montessori teacher trainer Nancy Lechner and experienced course assistants, with many opportunities to discuss questions about your child’s growth and development. 

Nancy has worked with young children since 1977, and holds diplomas from the Association Montessori Internationale at the Assistant to Infancy, Primary, and Special Education levels. She has presented parent workshops and staff development in California, Oregon, Texas, Australia, and Europe.

Nancy will be assisted by Gloria Singh & Morgan Spivey

Times, Dates, and other Details

  • July 7 to August 1, 2014
  • Monday to Friday, 9AM-11:30AM Montessori Northwest
  • 622 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214 **Free of charge to participating families** 

Space is limited; preference is given to those who can commit to the entire four week session. If you are interested in participating, please contact Gloria Singh, Course Assistant, at gloria@montessori-nw.org or call Montessori Northwest at (503) 963-8992. 

 

 

Posted on June 10, 2014 .

Gandhi Speaks at Montessori Training College

Speech At Montessori Training College 
Mohandas K. Gandhi

London , [ October 28, 1931 ]

(Note: Dr. Maria Montessori met Mahatma Gandhi in the beginning of October, 1931 in London. And on October 28, 1931 Gandhi spoke at the Montessori Training College in London where Dr. Montessori was also in attendance. What follows is the text of Gandhi’s Speech, which was published in the weekly newspaper, Young India, on November 19, 1931. For further information and/or discussions on this topic, please contact Shall Sinha at shall@ssinha.com )

Madame, you have overwhelmed me with your words. It is perfectly true, I must admit it in all humility, that however indifferently it may be, I endeavor to represent love in every fiber of my being. I am impatient to realize the presence of my Maker, Who to me embodies Truth, and in the early part of my career I discovered that if I was to realize Truth I must obey, even at the cost of my life, the law of love. And having been blessed with children, I discovered that the law of Love could be best understood and learned through little children.

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Were it not for us, their ignorant poor parents, our children would be perfectly innocent. I believe implicitly that the child is not born mischievous in the bad sense of the term. If parents would behave themselves whilst the child is growing, before it is born and after, it is a well-known fact that the child would instinctively obey the law of Truth and the law of Love.

And when I understood this lesson in the early part of my life, I began a gradual but distinct change in life. I do not propose to describe to you the several phases through which this stormy life of mine has passed, but I can only, in truth and in perfect humility, bear witness to the fact that to the extent that I have represented Love in my life, in thought, word and deed I have realized the “peace that passeth understanding”. I have baffled many of my friends when they have noticed in me peace that they have envied, and they have asked me for the cause of that priceless possession. I have not been able to explain the cause by saying that, if my friends found that peace in me, it was due to my attempt to obey this, the greatest law of our being.

It was in 1915 when I reached India , that I first became acquainted with your activities. It was in a place called Amreli that I found that there was a little school being conducted after the Montessori system. Your name had preceded that first acquaintance. I found no difficulty in finding out at once that this school was not carrying out the spirit of your teaching; the letter was there, but whilst there was an honest - more or less honest - effort being made, I saw too that there was a great deal of tinsel about it. I came in touch, then, with more such schools, and the more I came in touch, the more I began to understand that the foundation was good and splendid, if the children could be taught through the laws of nature - nature, consistent with human dignity, not nature that governs the beast. I felt instinctively from the way in which the children were being taught that, whilst they were being indifferently taught, the original teaching was conceived in obedience to this fundamental law. Since then, I have had the pleasure of coming across several of your pupils, one of whom had even made a pilgrimage to Italy and had received your personal blessings. I was looking forward to meeting the children here and you all and it was a great pleasure to me to see these children.

I had taken care to learn something about these little children. I had a foretaste of what I saw here, in Birmingham , where there is a school between which and this there is a difference. But I also saw that there also human nature was struggling to express itself. I see the same thing here and it was a matter of inexpressible joy to me that from their childhood the children were brought to understand the virtue of silence, and how, in response to the whisper from their teacher, the children came forward one after another in that pin-drop silence. It gave great joy to see all those beautiful rhythmic movements and, as I was watching those movements of the children, my whole heart went out to the millions of the children of the semi-starved villages of India, and I asked myself as my heart went out to those children, “Is it possible for me to give them those lessons and the training that are being given under your system, to those children”?

We are conducting an experiment amongst the poorest of the children in India . I do not know how far the experiment will go. We have the problem of giving real vital education to these children of India 's hovels, and we have no material means. We have to fall back upon the voluntary assistance of teachers, but when I look for teachers, they are very few, especially, teachers of the type wanted, in order to draw the best from the children through understanding, through studying their individuality and then putting the child on its own resources, as it were, on its own honor. And believe me from my experience of hundreds, I was going to say thousands, of children I know that they have perhaps a finer sense of honor than you and I have.

The greatest lessons in life if we would but stoop and humble ourselves, we would learn not from grown-up learned men, but from the so-called ignorant children. Jesus never uttered a loftier or a grander truth than when he said that wisdom cometh out of the mouths of babes. I believe it; I have noticed it in my own experience that, if we would approach babes in humility and in innocence, we would learn wisdom from them.

I must not take up your time. I have simply given you what is, at the present moment, agitating me, namely, the delicate problem, considered in human terms, of drawing out the best from these millions of children of whom I have told you. But I have learned this one lesson - that what is impossible with man is child's play with God and, if we have faith in that Divinity which presides over the destiny of the meanest of His creation, I have no doubt that all things are possible and in that final hope I live and pass my time and endeavor to obey His will. Therefore, I repeat that even as you, out of your love for children, are endeavoring to teach those children, through your numerous institutions, the best that can be brought out of them, even so I hope that it will be possible not only for the children of the wealthy and the well-to-do, but for the children of paupers to receive training of this nature. You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have the struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.

Reposted from the Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace website

Posted on June 10, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Articles, Elementary, Primary, Resources.