Chapter 33 – Nostalgia

Chapter 33 – Nostalgia

NOSTALGIA

We all know the feeling, it is universal, it is the same regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, date of birth, economic status. It is a beautiful feeling, a quiet one, real tears can come to the eyes as we remember. What do we remember in this way? It is not the sad things, though they also linger, it is not the traumatic, though it has its effect also. It is special in itself and comes upon us often without notice. It makes us feel that things were better in the good old days, that the children of today simply do not know how things were, and are the worse off for it.

Nostalgia gives us a longing for the safety and security of childhood, especially for the earliest time of life when we were so completely dependent.   It is a warm feeling, so very comfortable, encompasses the whole being.   Familiar smells can bring this on, smells of the old neighborhood, maybe charcoal burning, maybe fresh-baked bread. Sometimes it is an odor we have not experienced for years, but suddenly we are back in time. Our eyes glaze and there we are!

Actual memory usually does not go back much beyond the age of three, but all the residuals are there. We tend to look back on our earlier years as preparatory, which they are, but we are glad to have outgrown them. Now the nostalgia comes over us and we know how basic they really were.

There are special places in our nostalgic memory, and they are real ones. As adults we think that children love best to be noisy and rough, but the places we remember in this way are always the quiet ones, the gentle breezes, the sunlight, the sweet music. We remember the sweet voices of our parents, not the scolding ones. We relive the closeness to our parents, their towering security. Trying to get the best of them is not the uppermost emotion.

The nostalgia of the school-age years is one of freedom, roaming the woods, making a treehouse to exclude the opposite sex, climbing to the top of a cherished hill, stopping a minute to look down. It is the old fishing hole where you got away from everyone and just communed with nature. It is imagining yourself on a magic carpet heading for the stars.

The nostalgia of the teenage years is one of friends and parties, the closeness of your special friend, dressing alike, talking alike, having your special clique of friends. After all, this is the age when you usually make lifelong friendships. You remember school mostly socially, the lovely girls, the handsome boys who courted each other. You will always remember your first love even though you may be very happy he is not the final one. You remember the songs at the football games. You especially have a soft spot for the music, music that you can never forget. Each song brings back a memory.

Then there is the nostalgia for home. Whether it was a shack or a palace it is the same. You think fondly of the kitchen stove, the green sofa, the cookies Mother used to make, the funny neighbor next door. Then there is the view from the window. If there was a mountain it was the loveliest mountain in the world. If it was a flat plain it gave you the chance to see far. If it was a tree-lined street you remember each tree individually.

Then there is the memory of the seasons, jumping into tall piles of yellow leaves in October, picking violets in spring, sloshing through the snow in winter. When you go back to look at these scenes everything seems so small. Then you remember how big you were when it all happened. Children know they are small in comparison with adults, but they feel that their actual size is a good one.     .

Nostalgia for the holidays brings tears to the eyes every time. If you have children you will be nearly forced to repeat the rituals of the old days when life was so lovely.

These memories make you feel as if the olden days were better, days when Grandma carried water from the well, when the crackling fire heated the house, although Grandma may have wished for more conveniences. Mother’s cooking was better than anything conjured up nowadays. You do not remember the adults as real people, but rather as forces in your life. You remember neighbors and friends, but your family members show you where you belong, who you are.

People who emigrate experience this to extreme, even though they may never wish to return home. They learn another language well, use it fluently, but the sound of the mother tongue has a special sweetness. As they get older the urge just to see the familiar places becomes quite strong. “Roots” we call it, and surely it is. In our childhood we lay down the roots, we build up the person we are, so it is right and proper to look back and see how we did it.

We did it by taking in the environment, whatever it was, imitating the people, whoever they were. You belonged to your family, whatever it was. Always there is the feeling that you belong to all of nature, especially the areas near home.

In the nostalgia there is no attempt to understand adults, only to use them for finding out how the world operates. You also know that the adults did not understand you, that you were in a world apart. Children ordinarily cannot see their parents as human beings until they are well past the teenage years.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 32 – Ascending Education

Chapter 32 – Ascending Education

ASCENDING EDUCATION

It is the nature of education to be “descending”. The older generation wishes to impart their knowledge to the young so that it will not be lost. They wish to use the young people to perpetuate the knowledge and wisdom of the people. But we, the older and the stronger, are also on the receiving end, difficult though it is to admit.

When the first child comes, the young couple are transformed into parents. They feel a tremendous responsibility to protect the newcomer and be patient with the intrusion. When the second child comes there is a kind of equality, with the third the parents are outnumbered. From the beginning the lifestyle is changed forever. The child gives ecstatic pleasure to the parents, and closeness such as they have not known before. Parents learn patience

Parents are keenly keyed to their own children, far more than anyone else could be. They jump when the baby cries, they are ecstatic when it laughs. The new babies call, awaking awarenesses they never had before. It is a new sort of knowing, most valuable, but it does set parents on the primrose path of thinking they always know best. It seems quite natural since one’s own parents always knew best, or said they did.

Parents set up a home, the cornerstone of any culture. They remember their own homes. They set into this home their hopes and ideals, based closely on their own past homes. Remember, these adults are the result of years of childhood work done long ago, not properly remembered. When the children come the home changes. They want stability so the parents want a house with a yard for the children (not the parents) to play in. It will probably have a lawn to be mowed (by the parents). At this point the young parents reevaluate their own childhoods, deciding which aspects they wish to pass on. Their own parents come in for much criticism now that they are examining their lives for the basic priorities. They begin to think of how much they owe to the children they once were.

MOTHERS:

A mother accepts her child before she knows who that child will be. Parenthood means learning to accept the unknown. Motherhood has the dual aspect of holding the child close while preparing it to move away. The child accepts the parent unconditionally, forgiving any and all lapses. The parents accept this angelic love. Thus the child teaches the parent the true meaning of love which consists of accepting others wholly and forgiving everything.

The small intruder is noisy, may not sleep all night. It will not be housebroken for nearly two years. It will be inarticulate for nearly that long. For months it cannot even sit up. Thus the parent learns to suffer inconveniences with joy, to put the needs of someone else ahead of one’s own.

The mother has had the child grow within her with all the closeness that implies. When it is born she must learn to share this closeness with the father.

FATHERS:

From the moment of birth the child grows toward the father and the father learns to accept this small creature as his own. Gritting his teeth, he makes the same demands that he once made on himself. The child teaches the father a greater sense of responsibility, as well as the difficulty of making demands on those he loves. For the father, generally more than the mother, the solitude and selfishness of the couple are broken by either procreation or adoption. The child interferes with his sleep as well as other habits.   The first son or daughter is the first intruder with whom he will have to cope.

The father also receives and learns better how to give unconditional love and complete forgiveness.

ELDER SIBLINGS:

With the birth of the second child the world is permanently changed. The new baby is there to stay. From now on there are two: two girls, two boys, a boy and a girl. The sex of one redefines the six of the other. This drama of the intruder on the undisputed realm of infancy is the most poignant the child will encounter, but as the family grows the eldest must deal with fresh arrivals. Every child in the family learns different lessons.

Thus each child teaches his or her older brothers and sisters a sense of tolerance, sharing and solidarity.

GRANDPARENTS:

It is a source of pride as well as a disconcerting experience to become a grandparent or to be married to one. Grandparents are given a second chance to enjoy parenthood with fewer of its tribulations. Their achievements are behind them. They have time to tell stories. Alliances with grandparents are reassuring. Children give them love and attention, and a tie with the future.

Grandparents have another lesson in letting go. They see how generations progress. Their sense of humor is heightened.

ALL OF US:

Children force all of us to reassess our values. They question us in very disarming ways. We are constrained to think carefully about our little lapses, our little foibles, in the light of their penetrating vision. We dare not be dishonest in front of them. We cannot bear to be caught in a lie. Children ask us disturbing questions about the world and force us to draw conclusions about things we would prefer not to consider. We dare not let them down.

Children make us more aware of our families. Our parents are now grandparents. Our dumb kid brother becomes our child’s honored uncle. They ask us about our own childhood, an we give them sanitized versions of it. They get us interested in our ancestry, our roots. Because of the children we look into the future with the idea of improving it for them

Children take us back in time to the days when the simplest meal tasted like ambrosia, the flowers smelled like heaven, and going fishing was something ecstatic. We go over these wonderful days, reassess them. We sort things out with the children and our own mental health is enhanced.

Sometimes it is a strain to be forced into respectability by these implacable children. We try to be paragons of virtue. If we let down our guard we see it in the eyes of adoring innocence. Even when they are grown they insist on our perfection. When we lapse they make excuses for us.

Children push us into the category of the all-knowing. If we are not careful we will not dare admit to them that there is anything we don’t know, that there is any subject on which we do not have a correct opinion. We need to have an answer to everything. We come forward with advice on any and all subject. It is a terrible trap into which most of us fall, and we can remember doing it to our own parents.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 31 – Schools

Chapter 31 – Schools

SCHOOLS

We have had schools for many centuries. Until recently they have been institutions for training scholars and leaders of society. It was not deemed necessary for a farmer to have such an education, nor a woman, for them it was a waste of time. They were needed for the work of the world. Since the time of the French and American Revolutions we have had the ideal of democracy which necessitates an enlightened electorate. It was recognized that it must be the children who would learn to read rather than the adults. The adults were too busy. Besides, the children could be forced to go to school, adults would never be able to stand it.

Schools all over the world begin at about the age of six, since that is the earliest age when children can be forced to sit still, pay attention to the teacher and follow directions. Without such cooperation they could not operate. Unfortunately, it is at a time when the period of greatest sensitivity for language has begun to fade, so that the process of learning to read is more difficult, particularly when they must sit still.

The forced inactivity is very difficult for children. Muscles almost scream to be exercised. It is much harder to control a pencil when you can’t move anything but one hand. Fear of punishment or shame beclouds the mind. Until very recently children were whipped at school. Teachers were proud of their ability to keep discipline. Nowadays corporal punishment is not permitted, much more movement is allowed, but still the teacher is in control of all activities since it is considered that their pupils would not work without the incentives of reward and punishment.

Without schools the percentage of literacy would no doubt be less, the amount of general information would be less. Now that jobs require schooling it is even more necessary to have them available, even compulsory. However, illiterate people are not stupid people. Unschooled farmers may not know much higher mathematics, but they are notably independent thinkers. They have much knowledge of the land and of the crops they grow. They are often extremely philosophic. They have excellent memories.

Most children do not like school. They look forward to recess, weekends, vacations. Since they are eager to learn, one wonders why.

Society values its children, but simply does not understand them. The kindergarten teachers, even though they know better, think of their charges as clean slates having recently arrived at the age when they can learn something. They also think of them as quite lazy, preferring to while away the time rather than study. They do not realize that children have a different kind of mind from adults, that they learn in a different way. The type of adult logical thinking is foreign to them. The idea that some things are more important than others is incomprehensible. The idea that some words or some ideas are easier than others has no meaning at all. So getting good grades in school becomes an exercise in pleasing the teacher. In our conversations we even speak of the teachers “giving” the grades rather than the students earning them.

The teaching of foreign languages is a good example. Everyone knows that they are learned easily by small children, the smaller the child the more easily. However, we begin the study of foreign languages in school at the age of twelve at the earliest. We teach it by giving lists of words to memorize and explaining the logic of the grammar, in other words, by a logical method. We could not possibly do this with small children so schools do not try. Small children learn by listening and deducing the grammar by noticing the various constructions. Very few adults are so adept.

We measure intelligence with IQ tests which measure very well the ability to do school work. If we were to measure them by the standards of child learning the adults would not come out so very well.

The usual classroom method is for the teacher to give an assignment, allot time for the student to study it, then devise a method of measuring whether the students have learned the lesson. Sometimes it is a term paper, a quiz, discussion time or direct questioning, but the students would ordinarily not study the lesson without fear of this. Their actions are constantly under the direction of the teacher, even the time allotted to each subject. Teachers know this, they try to make it palatable by making it seem like play, as that is what children are thought to prefer. The children like easy assignments since they are less stressful, even though they are capable of mastering much more difficult work.

