A famous philosopher of the 17th century, John Locke, stated that a new-born baby is like a tabula rasa or clean slate, which takes on the imprint of everything the environment provides it. It is therefore the responsibility of the society to ensure that a naïve child grows into an informed adult.
This perspective, however, is only partially true. Recent research indicates the fact that a zygote from the moment of conception is aware of the external world through its connection with the mother. It hears, remembers, and creates patterns of functioning from the womb. This is a survival response, not one taught to the child by any adult, instead one that is simply imbibed. This continues after birth too.
Children are born with what Maria Montessori called the Absorbent Mind. When babies are born, they are each an entity of their own. As time passes, the children adapt to become individuals reflecting their time, place and culture. Along with adapting to the physical conditions, children also take in the spiritual ideas and customs of their group. Within the first six years of life, children take in everything that is present in their environment to create the best possible version of themselves. They create their mother tongue in its entirety. They begin to move and work like the adults around them.
Therefore, children who we consider to be weak and dependent on us for fulfilment of their needs, are on the contrary endowed with great power. When their basic needs are fulfilled adequately and spiritual needs are fostered by the community they form their own personality.
– by Ramya Sridhar, AMI Primary Montessori Trainer