Planes of Development
Dr Maria Montessori observed that there are four planes of development.
The First Plane
From birth to age six—the first plane—is described as "the most important part of life". The goal of the child, at this stage, is to form herself as an individual while allowing her brain to develop. Skills, such as physical awareness, coordination, will, independence, and language are the child's focus during this plane.
The Second Plane
The second plane of development occurs from age six to age twelve. It is often referred to as the "Intellectual Period." During this time, the child has a tremendous intellectual curiosity and thirst for knowledge. The goal of this period is for the child to develop her power of reason. Dr. Montessori said, "All other factors ... sink into insignificance beside the importance of feeding the hungry intelligence and opening vast fields of knowledge to eager exploration." At this stage, the child is actively building upon her knowledge base in search of the big picture and the interrelationships of the facts she absorbed during the first plane, tackling more and more abstract ideas in the process.
The Third Plane
The third plane of development, from 12 to 18 years of age, comprises the difficult years of adolescence, when the individual goes through a period of self-formation comparable to the years from birth to six. It is an emotional period, during which the individual is plagued with insecurity, vulnerability, and often rebellion. At the same time, though, it is a time for self-discovery, character and personality strengthening, intellectual development, creative expression, and social awareness. If given sufficient guidance, the individual can enter the fourth and final plane with the confidence, freedom and direction necessary to begin making career preparations en route to leading a fulfilling life.
The Fourth Plane
Following the tumultuous years of adolescence, the years from 18 to 24 tend to be peaceful and stable ones, not unlike those from six to 12. At this time, the person is a "specialized explorer" ready to find her place in the world. Wise adult counsel, encouragement, and support are most needed by the individual during this last stage. These years are generally the university years where guidance might be sought be a college professor acting as a mentor. According to Montessori, "Education should continue through life.... The very function of the university is teaching to study.... A man or woman who studies at the university knows that it is necessary to study all one's life or study will lose all its value."