Children are extremely sensitive about their learning. They are well aware of their dependence on adults for information, but they find it burdensome. Figuring out something by themselves gives joy, gives a feeling of elation, more than adults would feel in the same situation. Teenagers lose some of this sensitivity as they progress into the social and emotional world. Here they are most sensitive about human relations, and would resent classes giving information on how to fall in love.

Schools can never reform to meet the needs of children until adults realize the motivations of children and adapt to them. They will never reform until adults change their attitudes toward children. We are poles apart, adults and children, fearing each other, not daring to trust one another, in a state of antagonism. The children always lose. They spend the best years of their lives in thrall. By the time they are in the third grade they will no longer do school work without the threat of losing recess or the hope of pleasing their parents with good grades. Even universities find it necessary to give grades to the students. Not all graduate schools have been able to manage without them.

Teachers and schools are given great power over their charges. A teacher in graduate school can make or break the career of a future scientist. High schools can grant or withhold the diploma without which many avenues of work are closed. The Grade-Point-Average becomes a status symbol. Adult students really care about such things. Children only look at it as another adult anomaly that must be endured.

Preparatory schools as well as universities have reputations to uphold. Graduation from a prestigious school is an open door to much success.

It is interesting to observe some adults who have been educated by tutors at home. They are far less frightened of their lessons. Education is surely not exactly the same as schooling.   It is possible to finish any number of schools and be quite ignorant. All education, in the end, is self education. Schooling can be helpful, teachers can be inspiring, but in the end the student must do the work There is no substitute. Children know this in their hearts.

Children are in a dilemma. They are told that schooling is the path to success, that the good grades they get in the sixth grade will insure it. Most of them believe it and do the best they can, many do as little as possible to get the grades. They know how much their parents will be pleased.   To some it is all a big game.   Some lash out at fate, exhibit aggressive behavior at school. Others retire into themselves and stop caring. The honor students in high school are not usually the most popular. They are called “grinds” because you sacrifice your individuality to get on the honor roll. Colleges know this and require more than good grades for preferential entrance requirements. Some children become obsequious, doing everything they are told, never thinking for themselves. It is too painful.

Almost all adults have at least a few bitter memories of school injustices, denigrations by teachers. Schools do a lot of emotional damage. Those in charge of them mean well, they work hard, but they simply don’t understand.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 30 – The Rights of Children

Chapter 30 – The Rights of Children

THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

Adults have lots of rights and we encourage each other to insist upon them. We admire those who are willing to suffer in order that they may endure. Do we want children to do this? Today we see freedom of speech as paramount. Do we allow it to children? We applaud when we see freedom of assembly, freedom of religion wrested from repressive governments. We hate seeing punishments without due process of law, except for the children. We feel we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Children should not interfere with it.

When adults pursue happiness it is usually in terms of self-expression, of an ongoing career, social action of some sort, goals where we change the world just a little, hopefully for the better, at least to make it known that we are here. We order, we organize, we build, we dream, we create, we make a difference.

Children are the other pole of humanity. What are their rights? How do they pursue happiness? They know it in themselves, but they cannot say it to the giants who are their loving caretakers. We know they need protection. We know they need love, and we have it for them in abundance. We know they need emotional security, but this we do not understand. Their emotions are the same as ours, but they get emotional about different things, things that seem to them like rights. Sometimes we drive them up the wall as they do us. What are the rights of children?

They have the right to adequate food, clothing and shelter.

They have a right to all the knowledge in the world, but they must work to get it. They have the right to become concert musicians, artists, Olympic champions, but they must work for the abilities. Their greatest right, the one they insist upon the most loudly, the one that drives adults the most wild, is the right to work on what seems right to them at the moment.

They have the right to be part of the family. They resent being thrust into the corner away from everything to “play”. It makes them feel that the adults are the important people while they are merely ornamental. Adults tend to feel that children live a life of paradise where they do not need to work. It is interesting to ask a child of eight or nine years his opinion of a parent. The first reaction is one of love, then as a close second will appear a list of what the parent will “allow” the child to do.

The work of a child is to build up a human being. It takes many sensorial impressions, a complete language, finding out how to be an American, how to be a friend, what is everything made of, what am I capable of, what is going on around here, what people expect me to do. The amount of physical and mental work required is awesome. They attack it with gusto.

Children are partially realistic about their rights. They know very early their need for protection against their own excesses. They scream against fate when they fall down or are not allowed to chew the electric wires, but they do not hold these things against us personally unless we make it personal. Sometimes we tell them they are “bad” when they touch something.

Children have the right to be underfoot, and they do insist upon it. They do not have the right to horn in, but they think they do. They have the right to watch all but our   most intimate activities, to listen to the ways we express ourselves, our banter with family and friends. Often we feel they want us to cater to them, but they really want to use us as patterns. They need lots of time to see many adults in many situations. How else are they going to fit in?

Children have the right to be heard. They have the right to know when, how, and how often. If it isn’t explained to them they can be most unrealistic, monopolizing the conversation, especially if they feel neglected. They are learning to put sentences together and need practice, even if they don’t have much to say. As you listen it will take you back and you will realize a little of what they are up against.

Children have the right to make mistakes. After all, Thomas Edison had several thousand failures before he came up with the electric light bulb. Some people thought him a idiot for his perseverance, but no one scolded him for doing it wrong.

Children have the right to respect. If adults spoke to their friends as they speak to children, they would have fewer friends.

Children have the right to be part of the family, not just houseguests for a few years. Tell them all about your childhood, about your parents and grandparents. It is, of course, permissible to give them a sanitized version. They need to orient themselves, to know where they belong, where they should fit in. They are working to become native Americans, native speakers of English. It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of it, to know all the little nuances. They need to know all the norms before they can appreciate the differences.

Children have the right to move freely in a protected environment, scope enough to learn to handle everything in the home. This, of course, needs to come gradually, and children realize this even as they regret it. By the time they are twelve years old they should be able to be left in charge in case of an emergency. This includes cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, simple home repairs. Children feel good about themselves when they feel power over their bodies and over their immediate environment. When they avoid chores it usually means that they have mastered that one and would like to go on to greater responsibilities. They don’t see repetitive activity as discipline.

Children have the right to get in a little trouble that is not life-threatening. No one should have to be “good” at all times. How can you keep out of trouble if you don’t approach the edges of it with caution?

Children have a right to your philosophy of life. Tell them your ideals, your aspirations, your relationship with the cosmos.   It is part of belonging. They probably will not agree with all this later on, but they need to know it so they can use it as a jumping-off place. One small boy was heard to say, “Mother, are we Christians or Presbyterians?”

Children think of these things as rights because Nature is prodding them along. They have only twenty years to build a proper adult, and they have no time to waste. There is a lot that goes into a proper human being, it is not done haphazardly. There is an inner guide taking forms inscrutable to most adults. Mind and body must be exercised, one thing at a time, in proper order. There are thousands of words to learn and to use, one at a time. No other creature takes this long, no other creature has so much to do, no other creature is so adaptable or so creative.

Through the centuries society has not regarded the child as having rights. Nowadays it is presumed that they have a right to life. As far as the state is concerned anyone can become a parent, no license is required. From earliest times the state has washed its hands of children. Now we set up schools which keep them apart from adults. Children remain as beings apart from society.   They are victims without anyone being aware of it.

Today most countries have laws against child labor, but these are widely flouted. School is supposed to help them reach their potential, but in actuality the studies are forced upon them. The school assignments are tedius and exhausting. Society is mainly concerned that the children should learn their lessons quickly so as to save time and money, and be ready for productive jobs as soon as possible.

The State now concerns itself with child health. Actually there is a branch of medicine, pediatrics, specializing in it. Children are inoculated against many diseases which in former times were devastating to them. This is a giant step forward.

Corporal punishment is outlawed in most schools today, but very recently has this been the case. In all schools there is some system of punishment agreed to by parents. In every country children are punished at home in some way. Rough manners, harsh voices, threats are usual behavior towards a child. It seems natural that the adult should have the right to beat or slap a child, whereas such behavior toward another adult would make one call the police.

Parents know these things. They hate to subject the children to all the social customs, but they feel they must. So society abandons the child to the care of his family regardless of the ability of the family to care for him. The family gives up the child to society which shuts him up in school, isolating him from everyone, this child whose greatest need is to be included. Here the child cannot go home until the bell rings, cannot move about or talk to his friends. If he helps a classmate with the work it is considered cheating. All of us appear helpless, and the rights of children are still not recognized.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 29 – Freedom

Chapter 29 – Freedom

FREEDOM

Parents struggle with this idea constantly. How much freedom should we allow? In the case of a newborn baby there is not much to worry about, though in the early 1900’s the scientists had decided that babies should be fed every four hours on the dot. Babies who cried at other times were not to be indulged, certainly not fed.

Actually freedom is an acquisition, not a gift. I have not real freedom to drive a car in the city without knowing the rules and agreeing to them, even though some indulgent friend may have given me the keys to his car. If I insist upon driving, someone who knows better should stop me.

If I have not studied the law of gravity and step off a high cliff there is a price to pay. It is not punishment because it is not personal, but I will remember the experience and attempt to avoid it. I need to operate within the laws of the physical universe whether I know them or not. They restrict my freedom of action quite a bit. The more laws that I know the greater is my freedom, provided that I am willing and able to obey them. Knowledge is power, they say.

To have proper freedom in my society I need to know its customs, its protocol, its standards. I need not agree with them, but I must recognize them and operate within their boundaries.

Children begin at home, finding out the boundaries, the customs and the protocol. In addition, they find where everything is, what it is used for, how it is reached and all the rules for its use. Only then is freedom attainable. Parents help tremendously by under-standing the problem.

An Eskimo child learns the names of seventeen kinds of snow and finds it interesting without realizing that eventually this knowledge will come in handy.   I do not know any of these and am unlikely to ever know them, inasmuch as I seldom see snow of any sort.   The question occurs as to whether, if I wanted to, I could learn this sort of thing. Even if it were possible, what would need to happen before I would be interested? Would I need to go to the Arctic or could I do it alone? How much power do I have over my own motivations? How much freedom do I have from myself or for myself?

Children seem to have an overpowering urge from the very beginning to become independent. They have so very little independence when they first get here that every little conquest is important, even to holding up one’s head. The mind is so important that every action awaits its will. They watch carefully every hand movement they see as if they knew they could imitate it. When the time comes to move about they delight in every conquest of the bodily movements required. When the time comes to handle things they rejoice in every bit of hand control they can manage. Monumental efforts are made to feed themselves and dress themselves. When they can manage to know where everything is at home it becomes a thrill to find things and put them away. Older children leap about over rocks with a true sense of accomplishment. What a sense of power they have, these small explorers!

I know of a small girl two years old who sat at the side of a pool watching her family swim. After a time she felt she had the movements well in mind and dived in. When someone rescued her she was furious, she was so sure she could do it.

The children need help in this struggle, but not too much of it. It is of great help if an adult will demonstrate the movements slowly. The deft hands of the adult can be difficult to follow with any exactitude. Even opening and closing a door can be difficult if you see it done too quickly. It is of great help to be surrounded by order so that the child may internalize it. This order should be consistent. It should reflect the standards and beliefs of the parents. Children may reject some of this when they are older, but they will admire the parent who holds fast to the standards.

Children will work ferociously to climb the stairs, even with very short legs. They will then experience a glow of satisfaction and go on to something else. Climbing the stairs will become commonplace. This process goes on and on – the acquisition of more control and the subsequent loss of interest. The obsession for independence goes on unabated to newer and greater heights.

Since we live in a society we are never completely independent of others. Children do not ask for this, they want to know how society operates so that they may behave in it with some sort of autonomy. They want to know the rules of the road. They want to fit in. They want to know what their own powers are.

Power over one’s body can reach great heights as we can see from observation of the athletes of today who actually exceed those of yesterday. Those with the greatest powers have usually taken a great interest in childhood and have not lost it. Every conquest over every muscle movement is treasured. What a feeling of freedom!

It is well known that the child who is adept with his body, particularly with his hands, has better behavior than the clumsy one.

Power over one’s emotions has a place here. Teenagers will look for dangerous situations in order to test their ability to conquer fear and anxiety. Even small children know how to grit their teeth in the face of adversity. When we know how to face ourselves down we experience great joy. Here is true freedom. Great literature abounds with stories of those otherwise great people who allow themselves to be enslaved by their own feelings of jealousy, ambition, fear or even hope. .

