Idea of "education" becomes an "aid to life" - a natural process all children undertake spontaneously, guided through ever evolving stages of development.
Montessori had a profound respect for the child. She marveled at the constructive possibilities within the child, and hope for humankind that resided within each little person. She regarded children as fellow human beings, not as inferiors, and this freed her from the typical adult prejudices towards young children still commonly held today. Eventually, this open-minded and humble attitude allowed her to discover the true function of childhood in the development of the human being.
Marial Montessori says that, the child passes through certain phases, each of which has its own particular needs. The characteristics of each are so different that the passages from one phase to another have been described by certain psychologists as 'rebirths'. (Montessori, "The Four Planes of Education", p.1, reprinted in 2004).
Montessori termed the stages from birth to adulthood "The Four Planes of Development." These stages address the ways that personality, cognitive ability, and behavior change during each distinct phase. It is important that we fully understand this framework because it explains and justifies Montessori's idea of education as "an aid to life." Understanding the characteristics and needs of the child at each stage allows the adult to support the natural unfolding of life. The child becomes the active agent, and the adult the support.
Montessori's stages of development are grouped in six-year cycles – infancy/early childhood from birth to age six, childhood from ages six to 12, adolescence from 12-18, and early adulthood from 18-24.
Each plane starts anew, bringing forth a new set of characteristics, needs, and behaviors. As a plane reaches its peak, it begins to recede, making way for the beginning of the transition to the next stage.