18 months, Montessori philosophy

Keeping it real

There are times when I have doubts or questions — about just about everything in life, including the Montessori method. But I’m learning as I go, and often I find I’ll stumble upon the answers to my questions just as soon as I’ve asked them.

Most recent example: the idea of realism and imagery in the Montessori philosophy.

I’d read that cartoon images are generally avoided because it’s important for young children to form their understanding of how the world really is. Fantasy can be introduced later, when their minds are ready to play with ideas. For now (under 6 years), it’s just the facts ma’am.

It makes sense. Really. But our culture is fairly steeped in the idea of fantasy for very young children. And any suggestion otherwise has hints of being too strict, or of limiting imagination and creativity.

Recently Jasper and I stayed at a hotel. When we woke in the morning, I turned the TV to a kid’s channel and let him watch a children’s channel while I packed up. A show about Jasper’s favourite thing in the world — dogs — came on. A cartoon show. As the dog-characters leaped onto the screen one after another, there was silence. Their goofy, creatively-interpreted, oddly-shaped cartoon bodies were completely unrecognizable to Jasper. It wasn’t till the last one, an obvious Husky, bounded into the picture that Jasper made his usual “oof-oof” sound signalling that he’d seen a dog.

I got it. Loud and clear. Those other things weren’t dogs, in his mind. But what if he’d never seen a dog before? Would he, with his absorbent little mind, think a dog was something boxy and brown with tiny little legs? Or that a pink assortment of clouds is what a poodle really looks like?

Come to think of it, there was nothing remotely beautiful or creatively-rich about this goofy, low-budget Saturday morning cartoon.

And the more I think of it, our real, natural world is the most beautiful creation I know of.