If you do not know what you want there is no freedom. Children need practice in making choices. They love to set goals for themselves. When you set your own goal and attain it there is a feeling of glory that will never leave you. A large number of these experiences gives a type of confidence which makes for happiness indeed. You feel truly good about yourself. With children this feeling comes often as they struggle so hard, and with it comes a relaxation that is beautiful to see. After such an experience children will exhibit every virtue known to man.

Power over our own motivation eludes most of us, but not all of us. In order to accomplish anything we need to have a reason for it, a reason that makes sense to us.

Children as well as adults can “turn off” and “tune out.” Those not interested in history find it very dry and cannot learn it. They will pass tests and forget everything in a day or two. Those not interested in music can take lessons for years without progress. Those who love it will learn rapidly. Teachers know this and make an effort to spark the interest.

As we progress through the periods of childhood our motivation changes. The power of the infantile mind focuses sharply on one thing after another. If you tell a small child that a bird has three eyelids, he will look at you, take it in and go on. If you ask him to feel your new velvet dress his eyes will shine with delight. If you tell an adult that a bird has three eyelids he will look at you and think that it is something he can live without knowing. The child of ten will react with eagerness and bombard you with questions as to all the details. Yes, our interests change. Is there any control here, any freedom?   Can we turn our interests off and on? Probably we can.

Children learn by taking it in and sorting it out later. They are like sponges. They are also at the mercy of their society, of their surroundings, of their parents. They can learn at unbelievable speed when they let themselves go. The power of the mind of the child needs much more study. When in operates unimpeded it is a pleasure to watch.

Freedom to do as you please is not the same as freedom to do the things you really want to do. Children are quite ready to discuss this problem and to cooperate. They well know the difference. The feeling of knowing what you really want is quite unmistakable. There is power in it.

A child absorbed in gaining some sort of power over himself or herself will show you the finest of the human virtues and none of the aberrations. They are so proud and happy to attain this sort of freedom that the only emotion left for other people is pure gratitude, an outpouring of love for all of the cosmos that is handy, beginning with parents. We have all seen this phenomenon. The child gets a rather stupid look on his face at first, then a burst of attention and repetition of some activity. The concentration is so strong that he seems oblivious to other things. It sometimes is fleeting, sometimes will last for an hour or more. All adults should look for it and honor it. Give the child a knowing look.

Can we recapture this? Probably we can if we watch carefully enough. Certainly when we have children some of it is remembered. Many people are able to relive it to some extent. This is one of the joys children bring to their parents.

There are adults who can learn a foreign language just as quickly as a child, even if they never attain the perfect pronunciation. There are adults who learn to draw when they are well over fifty. These adults have power over their own motivation, their level of interest and concentration. They can turn concentration on and off at will. They can relax and “take it in” as children do.   They can decide what to think about.   It also requires an intense interest and the ability to maintain it through the inevitable work that is required.

Nature gives children these interests, but they fade. My interest in snow faded long ago as my environment does not include it. We talk of sparking interest as if interest were a flame to be ignited by something from the outside. It usually is. Adults can date their great interests from childhood, from an inspiring adult, an inspiring book, or an inspiring experience that somehow took hold. They remember when it happened, but it is hard to understand how.

All the religions of the world stress the importance of gaining control of the body and of the mind. This is probably the purpose of education. Certainly it absorbs children everywhere.

Adults who live with children are privileged. These are the two poles of humanity looking at one another and gaining insight from one another.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 28 – Imagination

Chapter 28 – Imagination

IMAGINATION

Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to
the west and south. It is not on any map, true places never are.
-Herman Melville

Children seem to be afire with this wonderful faculty. Where would any of us be without it? Everything invented by man is a product of someone’s imagination. This is not only in the arts. Every object in your home existed first in the mind of someone in the past, sometimes in the very far past. When we cook, wash and tidy up we are touching bases with many of them. We do not even know the inventors of knives and forks. How did they come to be?

Putting two and two together is always fascinating. We begin doing this at birth, we sort out things, organize them into categories. We look about, listen, feel everything, taste what we can, then make a mental image of everything there is. We put the world, so to speak, into our minds, then manipulate it all. Our minds can visualize everything we have ever seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched. When we have it all straight (we hope) we go through the interesting mental activity of rearranging things. When you know what the word “shoe” means, that it is not limited to any one shoe, then you can imagine shoes on giraffes, tiny shoes for your fingers, and so on. You can even find the shape of one in the clouds. There is no end to it.

Children actually engage in this activity more than adults who are busy with the workaday world. Anyway, the adults are sure of what is real and what is in the mind, and have a little control of what goes on in the mind.   Control of the mental processes takes many years, and some of us never make it.

Children are busy every waking hour observing and jumping to conclusions, forming ideas as well as rearranging them to suit themselves. Emotions become tied up with the ideas, making it all the more complicated. We even “see” with our ideas, so that in the case of an accident eyewitnesses will differ on details. Children from the same home will differ in a great many notions. When new observations are made the old notions are so upset that we even tend to resent it. Galileo was even persecuted for disproving the fixed ideas. We form our ideas early in life and cling to them for “dear life”. The model we make of the world is indeed a world of images.

The life of Helen Keller is an inspiration to us all. Her moment of freedom came when her teacher began spelling words into her hand, for at that time she learned that everything had a name. As she grew older, without sight or hearing, she went to the seashore, tasted and felt the water, and imagined the vast expanse of the sea. Even with our senses intact we can see and hear only a fraction of the sea, and must imagine the rest. Most of us have never been to Antarctica, but we have a vivid imagination of it. based on pictures and stories.

Our bodies are geared to do many things that do not require our attention, such as digesting food, breathing, thinking. Our attention is freed up for all the sensations coming in. The eyes are closed only in sleep, the ears we cannot even close, our skin feels all sorts of things such as warmth, air pressure, textures, weight, breezes. Every day of our lives we are bombarded with sensations and we remember in some way every single one of them. They do not come singly to be analyzed, but all bunched up. The things we take for granted are those we have words for to keep them in mind. Someone had to be on hand to give us the words. Many, for which we have no words, we do not think about or even recognize. When we sort out the chaos the words are a cross-reference, as it were. Through them we build up ideas about things.

It is fascinating as well as alarming to watch our children build ideas. Probably the bulk of the work is in place by the time they are seven or eight. They get words from us all day long. Thinking goes on constantly. Present reality gets mixed up with past experience as well as a little wishful thinking.

Children enjoy model cars and model houses. A model car will have wheels, chassis, steering wheel, fenders – the essentials to get the imagination going. There is, of course, no engine, no battery, no exhaust pipe. Children can project their own experiences of cars into the manipulation of this piece of plastic or metal even though the size is unrealistic. They need not know about the inner workings of brakes or transmissions at all. They certainly know these small cars are not real, this at a very early age. This, in itself, shows powerful mental maneuvering.

It is interesting to watch children work with maps. It is not difficult for them to imagine the globe as a model of the earth or the ocean as a great mass of water. Then they see the map of the United States noting, among others, the state of Mississippi. The sound trips well on the tongue so it becomes a favorite. It is an attractive shade of blue and a unique shape which registers on the eyes. The child now “knows” about Mississippi. The next time he hears about Uncle Jim travelling there his ears will prick up with recognition of the name. Next he may hear about the great river, see pictures of it. Then will come words about battles fought there in the past. A basic picture is now in place about Mississippi ready for filling in of more details. This is imaginary Mississippi. Each of us has one, some with more relation to reality than others.

Imagination takes off for the wild places after the age of six, especially when the child has lots of words on which to build, lots of experiences.   Now there is enough basis to imagine Leif Ericson at the prow of the Viking ship getting his first glimpse of America. A child sees himself or herself at his side and can almost feel the wind and the waves. Such children lie in bed listening for the hoofbeats of Paul Revere. They also imagine dragons under the bed and need a nightlight. These older children cringe at getting shots in the clinic whereas the three-year-old marched right up.

There is much controversy over fairy tales, witches, ogres, and even Santa Claus. Children can be afraid of witches even though they have never seen one and know they are not real. Santa Claus is a symbol. He represents something inside of us that delights in giving, in surprising. It takes a lot of experience to feel symbols, that they are just as real as reality itself. Sometime between the ages of six and twelve we come to grips with Santa. Sometimes imagination and reality interweave. We need Santa Claus.

School-age children are strongly addicted to wonder and imagination. Through it they are propelled into the world of facts, every one of which sets them off on fantastic journeys. Space travel leads to the science fiction tales as well as the magic carpets of the Arabian Nights. Teenagers imagine the perfect date, the perfect friend. They also imagine the perfect mouse trap. From these minds come the most wonderful inventions known to man.

Imagination needs the real world as an airstrip from which to take off.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 27 – Always Underfoot

Chapter 27 – Always Underfoot

ALWAYS UNDERFOOT

When the new child comes into our lives we immediately adore it but we soon find that it is not an unmixed blessing. It interferes with our orderly lives. It cries in the middle of the night, it is messy and smelly. Most of all, it wants to be always underfoot. We never have a minute to ourselves for years.

The child is not only dependent upon us, it loves us as much or more than our parents loved us, this from the moment of birth. The child also venerates the parent because from the parent comes all the wisdom to guide the new life. The child wants to be with the parent every minute. Even a small baby will wail when separated from us. Even when it goes to bed it wants to do so in the company of someone it loves. The parent thinks, “This must stop. My child will be spoiled.” The child is indeed crying for attention, but for the attention it desperately needs in order to find out about the world.

Parents are in some ways afraid of the children, especially when they have more than two and are outnumbered. They are afraid of losing authority, afraid of any unsocial behavior, particularly afraid that they may not give proper leadership. In that case they feel sure that the children will grow up with bad character. They feel they must carefully watch for every lapse and correct it, or all will be lost.

However, children are not wax for you to mold. The mistake is the identity of the molder. The child must shape his own character, no one can do it for him. The best way for you to help is to be yourself, not worry, and allow them to be underfoot as much as you can stand. They really do not want to walk all over you, they just want to be in on everything. They don’t want to go play with their toys in a playroom, they want to see how dinner is made, how hammers and nails work, how far the toilet paper will unroll. They want to see how you do everything. When you sit quietly there is not much to watch so they climb all over you, it feels so very good.

When you try to get a minute to yourself the children are sad, and don’t know exactly what to do. This underfoot desire is built in by nature, cannot be denied, and when you stifle it they have very odd feelings which you don’t really understand. It is not rejection as you know it, but resentment against fate. It is inconceivable that you should not want them around. They don’t know how to handle it. Behavior at these times can become obnoxious. You then think only of the obnoxious behavior which you feel obligated to do something about, and trouble sets in.

The children listen to every word you speak, copy every little intonation, every little gesture. Frightening, isn’t it?   When they seem to be wandering about they still hear and see everything. When neighbors comes in they imitate them. Sometimes they practice some word you would rather they not use, but this soon passes when another neighbor arrives. You can discuss these things, but you cannot stop them.

When you are busy, harried, tired it is hard to remember all this, but it is good for you. You are forced to look at things as they really are instead of how you are told that they should be.

Even teenagers resent being left out, though they have learned by this time to be more considerate of your feelings. They will come in on Saturday morning when you would rather sleep and ask, “What are we going to do today?” The emphasis is on “we”, they feel so much a part of you. However, they are also easily alienated in these years if you feel that they are a nuisance. Defensive behavior takes a different form, but you need to recognize it. Teenagers are dealing with social and emotional issues, so these are the areas they watch most closely. They want to talk about them ad nauseum.

Children are far more mentally and emotionally profound than is generally supposed. They think about such things as life and death as much as you do, with not much less knowledge. They dream, they imagine. just as much as you do. To keep going they need to amass facts and words as fast as possible. Especially they need to know all the nuances of social behavior, what every gesture means, what a rise in voice means, how to tell how people feel, and without watching it is quite impossible.

One of the hardest parts of enduring this underfootness is the fact that you must always be on your best behavior. You can’t use bad language, you can’t burst into tears, you can’t do anything wrong! It is a strain. It may be a comfort to know that children see through you and forgive little lapses. They have watched you from birth so are pretty much aware of your peccadillos, even though they don’t understand them. By the time they are four or five they take most of your behavior for granted. They know how to get your attention and they know what to say and do to keep you from giving them a hard time.

Children watch you so carefully for clues to the world that they think of you as part of the environment to be absorbed, to be used for their purposes of finding our everything. They believe everything you say. They want to know everything about you, your own childhood, where you lived, what you did, how you felt, what your parents were like, how you learned to swim. They are building adults, and they want to know how you did it.

We are concerned today with the idea of self-worth. Children whose parents find them a nuisance will not feel they are worth very much, no matter what you say. It is necessary to have them participate in our lives, necessary for us as well as for them. They cannot learn well if they do not see how things are done (in great detail), just as they cannot learn to talk naturally if they are deaf. To allow children to be underfoot is difficult, but it is not as expensive as buying them toys to keep them occupied.

We enjoy our children much more if we have some idea of how their minds work.     Try to watch them in the way they watch you. You will be less likely to scold and punish. Adults who have never noticed the real needs of children have indeed missed something. Some day they will be grown, no longer underfoot and you will miss it.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 26 – Tell me a Story!

Chapter 26 – Tell me a Story!

TELL ME A STORY!

You hear this from every child who can talk. You answer, “Once upon a time….” The fascination never leaves, no matter how old we are. Children listen with rapt attention from the age of six months. Telling it is better than reading it, you can look the storyteller in the eye. The advantage of reading it is that the words are exactly the same every time.

When you are under six and soaking up everything like a sponge you want perfect repetition with even the intonations unchanged. You want to expect what is going to happen, and you want to feel the glow of the words. Adults love the flow of words, but they do want the stories to vary. “I’ve heard that one before” squelches the teller only if you are an adult. Somewhere in the growth process there is a changeover.

The story is probably the most universal of all literary forms. You find it in every society, no matter how isolated, and as far back in history as we can know. Preliterate societies trained their storytellers as experts. They were able to retain the memory of the small child, and were highly respected. Through them history was preserved with extreme precision, genealogies were kept up to date, knowledge of farming or herding kept most specifically. They travelled about, spreading the knowledge, spreading the stories. Some stories, like Cinderella, are known in various versions all over the world.

Some stories are true, some could be true, some are impossible, many are like dreams. We love them all. Children probably dream at a very early age, so have experience in dealing with unreality. They seem to handle it quite well, they are not fazed by the Three Bears though they have possibly never seen a bear. Goldilocks goes walking into the woods not knowing what she will find just as they do every day of their lives.

The Brothers Grimm were researching grammar when they compiled their wonderful stories. They went into the small villages where lived the illiterates who have the fine memories. There they found stories that go back undoubtedly to the Old Stone Age. The dragons may very well have been the last of the lone dinosaurs. When we hear and tell these stories we touch our past in some mysterious way. It is not surprising that they appeal to children.

Adults do not tell each other stories of this type. They are reserved for children, passed on by the children who remember them exactly, grow up and repeat them to other children. They embody the lore of our society. The childhood fear of abandonment is there in Hansel and Gretel. The fear of facing a stepmother is there in Cinderella. Such stories are probably helpful since they force children to face their fears. After all, they all live happily ever afterward, don’t they?

This sort of folklore personifies all human emotions, and children know all human emotions by the time they are two years, with the possible exception of sex. They can identify with Jack as he climbs the beanstalk and outwits the giant. They love to hear about the youngest child in the family, the one who is called a simpleton, turn out the most successful. One loves to think of having a Fairy Godmother on hand to fulfill all your dreams.

The repetitive stories such as Henny Penny are probably some of the oldest. The rhythm of the words preserves them intact. Children love them the most at the time they are constructing language. The sound of the words is as important as any of the events.

Children love the true stories, stories of your childhood, of their own earlier days, stories of their grandparents, stories of your own youthful adventures. Parents should tell these, enhance them if you wish. Stories should not lose in the telling of them. The spirit is always there even if every fact is not completely accurate. The stories reflect your own hopes and dreams which the children are so eager to know. They need them in order to build their own.

There is much good modern literature for children today, a trip to the library can put you in touch. Look for the Newbery Prize books. Choose stories which are well written, where the words trip of the tongue like music. When the ears are so sensitive there is no place for trashy literature.

After listening to a good number of stories the children look for the familiar format, the “once upon a time” beginning, the situation, the conflict, the climax and the moral. Adult stories do not need a happy ending, but they keep the other things quite well.

Children love to make up their own stories. They tell them to anyone who will listen, even the dog. Adults should listen with delight if they possibly can. You can learn much about you child from this. Write them down and let the children read them later.

Stories from Greek and Roman mythology are important for the understanding of much modern literature. These stories and probably not suitable for children under seven or eight. Before that they don’t want the gods to be squabbling over Troy. These are very powerful stories and should not be omitted from childhood experience. To hear the mythological stories of any culture is to have a glimpse into its very soul.

Teenagers and preteens love adventure stories, stories where they can identify with both male and female heroes who go through harrowing experiences to save their families or their country in time of danger, stories of victory over the forces of nature, storms at sea. For these children do not forget biography, the life stories of noble people to emulate. We all like to think of ourselves as heroes, so let’s hear how it is done.

Stories put us in touch with the depths of human experience, those things we cannot possibly put into words.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 25 – The Sense of Beauty

Chapter 25 – The Sense of Beauty

THE SENSE OF BEAUTY

It does not require deep logic to appreciate beauty. The mentality of children is well suited to it, and adults have no greater sense of beauty than they do. In fact, it is an area of life where true sharing is possible. Children at a very early age know about beauty. If you ask them whether a person or an object is beautiful, they will answer immediately, without stopping to think about it. They exhibit remarkable consistency, even cross-culturally, on what is and what is not beautiful. How do they know? How do we know? We would all agree that there is great beauty in a smiling face, one of the first beauties felt by a child.

For something to be beautiful it must possess some sort of rhythm which we can echo in our own internal rhythms. When we look at something symmetrical our eyes move in rhythm. Artists know this. They compose their pictures and statues with lines that the eye can follow gracefully. Light and sound have wave structure, as we learn in physics. Certain wave lengths resonate with some of the hundreds of inner rhythms in our bodies that we don’t even know about.

For an idea to seem beautiful it must echo some impressions that we remember, even those that we do not quite remember. Impressions themselves begin at birth. Sounds, sights, colors, forms, textures attract the interest of the baby and are stored in memory, thousands upon thousands of them in a very short time. The great work of discriminating them begins immediately and goes on and on. We use these impressions to form concepts. Names help, but even if we do not remember them the impressions are there.

If we have seen many trees, pictures of trees, have heard the word “tree” we know a new one when we see it. We can look at a landscape painting, then, and it will resonate with all those we have seen or thought about.

Only about twenty percent of us can hear separately each instrument of an orchestra. These fortunate ones have learned to do it before they were three or four years old. They usually cannot understand why the rest of us find it so difficult. Knowing the names of the instruments actually enhances the sense of beauty. Some of us see more gradations of color than others, those who have known the words and thought about it in the early years, usually before the age of three.

Children have a great affinity for all of nature that they have ever seen. When they see something new all the memories crowd in, including the memory of the name if someone tells them what it is.. However, nothing we see is ever truly the same, even the next day, since the children themselves change so rapidly. Other impressions have been booming away in the meantime. They hurriedly put two and two together forming ideas, then ideals of beauty. When we have seen hundreds of horses and pictures of horses we build up in our minds an ideal horse. Then the closer the picture is to our ideal the more beautiful it seems to be.

I think we would all agree that the stars in the sky are beautiful. Most people, when asked why, will tell you of the great sizes and distances of the stars and the insignificance of the earth. However, before the days of Kepler the stars were beautiful, we need no astronomical facts to make them so. Each star is an impression, their great numbers are baffling, the space that surrounds them goes on and on. The darkness of space contrasts with the brightness of the stars. Interest in astronomical facts is based directly on the beauty experience we have had.

If a thing is to be beautiful we must bring to it some sort of emotion, some memory, some imagination. It must be something that reminds us of a shape or color we have seen before, and we respond by seeing it in a new way. Something quivers inside.

When you need to look at an object such as a door or a window the eyes must look both forward and sideways. It helps if the object has a balanced shape, especially side to side balance. We tend to give it balance in our inner eye which always seeks to humanize nature a bit. We look at the outlines of objects before we pay much attention to their insides. We check a bit to see how the outline looks to see if it resembles a form we have seen before. We are always looking to see the symmetry in things.

We are always reforming the visible forms we see into mental images until we have a replica of the world in our minds. These images can be imaginary situations, extravagant adventures, exaggerated fears and joys, bears under the bed, dolls that can speak, magic carpets on which we can fly through the air. Things seem beautiful as they give us a little help in this. Children need to see that these experiences are shared with all human beings, even adults. That very thought is beautiful.

All the workings of the brain are exciting to children. After all, their brains are actually growing as they experience. This we cannot share, but can appreciate. Sometimes these brain journeys will come up with an inward vision that they do not expect. Sights seem beautiful as they fit our inward vision, and sometimes the beautiful things clear up something inward that was a little blurry.

Geometrical forms are a result of this. They exist only in our minds. We never see a perfect circle or square in nature, yet by the age of two we know what they are, especially if someone has told us the name. There are a myriad of things which are nearly circular, hundreds of them are squarish. Straight lines are beautiful to think about. They go on and on until you can never see where they go. They get tiresome. In our minds we tend to make curves in them.

We seem always to seek the oneness of things, just now we want to find a unified field theory of physics. We will settle for something symmetrical, something beautiful. After all, physicists are human too, and children constructed their mentality.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 24 – The Tumultuous Teens

Chapter 24 – The Tumultuous Teens

THE TUMULTUOUS TEENS

There is probably no age more completely understood than this one, even though every adult can vividly remember it. There is no age more important in laying the foundation for life. It is an exciting time in which to live, a painful time as well. The modern high school simply has no way to meet the needs of these very important people.

If you are fourteen years old you have lost interest long ago in examining every little fluff of dust, you couldn’t care less about trivial bits of knowledge that used to be such a great fascination. You don’t carry about worms in your pocket. You don’t hate baths any more. Rather, you wash your hair every day, preen in front of the mirror, worry about what others think of your clothes. Your body is changing rapidly, your voice deepens, body hair emerges, and you must cope with it. Members of the opposite sex view you quite differently than before. Many things embarass you which never did before. You become devastated by the terribly injustices you see in the world and you want to rectify them. You do not see your parents yet as people, you still want them to be role models, but the flaws in their characters begin to appear, and you find this horrifying.

In some societies the age of thirteen or fourteen is the time of initiation into adulthood, the age of marriage for girls, of apprenticeship for boys.   In our society it is high school where such people are supposed to sit still and listen to the teacher, where no real job training is offered, where every hour you must go to a different class, where it is more important to be popular than to get good grades, where teachers still expect you to be subservient. You are still told what to do and you find it intolerable.

In actual fact some mathematicians have done their finest work at this age. The greatest chess champions are nearly at their peak of performance. Great musicians, great dancers are well on their way.   Artists come into their own quite early. In fact, for many of the arts it is necessary to begin quite young. Gymnasts and other sports enthusiasts are quite capable. They condition their bodies in the earliest years, gather knowledge in the school-age years, are ready to go in adolescence. If they were adults they would be worrying about marriage, mortgages, money and the like.

Yes, adolescence has its place in life, the importance of which is underestimated. Society needs their energy. Mainly the troublesome part is emphasized, the part that is troublesome to the adult who simply is not ready, who doesn’t seem to understand at all.

If children are encouraged to learn with their hands their hands will be extremely capable in these years, their art will be outstanding, they will be mechanically astute, able to help uncle Ed fix the car. They will want to be in on everything still, but in a different way. Most adults find them tiresome, the occasional adult who listens becomes truly inspiring.

Teenagers are forming a philosophy of life, built on former experiences, but looking forward to the future, a future their parents never seem able to foresee. How could they possibly?

Teenagers are practical. They want to know about the world of jobs, the place of money in life, how to earn it, how to spend it. They love the outdoors, glory in expeditions into the wilderness.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 23 – The Reality of toys

Chapter 23 – The Reality of toys

THE REALITY OF TOYS

Toys are a billion-dollar business, the source of many jobs and many fortunes, entirely dependent on children, what they are really like and what adults think they are like, also on what adults are really like. They are sold by adults to other adults, after all. They are carefully researched. Appeal must be made to the parent who pays as well as to the child who plays. Advertising is very competitive, so that only the truly effective is ever seen. Always there is the dream of creating another hula hoop or Ninja Turtle.

Toymakers invite children to see the toys, and then they watch which ones the children choose. They think because children squeal with delight over some colorful toy that they will enjoy it. We are also drawn to things with color and speed and noise, but that does not mean that we want to live with them. Children are also not the happiest when they are overstimulated.

When we buy something, we run up against the idea of possession, which is not the same for an adult as it is for a child. Possession involves personal rights and duties. If you possess something, you must pay for it, then put it somewhere, dust it,clean it, oil it, fix it, and eventually throw it away. You may enjoy looking at it, riding in it, manipulating it, living with it. Ownership also gives you the right to prevent anyone else from enjoying it.

Children look at possession differently. First of all, they have not earned the money to buy it, so there is no idea of sacrifice. They look at the toy with the idea of its use to them at the moment for their purposes of self-development. The baby says, “How far can I throw it? How heavy is it? How does it bite? Does it squeeze? Does it make a noise? What color is it? How do my hands fit around it?” If the toy belongs to someone else they will grab it, not to be selfish, but because the sense of belonging simply is not there. Also the idea of keeping a toy around forever does not enter the mind.

When you go to the toy store your child will say, “I want this.” or “Please buy me that”. He wants only to touch it, to play with it for a while. Do not be impressed. Watch your wallet!

To a child, the advantage of a toy is that adults will let you experiment with it as long as you like. Toys are not as interesting as pots and pans, but at least someone does not grab them away just as you are getting the feel of them. Toys are nice to have when other children are around unless, of course, the other children grab them before you are through with your curiosity.

Parents try to find toys that will keep children occupied and out from underfoot. Imaginative play will do this, so it is encouraged by all. As soon as the toy loses its real interest, the average child will figure out something else to do with it, perhaps they will take it apart. For most toys, the average intelligent child takes about 48 hours. Children hate boredom, but they do learn to cope with it.

Most children have far too many toys. Being surrounded by goodies is a common adult fantasy, but reality is something else. It is a good idea to have a closet in which to keep toys. You can then bring them out a few each month to keep things interesting.

Some toys have real value to children for years. Balls are wonderful. They can be pushed, thrown, rolled, kicked, tossed, bounced, etc. They can give a working knowledge of all Newton’s laws of motion. They will strengthen muscles, tune up the eye-hand coordination, help with eye focus. In addition, they give scope to the imagination. The number of ball games is already great, the number the children can invent is without limit. Older children invent the rules, agree on them, enforce them, getting real experience in democracy.

Blocks also give scope. Good sets consist of various shapes which can be combined, felt, seen, manipulated. Work with blocks is not aimless. Frank Lloyd Wright claimed that his original inspiration came from a childhood set of blocks. A structure requires an inner image for the outer to approach. Exactness of movement helps coordination. The natural tendency toward perfection comes into play The process of seeing things fit is most appealing to the newcomer into the world trying to get a handle on the basic shapes in it. Blocks give a working knowledge of balance, symmetry, a good bit about the law of gravity.

Role-playing toys such as dolls, personified animals, farms, garages and the like, play a part in development. They help work out the emotional inconsistencies that are everywhere. Cuddly bears become real friends who never give you a hard time, and it is always good to have a few. Pretending gives you a little help in facing the new and imposing situations which seem to come up so unexpectedly. It is a chance to practice the social interactions which are so subtle.

Games are great. The team cooperative spirit seems to emerge at about the age of nine. Before that the young baseball player will ask, “When is it my turn to be up?” Individual competition is helpful unless there is shame attached to losing. For children it is not, however, the excitement and spur that it is to adults. The child’s focus is still on inner growth and skills. In games life’s rules are cut down to manageable size and the adult is not at so much advantage. It is well-known that chess champions emerge at the age of 12 or 14. Try playing “Concentration” or other visualizing games with your preschoolers and you will begin to see the powers they have. They will usually beat you. They should be admired for these powers and not told that they will “outgrow” them. Games have the most appeal for children ages 6 to 14. This age struggles most with ideas of rules and how slavishly they should be followed.

“Educational” toys are made to appeal to the Phi Beta Kappa parent and are, therefore, usually far more expensive than their real value to children. Check them out carefully. One excellent source is a museum gift shop. There you may find magnets, prisms, holograms, gyroscopes, and a myriad of things at reasonable prices.

The best toy for learning arithmetic is one’s own fingers. They introduce the whole idea of the decimal system. For art, the best toy is a good set of crayons or paints. For writing it is pencils, paper and a grandmother to write to. For music practice, there are now keyboards, and the simple ones are best.

Imagination is one of humanity’s greatest attributes. Toys should give it scope, not restrict it as do the small replicas of the TV characters. Toys are for working things out, but real things are best. When you can, let your child help you play with the pots and pans or the screwdrivers and hammers. She will need to be content with miniature bulldozers, but give her as much reality as you can. Boys are a billion-dollar business, not including batteries, but strictly supplementary. You cannot improve on sticks, dirt, water, and old boxes.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 22 – Stress

Chapter 22 – Stress

STRESS

Please do not expect me to solve the problem of stress. Stress lies somewhere between burnout and boredom, solutions can only be individual. We all cope with it, children and adults, each in one’s own way.

In these technological days we have much stress. You would think not when machines do so much of the hard work, when the work week was lowered to 40 hours, when even the kitchen has many labor-saving devices. However, we now seem to have so little time that we read books on how to manage the stress of overwork.

Stress is the response to something you consider fearful or challenging. It can be real or imagined. We all know the symptoms, adults and children alike – knots in the stomach, tightening of the throat, faster heartbeat, sweating, and others. We evolve coping methods very early in life, we refine them as we go along. Sometimes stress brings out the best in us, sometimes the worst. In any case our behavior is often unexpected by those around us, especially those who know us best.

Stress is often brought on by unexpected events, those to which we have not built up a response. You can be much more patient when you know what will happen next. There your experience gives you an advantage over the children. You also have built up defenses which they still must find. They take cues from you.

If the stressful event is beyond your control it is more bearable. There is then no blame attached. As children you were blamed for so many things that reactions to blame are automatically stressful.

Children put adults under stress. They make messes, break our valuables, they whine and cry, have temper tantrums, they run in the house, climb on the furniture with dirty feet. They forget to brush their teeth. Worst of all, they are sometimes impertinent, and sometimes they even disobey. What do you do about it?

Adults put children under stress. They hurry them, they slap their hands when they are touching things, they scold and nag, they call them clumsy or stupid, they pull them away from what they are doing, they push them away, they punish. What do the children do about it?

Reactions seem to be a matter of control. Adults are in many ways afraid of children., afraid of losing their authority. Parents with children as young as a few months are sometimes fearful lest they should get the best of them.   Disobedience is seen as a cardinal sin to be squashed at any cost. Impertinence is one of the greatest horrors, seen often when it is not intended. The stress reaction in these cases is apt to be quite violent. Children under stress cannot understand all this. They have lost control too. Things are done and said that are regretted on both sides. Adults always win the struggle and are seen to be in the right. Very few adults will apologize, very many will demand apologies.

Everyone knows that the stressful feelings will go away, but at the time it is hard to admit.

Children also want to be in control of themselves. They have no illusions as to their own weakness alongside adults. They have their own defenses. One is withdrawal into fantasy. Here they are safe, adults rather like it. Sometimes they exhibit regressive behavior, even wetting themselves. Others lash out, and there are many ways to do that. These children become proud of being able to stand the heat. They will try to escape blame by denial or putting blame on someone else. They will distort the facts until they come out favorably. Adults use the same defenses but are not very tolerant of them in their own children.

Our first reaction to the unforeseen situation is alarm which turns into fear or challenge. You must see the challenge and decide whether it is worth the trouble. Children do this every day. Frustration is a daily emotion for them. They cope with it, they are used to it. They just do not want anyone else doing it for them or telling them how to do it.   It is, again, a matter of control. Adults, on the other hand, feel that they should be in control of the environment. They buy things, fix things, put them away, clean them, discard them. They become stressed when they feel loss of control., when they can’t keep up with the breakage. Adults will gladly accept help.

The only way to avoid stress is to see it coming. This is not possible with earthquakes or floods, it is possible in traffic jams. It is possible with children only when you take the time to understand their motivations. You need to realize how many new situations they face every day, how they can only take so much before stress sets in. It is not always your fault. It should be easy to recognize the signs. With older children you can use language to help them see the coming storm clouds. Everyone can become aware of the phenomena of the attention span and stop an activity before the breaking point. In this way you are exercising power over yourself. It is much easier to do this than to get over a temper tantrum.

One adult response to stress is to bite one’s lip, suppressing the feeling altogether. This is hard for children to deal with, it would be better to explain. If you are tired, hungry, out of sorts, these are situations they can well understand, and they will try to be patient. They need to know that you also are coping with these emotions so that they can get tips from you for the future.

There is much stress when we spend too much time doing things which are against our true inclinations, or time doing things dictated by others. It takes away the feeling of control which we need for a sense of safety. The ardent mountain climber will endure much of the same stress which will tire the army recruit. Schools are burdensome for the same reasons.

The great inclinations of children are mastery of mind and body. The baby who is learning to walk is under terrible stress if he is prevented by having his legs in a cast. The adult in this situation is also under stress, but not as much. When it is time to walk the child must get up. The toddler must touch things and is under much strain if confined in a playpen. The same child will be under less stress when confronted with an unfamiliar flight of stairs to practice climbing skills. Even adults are under great stress when put into prison.

To help children cope with unfamiliar situations it is well to give them plenty of notice with you are going somewhere or when something unusual is in the offing. Then give them the appropriate behavior so that they may be prepared for it. It is extremely stressful not to know how to act. That is the time when children jump up and down and squeal most obnoxiously.

Boredom is one of the most difficult situations for children. It takes years to learn how to handle it gracefully. Many children cope with this by turning off. This is sad.

One great source of stress is the social snub and the fear of it. Every child comes home at least once saying , “Nobody likes me.” At this time a child can be in such stress as not to be able to concentrate on arithmetic lessons, or be very creative. You will need to teach your child as much as you can how to manage. The more you take time for such seeming trivialities the more your child will be able to deal with the next situation. The social stresses of adolescence are just around the corner.

In the world of stress we are asked to hurry, hurry, hurry, or we will be late for the next thing. Your home is an island in this hurried world. You can set the tone. It is in your power, at least up to a point. Without stress life would be pretty bland. It helps us exercise our emotions and make them serve us. It colors up the world. Treated properly it helps us know ourselves better.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 21 – Boredom

Chapter 21 – Boredom

BOREDOM

Children will often say, “I’m bored!” It is hard to know what to do about it. I am thinking of a boy of seven who resisted going to school saying that he was bored there. His mother felt that was sufficient reason for keeping him home. As his teacher I visited them and asked the boy what “bored” meant. He explained that meant all the other children got the arithmetic better than he. He was spending his days designing a very large ocean-going ship which he intended to build on the vacant lot nearby. This took quite a bit of figuring. He was also interested in cars, their makes and models and cubic inch displacements. I am sure my drill lessons in addition were indeed very boring.

Adults are used to being bored. We wait in office waiting rooms, we wait in traffic gridlock, through TV commercials, etc., etc. We can name many boring times and we rarely complain. We don’t like it, however, and when our children complain about it, they usually get a good reaction from us. The are well aware of this.

Children can amuse themselves quite well, they usually have far too many toys and games, so what are they trying to say to us when they complain of boredom?

The first thing we should think about is the themesong of the child, “Help me to do it myself.”, and the maxim for parents, “Every useless aid prevents development.” These things are basic and cannot be ruled out. They have only a few years to learn everything about their society, so they need to get to work – see more things, experience more situations, watch other people to get cues as to how to handle situations.

Children make demands on us that we cannot fulfill. They don’t need amusements. They need to learn to function as human beings in our society, and for this they need us desperately. They want our undivided attention whenever they need it, and freedom of action whenever they think they are ready. It is as if they were Aladdin with a couple of genies at their beck and call. Adults, on the other hand, need a little relief from the constant pressure once in a while. One way adults deal with this is to give the children amusements such as television, videos, etc. It is not too much television that is the trouble, but too little activity.

From the child’s point of view, paradise is the undivided attention of some adult, preferably a parent, lacking a parent, any adult. They want an adult to be on hand to answer questions, listen to everything they have to say, keep them out of trouble,, anticipate when they need help and keep out of the way when they feel empowered. From the adult point of view, paradise is a self-reliant child, singing as she goes about her daily tasks, considerate of the adult need for peace and quiet. Paradise being impossible, we all settle for purgatory, namely boredom.

We begin boring children in the first few months when we put them to sleep n a room away from us with nothing to see but the ceiling..   Of course we mean well, we think babies crave peace and quiet too, that they are too young to get much out of our conversations and activities. When they wail we let them “cry it out” so that they will be able to deal with boredom. We take great pains not to “give in” to their demands since we have all seen clingy spoiled children whose behavior is most obnoxious. It is endemic in our society to think of babies as precious little pets and to be completely unaware of their mental powers or their mental needs.

If you had a memory such that you could take in an environment in one fell swoop and find it exciting to do so, why wouldn’t you be bored in a crib? Imagine yourself landing on Mars without a clue and being left to your own devices! You would have a burning desire to know what is going on. You would do everything possible to persuade the natives to clue you in. Not knowing the language would be another handicap. Then when the natives insisted on treating you as little pets to be trained, you would howl a bit. You would get used to it in time, accept your role and behave like a little pet.

Children from wealthy families are especially bored. Everything is done for them until they have no opportunity to be independent. Servants are there to wait on them before they have a chance to venture forth, taking away all confidence. This helpless feeling is a terrible one, making for a demanding person who is bored unless waited upon. The desire for independence is overwhelming, but it can be stifled by well-meaning servants who do not understand.

Children are extremely sensitive on the subject of bodily dexterity. They will cringe when told they are awkward of clumsy. They cringe also when they break things and make trouble for you. They are scolded by exhausted adults who do not understand. Most children keep trying, but there are many who just give up the effort and wait to be amused. They say they are bored.

Some children say they are bored in order to be able to do things with you instead of being relegated to a playroom full of useless toys. They need your company and will say or do anything in order to get it.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 20 – Genius???

Chapter 20 – Genius???

GENIUS???

Most parents, when asked whether they would like to have a child genius, would answer, “NO.” They would say that they would prefer to have a well-rounded person than a genius. This reflects the prevailing opinion that a genius is not usually well-rounded, but is a bookish misfit, unable to make friends. The truth is quite the contrary. The genius is usually strong physically, socially and emotionally. It is also assumed that another drawback of the child genius is that he or she is smarter than other people, therefore finds it hard to be one of the crowd. Parents are also frightened by the fact that the child would be smarter than they are.

We all tend to look at childhood through our own rose-colored glasses of memory. We need to be a little realistic, not boggle at facts. All children are smarter than all adults in certain ways. They have more acute hearing, sharper eyes, far better memory, and a greater ability to imitate movements. They take in the environment and analyze it later, whereas the adult takes in only what is “relevant”. The baby at the age of only a few days can distinguish phonemes to an extent completely hopeless for an adult. Piaget tells us that rational thinking kicks in at about the age of 14, so we adults can rest assured that we can outmaneuver children temporarily.

Today’s children begin life at a time in history when outer space is no secret, when airplane travel is routine. They know all about computers, many things completely unknown to their parents at that age. They know things that Leonardo da Vinci never heard of. Are they smarter? Evolution is supposed to be slower than that.

Does genius have anything to do with genetics? If so, why have most of the geniuses of the world been born to very ordinary families? Intelligence tests do not test all forms of intelligence, but mainly the ability to do schoolwork. They do not pretend to test artistic genius, mechanical inventiveness, or even the ability to concentrate. The ability to follow an ideal is not even thought of on these tests.

Differences in performance of human beings are far greater than can possibly be explained by any test. All psychologists will tell you that no one uses more than one-tenth of his potential. If this is so, then there cannot possibly be a test of potential. These differences in performance show up in the first grade, so must have something to do with the preschool years.

Studies of mental retardation all lead to the conclusion that it is not a natural state, but is due to injury or to the lack of some important chemistry. Much of it can be prevented or cured. Therapy seems to include much sensory stimulation.

Intelligence is built up by the activity of the children themselves as they absorb their culture.   They are born psychically incomplete, needing a cultural environment for completion. Connections between eye and brain require things to see, to name and to think about. Human babies need more time than horses and elephants to come to maturity. Intelligence has something to do with it.

Modern research shows these things very clearly. We can now make brain scans showing that new neurons are fired up when new things are seen and heard. In a matter of seconds whole new brain connections are made, lasting for a lifetime. Without proper stimulation unused neurons will disappear. Sensitivity to phonemes is sharpest in the early months. By the age of 18 months or so only the phonemes used in one’s native language remain strong. Abused children who are locked up for years never develop good vocabulary or grammar sense. What can you say about their potential?

One hundred years from now children will be born taking for granted all sorts of new knowledge unknown today, without any increase in potential. Actually human potential is completely unknown as of today.

All the books on parenting are telling you how to train your children so that they are manageable, how to housebreak them, how to get them to quite fighting and grabbing. You get very little help on how to stimulate your child intellectually, even though we all agree that the brain makes humans truly human.

Needless to say, a great intellect is not necessarily a better person. Such a person is subject to the same emotional pitfalls, the same temptations as anyone else. Wisdom does not come with knowledge or skill, not does ability to make friends, or ability to lead. However, this does not mean that the great intellect is a lesser person.

We tend to call learning “academic” as if it had nothing to do with the real world. We carry this prejudice to the point where we do not want our politicians to be too intellectual for fear that they will not be in touch with real people who, of course, are not very intellectual. We do not trust people who use too big words, they seem arrogant.

If this is true, then every child is a potential genius. What happens? Lots of things!!

One thing, usually touted, is “pushing”. Children often are pressured by parents to excel in some area of life, they resist the pressure and, even when they succeed never truly excel. They simply cannot bear to become robots. Sometimes they refuse to perform at all. When a parent urges early piano lessons or early reading this may happen. However, when the child goes to school it always happens. It is one of the great problems of school. Children who learn to read spontaneously enjoy it much more. Most parents, because they have been through school, are unable to present academic subjects without pressure.   They can teach children 26 different kinds of foods, but boggle at 26 simple little letters. Supposedly that requires a professional.

Probably the hardest thing for parents to realize is that, while you can open the doors, the child must choose which doors to pursue and , in the end, do all the work.

Children raised in orphanages where they are given very little stimulation suffer agonies. Many actually die. We are all limited by the amount of stimulation (not pressure) we had in the first two or three years of life. We communicate this to the children wordlessly.

Parents know that their children are geniuses. The fatuous mothers will tell you so. At the age of three they will tell you how intelligent the children are, how they can count to ten, or twenty, or a thousand. At the age of four they will tell you that the child is a genius or a holy terror. At the age of five they will say, “What can I do with this kid?” At the age of six the same children will get C grades in school. Something happens in our American society between the ages of three and six.

All children are geniuses when they are born, whether you like it or not. You underestimate them only because they cannot talk. I wish some baby would be born talking so that we could have this verified, but even so he would know very little and still be underestimated.

Early learning does not merely give information only, but actually makes the brain grow smarter for all our lives. So give your sons and daughters the whole world even if you do not completely understand it. If you don’t know something, look it up. Show them everything that is good and beautiful to you. Tell them everything you know even if some of it is wrong. They won’t know the difference until they are teenagers anyway, and by that time most of today’s knowledge will be out of date. Let them know how you feel about things, particularly those things you find inspiring. Their potential is limited only by the doors that do not open.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 19 – Whose fault is it?

Chapter 19 – Whose fault is it?

WHOSE FAULT IS IT?

“Everything has got to be somebody’s fault!” This was the plaint of a seven-year old boy trying to cope with a social situation. There are many of them, new ones every day, the old methods of coping never are completely successful. This boy was at his wit’s end.

Assigning blame is a useless form of human activity, indulged in by children and adults alike. It enhances our feeling of self-worth. It makes us feel superior, it is a real mental trap. It begins, but does not end, in childhood. My friend who owns a body shop tells me that he never fixed a fender when it was the driver’s fault.

The idea of fault is one of responsibility, but can become an idea of sin and virtue. If you have tried your best and failed, is it your fault? How about the situation in which you don’t care? There is no fault when the perpetrator of the action does not know any better, or is not able to perform it, and children are on the cutting edge of this. In the early years they are extremely sensitive about their bodily coordination, so they will feel terribly guilty about spilling a glass of milk, to the point of suffering. Adult expectations make it worse, but their own expectations are the hardest to bear. The suffering is so intense that they evade it by blaming someone else. They have much opportunity to emulate the adults they see around them.

It is interesting to hear conversations concerning car accidents. They are always traumatic even if the damage was slight, and the trauma tends to cloud the objectivity of the discussions. Usually one hears only one side of the problem, and listens to details of the mistakes of the other driver. The speaker’s mistakes, if any, are usually glossed over with excuses.

Inmates in prisons have lots of time to think up excuses. In their minds everything they did was excusable, if it happened at all.

Excuses are manyfold. Children learn early their mental and social value, and collect them to be used years later in varying situations. Some are more suitable than others. Teachers learn to recognize them on sight.

Adults teach children from their own experiences which excuses are more useful then others. Some of the best are:

Children:
I forgot
I didn’t know that.
That’s boring
It’s too hard.
It’s too easy.
My mother won’t let me.
All the other kids are doing it.

Adults:
I didn’t have time for it.
I didn’t have enough money.
My wife won’t let me.
My husband won’t like it.
I’m too tired.
I had too much to do.
I had to watch the baby.

Everyone needs a collection of these. Family members use one another, quite wisely, as excuses. The burden of blame is too much to bear, to most of us it is unbearable. It is most difficult especially to live with our own imperfections. This would not be so if we did not have the vision of perfection engrained in us. Children have it too, in different ways from adults. It varies from one culture to another but is always there. In every society there are unforgivable sins mightily to be feared. In some societies it is cowardice, and after one lapse life is no longer worth living. For sins such as this no excuse does any good.

However, we bring on the need for excuses when we say such things as:

You are so clumsy
Butterfingers!
You can’t do anything right.
Next time let me do it
I told you ten times!

You don’t really mean all that. You just don’t understand how much it makes children cringe. Adults would resent the remarks, but not nearly as much. Children are still looking to you for cues and believe your judgments are accurate. Adults also make the situation worse by attacking the excuses, making them intent on finding better ones.

School-age children are sensitive about their knowledge. Adults, of course, know everything and they want to approach this exalted status. They are embarrassed to admit that there is something they don’t know. This enters the world of the microscopic, until they hate to ask how to spell a word or inquire about anything. Anything they know they feel they always knew it, just like adults. These children are masters of excuses, much quicker than the younger ones to blame someone else, fairly or unfairly. Altercations between children playing together can become quite argumentative. They truly enjoy the arguments, though these are horrible from the adult point of view. “He did it first.” seems like an excellent excuse. These children are obsessed with the idea of fairness even though they are not so good at gaining it.

Teenagers have a deadly fear of being disliked or shunned by other teenagers. When they say “All the other girls go to the mall on Saturday night.” it will seem to them like a valid excuse. Adults want to be socially accepted, but not to the extent of suffering about it.

During this age parents are asked to accept much undeserved blame. These teenagers can manufacture excuses faster than anyone else.

Adults are fairly good at the blaming game, they are actually better than children, as they have had more experience. But they are sensitive about different things so will operate rather differently.

In our mythology our cowboy sagas, our police dramas, the good guys wear white hats and always shoot straight, the bad guys in the black hats never do anything good. However, in the dramas the bad guys usually do not have excuses for their behavior.

Parents want their children to behave themselves according to the standards of their families. This is a hard thing to bring about, but every parent tries. Shaming is a very effective weapon, but it is a two-edged one. Your children also want to fit into the norms, and they use parents to demonstrate the norms. They then become hypercritical of the parents when they see discrepancies. They will see lapses in the smallest things that adults do not even notice, and the excuses emerge.

Children sometimes feel the weight of blame for things that do not upset the cosmos very much. Those under six are especially vulnerable to feeling clumsy. Any criticism of clumsiness or awkwardness makes them cringe. It is here that the first excuses arise. Teenagers have their feelings hurt at the smallest social gaffes. Wetting the pants is the nemesis of the school-age child. Adults laugh at all this, but do not laugh at themselves for equally foolish sensitivities.

Parents tend to blame themselves far more than they deserve. They really do not have the power to control everything, and do not need excuses to tell them this. They blame the family genes for quite a bit, and cite Uncle Oscar’s sins as a prime example. They are particularly speechless when the children witness a mistake in judgment. Instead of admitting that they are not flawless, the excuses come flooding out.

Since you are in the position of setting the stage, it is best to keep a sense of humor and realize that accidents will happen and should not keep our eyes from the goal. Just keep setting the goal. Shame and blame are a waste of time and energy, as are excuses.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 18 – Be Quiet!

Chapter 18 – Be Quiet!

BE QUIET!

Noise is a problem in our society. If we live near the airport we hear the jets scream. If we live on a busy street the traffic noises are a constant irritant even when we have learned to tune them out. Many workplaces are so noisy that the employees must wear ear protectors. Music is played so loud that it is a real and severe threat to the human hearing apparatus.

A houseful of children is usually a noisy one, especially when accompanied by dogs. Parents usually revel in the quiet after their children go to bed. Children’s voices are higher pitched than ours so they seem strident, hard to bear. Babies cry, toddlers scream, school-age children argue, teenagers play loud music. Should we assume that they like it this way, that they hate silence just because they don’t make much of it? Should we try to keep it down? It is certainly in our interest-is it also in theirs?

The human ear has been studied carefully. It is certainly delicate, designed to meet the needs of a hunter intent on tracking very quiet animals. It meets the needs of musicians on many varieties of instruments. It can discriminate between the myriad sounds of human language. We can shut our eyes, but not our ears. Dogs, bats, and other animals have better hearing, but only in some ways. Much study needs to be done on the special qualities of the ears of the very young.

The ears of children surely are extremely sensitive. Even a newborn baby will react strongly to loud noises. It used to be thought that this was an innate fear, but now we see it as a negative reaction. This occurs even when the children are older if it is sudden or unexpected. Since we cannot close our ears we have no choice but to hear and try to make sense out of it all. Children have very a good thinking apparatus but not much experience. They make sense of things as fast as they can, faster than adults realize.

We see this sensitivity in small children when we play music for them. They react in very subtle ways, but they do not like it too loud. They remember pieces of music, and if you tell them its name or the name of the composer they will remember that too, even if they are too young to talk. If you speak to them they will instinctively look at your mouth to see what each muscle is doing. They react with special delight at the sound of the human voice, this at any age. They listen intently even when you murmur softly. It seems almost miraculous that such small children so early in the world can tune in to the sounds they want to hear, the sounds they need to hear for their development.

It requires much effort to pay attention to one part of the many stimuli that are bombarding the ears all the time. The more noise, the more effort required. Such effort seems to be pulled out of young children by Nature itself. We see children as easily distractible, as indeed they are, but when they pay attention their whole being seems to be concentrated. They are capable of tuning in so rapidly that it appears to adults that there is no real attention involved. They need only to hear a sound or a word once and the memory of it is there forever. If you do not believe this, try saying a “bad word.”

This marvellous ability to “tune out” extraneous noises is largely taken for granted by parents, teachers and writers of articles on parenting. If we wish to be of help we will try to recognize and appreciate, or at least think about it. We will also try to keep down the excess bombardment. A rule of thumb is to realize that if the noise is bothering you it is bothering the children more. Watch their reactions to it. Their bodies become tense, the eyes dart about, behavior becomes random, composure is gone. They squeal, they leap about. When you tell them to stop, they can’t. Trouble ensues.

Children under six years old are so sensitive that they can attain absolute pitch, so much more difficult for those who are older and wiser. You can help this by playing one sound at a time and naming it.   There is great satisfaction in knowing the name of the thing you hear.   If you can play an instrument, let your child hear you. Even if he is rolling about on the floor he will remember. Adults nowadays have better perception of music because they have usually grown up with high fidelity stereos not available previously. They are less patient with music that is out of tune.

Silence is golden, we all know that. It is good to have a special place for it in your home where anyone can go when you really want it. This place should have a calm picture or flowers and a place to sit. Tell the children what it is for and see what happens. Speak of silence as something to be honored, something to enjoy, most of all, something you can find inside yourself if you look closely.

When the noise level is high, no one is in control, and control is needed. At these times accidents occur. Try to anticipate the situation and change the activity before this happens. The adult can control the environment far better than the child, who is forced by nature to react to it.

Our society is a noisy one. The home should be a sanctuary from this, not its reflection. We absorb the society, we live with and in it, but our basic needs should come first.

Noise is used to intimidate, a fact well known to the military. When arguments, occur the noise level rises. People do not scold each other with soft voices.

Children come in from school noisily, reacting to the forced inactivity there. They come in from going fishing quietly, eyes shining, even though fishing is also forced inactivity. The big difference, it is easy to see, is control. When you go fishing you decide for yourself to be quiet, you exercise complete control of your body, you concentrate all your attention on how you are holding the pole, casting the line, what lure you are using. This type of concentration is satisfying to people of any age. When we are satisfied we are serene, not noisy.

Children are extremely imitative. It is the way they learn to fit into the family, but they don’t seem to know when to stop. Nature doesn’t tell them that. They imitate the neighbors, the television characters, the mailman, not only the parents. Noise creeps in inspite of all your efforts.

Many of us have the television or radio on constantly, making it necessary to tune it out when we are busy. Children can do this, but it is much more of a strain on them to do so.

They are quiet when they watch television because they are paying attention so very closely. When they get up the attention is gone and immediately seeks another outlet. They have been sitting quietly and desperately need activity. At these times noise sets in if you are not quick to see it.

Noise is associated with random sound, not music, which is so very controlled but can be quite loud. Our ears much prefer it. Our inner rhythms can react with pleasure, whereas with noise comes stress. It is the order we all seek, especially the children whose very lives seem to depend on it.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 17 – Obedience

Chapter 17 – Obedience

OBEDIENCE

Children, obey your parents! Most books on parenting are manuals on how to get small human beings to obey. Emphasis is always put on what sort of punishment is suitable. If a child exhibits antisocial behavior the parent is always blamed for not insisting on obedience. Parents are expected to teach civilization by commanding and demanding instant and complete obedience. Children are known as good or bad depending upon how well they obey. Disobedient children even think of themselves as bad. We admire dissidence in adults, not in children, at least not at home!

We have plenty of reasons why obedience is a good thing. We think of children as unable to reason so must be ordered about. We think that they would never in the world do the right thing if they were not properly punished. The great fear is that they will get their own way, twist the adults around their little fingers instead of the other way around.

It is thought that obedience teaches good moral values such as honesty, truth, kindness, loyalty and the like. It is also thought that it teaches respect for authority. It is supposed to be good training for the job market, for good citizenship. It assumes that children would never learn any of these things without obeying their parents unquestionably. Only when they reach the age of reason can the parents relax and trust them.

There are many difficulties with this view, because it is not true. The opposite is also not true, that without fear of punishment children will become willful, petulant, dishonest, perhaps end up in jail, certainly never fit into society. The word is “spoiled”, which assumes that the children would be all right except for parental indulgence.

We are afraid of disobedient children. They are likely to walk all over us, be imperious, flout all authority when they grow up. Historically it is believed that this is their true nature, so adults beware! Disobedient children embarrass us before our friends, affecting our social status. Frightful, isn’t it?

One problem is that children tend to imitate their parents. This gets in the way of obedience. If you are ordered around,you will learn to order other people around, or you will learn to be subservient to them. It is not a kind thing to punish someone for unkindness. It is also a great strain on parents to be absolutely just at all times. You are bound to slip up at least once. We are indulgent toward parents, but remember for years any unjust punishment.

It is interesting to note the age at which adults demand obedience. There are a few who spank babies of six months for crying, so great is the fear of children having their own way. This is deplored, yet when the child walks at eight months it is slapped for touching her parents’ belongings. It is assumed that the baby must be taught by punishment. Obedience is needed since that is the only way to civilization, also the only way to teach respect for property rights.

Another interesting fact about obedience is the type of behavior demanded. It usually has to do with the type of behavior feared by the adult, involving for the most part the character faults the adult has deplored in himself or in his family for years. Other types of faults are overlooked. This does not go unnoticed by the average intelligent child. They excuse us for it, but they remember. Older children will discuss it among themselves rather objectively. They learn to deal with adult foibles. In the teenage years it comes out in the open

We need to remember some important characteristics of these small persons:

  1. Children can understand a great deal more than is generally supposed. They learn faster than is generally supposed. They can also put two and two together. Therefore punishment is not the only way to teach them.
  1. Children imitate what their parents do, not what they say. They imitate everything they see as best they can.
  1. Children live in the present. Retribution for past behavior is simply not perceived by them as it is by adults.
  1. Children are capable of much resistance when pushed too far. In time of war they have been known to resist torture for their beliefs.
  1. Children are taking in the environment at a rapid rate, keeping to their inner clock instinctively. Asking them to stop on demand is abusive.

We all need to be law-abiding, but don’t we really want to be? We like to know what the rules are, especially if they are like the law of gravity which you disobey at your peril.

It is good to know that there is some authority which will uphold the manmade rules fairly. For this we subject ourselves to the will of someone we trust. We like the idea of the rule of law rather than that of absolute despotism.   We want the rules to be consistent so that we know exactly where we stand.

Obedience, like everything else, must be learned. It involves subjecting one’s will to that of another, so it is dangerous to our integrity and not to be done lightly. The highest type of obedience is voluntary, trusting the authority figure implicitly. Fear should have no place in it. The necessity should not be there except for emergencies. Then when a sudden command comes along we can obey with trust.

There are levels of obedience. Sometimes it is impossible. To an active baby, “Keep still” can be an impossible command. Then there is the level of obedience when the child can sometimes obey but not always. Parents who do not understand this become infuriated.   However, we can all remember times when something seemed to take over and we were quite unable to follow all the commands. Children need help in this.   Parents are also in this position. Demands vary with the situation, so they can very easily seem inconsistent.

Children become quite disobedient when they lose trust in the adult. They also refuse to obey when they feel that they have no will of their own, or when they feel they are treated like puppets. They are particularly resentful when they feel that the demands are unfair. It is comforting for parents to realize that they have such a wonderful concept of fairness, definitely to be fostered.

Children learn to cope with adult demands. When it is difficult they will test the limits. They learn how many times they must ask permission before they get it. They know us too well. Adults should beware of power struggles over some things such as eating, sleeping or toilet training. Ingenuity is required.

We need not be afraid of children. They really do not want to give us a hard time, but sometimes they can’t help it. They want perfection as much as we do. They trust us but need to guard their own integrity. Above all they insist on working on physical and mental skills. If forced to give this up they will exhibit very regressive behavior. They need from the parents a set of boundaries which they understand and can follow, a set of laws which respects as well as restricts. These limits need to be impersonal, and, like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, unalterable.

Trust the children and they will trust you. Forget all about “Lord of the Flies”.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 16 – Courtesy

Chapter 16 – Courtesy

COURTESY

Courtesy is called good manners, as opposed to bad manners. A “manner” can be good or bad according to the society in which you live. When you go to a new country you want to learn the good manners so that you will be accepted. Eating with your fingers can expose you to much humiliation, largely undeserved., but only in some countries. Children are in this position.

Good manners lubricate social life, make it run smoothly along established customs, but they are often delicate, the use of the words terribly precise. It takes time to learn all the nuances, much observation of adult behavior to know the proper usages. Sometimes adults use bad manners jokingly – most disconcerting until you catch on.

Children are expected to be polite to all adults, but not necessarily to other children. Adults are expected to be polite to all other children except their own – most disconcerting until you catch on.

The use of good manners makes children appear tremendously charming; it impresses the most jaded adult. They are treated by adults with respect and appreciation. The parents can beam justifiably. Everyone is pleased, and the children gain a feeling of self-worth, being an integral part of human society, knowing the paths through the forest of human relations.

Difficulties arise when the situations come upon the children suddenly. Parents can help greatly if they will warn them ahead of time and explain the expected behavior. Quite often children are hustled into the car to visit Uncle Alex who is extremely fussy. They have no idea that Uncle Alex will take it amiss when they climb on the furniture. In this case the parents are embarrassed, and an embarrassed parent can be formidable.

We are a democratic country, so we worry a great deal about arrogance in people who use exaggerated courtesy. Everything seems to depend on the social situation, and these are unlimited. It takes years to learn to cope with all of them. Nobody wants to be caught in these traps.

One of our greatest fears is the social snub, and to avoid this an elaborate system of manners has been built up. It is quite artificial and changes from one generation to the next, making it even trickier. It differs with ethnic groups, it even differs with families. Embarrassment seems to be equated with humiliation, also a loss of the feeling of self-worth, all out of proportion to the social gaffe. Courtesy is not the same as respect, but it is usually taken that way.

Adults use much more courtesy toward one another than they use toward children. This is carefully observed by children. Sometimes they resent it, more often they accept the fact that children are less deserving of respect than adults. They are well aware that they are powerless to make any of the rules. Teenagers want to improve the world, they are not so polite about it. Also they think it is about time they changed over into one who deserves courtesy. The difficulty is that they do not afford it to children either.

When children are in social situations where they do not know the proper courtesies they are embarrassed. They then behave most erratically. Sometimes they hide behind Mother’s skirts afraid to be seen, often they flounce about and squeal which makes the parents embarrassed. The parents then behave most erratically. They are terribly afraid the other adults will see them as having lost control of their children. Discomfort becomes acute.

In this area, as in so many others, we need to understand children, we need to see them as people, not as pre-people who need to be warehoused until they are old enough to make sense, who need to be punished before they will behave in any civilized manner.

Children need to be taught the social amenities. It helps to dramatize situations ahead of their occurrence rather than to prompt them to say “Thank you.” Behavior needs to be spontaneous, so that it is more important to know the proper procedures than it is to follow them every single time. Before Grandma arrives the family can dramatize the event to see how to invite her in so that she may feel at home. Before going to the library practice talking softly. Anticipate all these situations until your child feels comfortable with them. It will add enormously to his or her {and your| self-esteem.

We do this in the Montessori school. We pretend that a visitor is coming and discuss at length the proper thing to do and say to make the guest feel comfortable in the classroom. The children find these lessons very interesting, showing their awareness. Discussions can go on and on, especially in the elementary classes where the interest in justice is so strong.

 

by Marietta Rawson

2016-2017 New School Year!

2016-2017 New School Year!

Welcome to the 2016-2017 year at Northwest Montessori School! This summer mailing includes a schedule detailing the beginning of the school year, a calendar, a digital link and how to for submitting school forms online, and details regarding our fundraising and social events. Elementary families will have an information sheet detailing the Early Bird/Coocadagy program. Please take the time to carefully review all pieces of information. Forms and first payment for the 2016-2017 school year are due by August 1st

  • Application form
  • The completed Student information/registration form 2016 – 2017,
  • Photography and Directory refusal form
  • Tuition Contract (paper form required)
  • Early Birds/Coocadagy registration form (elementary children only)

Please call the office at 206.524.4244 if you have any questions regarding the information you find in this packet. We look forward to seeing you in September!

NEW Parent Information Night – This information session is for new parents of all branches and levels. This is an important evening where parents meet the administration, school policies will be discussed and any questions can be answered. The New Parent Information Night will be held at the Wedgwood Branch (7400 25th Ave NE), on August 3, 2016 from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. No childcare will be provided. Please RSVP to gracie@northwestmontessori.org by 7/29/16.


SCHEDULES FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL

Primary and Dawn-to-Dusk Classrooms: Children ages 2 ½ to 6

Wednesday, September 7, 2015: RETURNING STUDENTS – Students who attended Northwest Montessori School during the 2016 – 2017 school year and/or began during the summer of 2016 are invited to come to their classrooms from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This is a HALF-DAY with NO LUNCH. NEW STUDENTS – Students and parents who are new to Northwest Montessori School are invited to visit their classrooms and meet the teacher and teacher’s assistants for an Open House between 1:00p.m. and 3:00 p.m. New students will be notified about transitioning into their class during the Open House on September 7th. Teachers will work to accommodate parents’ schedules.

Thursday, September 8, 2016 and Friday, September 9, 2016: RETURNING STUDENTS – Primary classrooms will be open from either 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dawn-to-Dusk classrooms will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. New students will be notified about transitioning into their class during the Open House on September 7th. Teachers will work to accommodate parents’ schedules. New Students will follow the schedule arranged with their teacher.

Elementary Classrooms, Early Birds and Coocadagy

Wednesday, September 7, 2016: ALL STUDENTS – All Elementary students are invited to come for a HALF-DAY only, 8:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.. There will be no lunch or before and after-school care.

Thursday, September 8, 2016 and Friday, September 9, 2016: ALL STUDENTS – Regular schedule begins on Thursday. Early Birds, before-school care, will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and Coocadagy will be open from 3:15 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Please see the included letter to sign-up for Early Birds and Coocadagy. Scheduled activities will begin the week of September 12th.


CLASSROOM ORIENTATION EVENINGS

Classroom Orientation Evenings are designed to give every parent an overview of their child’s classroom and the year that lay ahead. Teachers use this time to introduce themselves, their classroom policies, and to begin building a strong classroom community. This is a very important evening – every parent should plan to attend their child’s Classroom Orientation. Each branch will have their Orientation from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. No childcare will be provided.

West Seattle Classroom:                                                                      Monday, September 12th

Woodland Park Elementary Classrooms:                                             Monday, September 12th

Woodland Park Branch Primary Classrooms:                                      Tuesday, September 13th

Wedgwood Branch Classrooms:                                                          Wednesday, September 14th


ADDITIONAL NOTES

Tuition Contract

A signed tuition contract is required for each child/family. Please sign and return by August 1st, 2016. Please note that the tuition contract is divided equally over 10 months (Sept. 7 – June 14), summer registration is a separate tuition agreement. The first summer tuition payment is due the first day of the summer program – June 19, 2017, please plan accordingly.

Online Forms

Help us be green! Hubbli is a school management software program that allows us to make all of our forms paperless. Simply visit www.northwestmontessori.hubbli.com, log in with your username and password or register as a new user, click on the forms tab and submit information online. This service will help us maintain our student database, collect information regarding alumni and down the road, allow us to collect payments.

It is very important that every family submit their student information/registration form, even if they have recently turned in other application materials. Please submit forms by August 1st, 2016. Questions, please contact gracie@northwestmontessori.org or 206.634.1347. We’re here to help!

Parent Education

The calendar for the 2016-2017 school year indicates parent education evenings. We will update you through Weekly Notes. Not only are these evenings educational they are an opportunity for you to socialize with other parents and gain insights on parenting and Montessori philosophy and method. By attending you will achieve better understanding of our school and your children will benefit by the consistency between home and school. Please mark your calendars for these events so we can expect full attendance.

NWM’s Annual All-School Social!

In planning for our first all school social we are searching for a few volunteers. Would you be willing to help plan? Looking for a team to help determine date, time and location. Email gracie@northwestmontessori.org if you are interested in planning or know of someone who wants to join in on the fun 😉

Chapter 15 – Mathematics

Chapter 15 – Mathematics

MATHEMATICS

This is for those of you who have a mental block in math, those who never got good grades in school and who have forgotten their multiplication tables and are afraid of computers.

Each of you in this predicament will have a tale to tell of a parent or teacher who pressured ou to memorize addition or multiplication facts which meant nothing at the time. Some sort of punitive activity will be included in your tale, and something grossly unfair. My first admonition to you will be not to mention any of this to your children. In these days of calculators it not necessary to memorize anything really.

Mathematics is actually another form of language, to be acquired at the time of language cquisition, in the first two years of life. One tends to consider it a thing apart from the rest of language because it was taught at a separate period in school and its use was limited to school hours and homework. That takes all the vitality out of it. Language is a thing meant to be used, not learned outside of life. It is to be used for present purposes as well as a foundation for the future. Actually there is no practical need for solving quadratic equations, that is, in the everyday life of the adult, even the mathematician.

The number system is a creation of the human mind, it does not exist apart from human beings. Geometrical forms are mental products. Many natural objects are roundish, but the idea of a circle is something else entirely. It is the epitome of roundness which nothing in nature can attain. Children at a very early age know this. They have seen so many roundish things that they know exactly what is meant by the “circle”, even though they may have never even seen one. They are fascinated by shapes altogether and love to talk about them. After they have the idea, and know the names of some shapes they lose interest and go on to other things. Then in high school when they are not so visually sensitive they find it a chore to learn the vocabulary of geometry.

The number system depends entirely on the idea of oneness, that a unit can be repeated to infinity, any unit you want. We use it to talk about the world. To talk sense is to talk in quantities. It is no use to say that a dog is large, how large? It is no use saying that an atom is small, how small? To talk in quantities brings precision to the mind which craves it in the first place. Precision of thought brings pleasure. It pervades everything. In music the rhythm is the basis of it all. Each tone is an exact number of vibrations in the air.

In the nineteenth century mathematics was supposed to train the mind. After the time of Dewey it was supposed to be of practical help. When I went to school my teachers told me that I must learn addition combinations so that I could check the addition of the grocery clerks. Had I known that adding machines would be in use when I grew up I would never have studied as well. Today mathematics is taught because it is supposed to be important in the business world. Indeed it is, but mostly it is a language meant to better mentally take hold of experience.

Mathematics is also interesting in itself, apart from any uses at all. Mathematicians tell us that it is the closest thing to pure form.

Love of precision is one of the great human tendencies. All of our technical devices tell us this, down to the key that fits exactly into the keyhole. Children and adults alike find exhiliration in it, from the golfer on the putting green down to the baby reaching for the rattle, missing it, trying again, thrilled when he makes it.

At or about two years of age there will be a sense of number of some sort. When asked how many feet he has, the child will perhaps answer “six” but will never say “red”. A baby as young as six months can tell the difference between two and three cookies in your hand, but will not be able to talk about it unless given the words. They use the word “four” as a pigeonhole and apply it to people, cars, cookies or flowers. They need to hear the same word used many times for many different sorts of things. Then they must think very abstractly about the word, something no one can do for them.

Children love to count. It is a real help to the observing mind. They count by rote long before they apply the numbers to objects. When they begin to do this they need adudlt help and example. Parents should count everything they see with delight. Counting actually helps the eyes to focus as they dash about from one flower to another in the vase.  Adults who have counted from an early age are more observant people.

The number sense in children will not grow without being fed. They need to experience numbers, talk about numbers, measure things, make change in the store, watch someone measure a half-cup of water for a recipe, know how tall you are, how much you weigh.

Children have minds that are unbelievably powerful, but they need words, such words as: large, larger, feet, inches, square feet, quarts, gallons, pounds, ounces, miles, miles per hour, cents, dollars, bits, bytes, hours, minutes, and as many as you can think of. These words are not a bit hard to understand, but if you have not heard them you cannot possibly remember precisely what you have seen or heard. These words can be used when you fold the laundry, put away the dishes, turn on the TV, drive the car, walk up the stairs, do the gardening, etc.

Children in some instances are not allowed to count on their fingers! Fingers were made long before computers, pencils or erasers. With the use of fingers the addition and subtraction combinations can be visualized. Number concept grows when children are interested, when they mull over the numbers before they go to sleep.

Parents and teachers worry inordinantly about getting the right answer to arithmetic problems, as if that were important! It is considered that the wrong answer would then be memorized, as if the child were a robot to be programmed. It is the interest that counts, the curiosity. Like any form of language the learning of mathematic is illogical, natural, enjoyable. The right pronunciations, the right answers will eventually emerge without anyone knowing quite how it happened.

Children of five or six will enjoy learning how we write numbers in the decimal system, at seven or eight they will love experimenting with numbers to different bases, including the binary base which underlies computers.

Some children are known as “idiot savants” and can do fantastic calculations in their heads. These children have concentrated on one area of life, but they do demonstrate the power of the infantile mind. Then there are those children who have had no opportunity to think much about numbers until they go to school. These children can indeed develop a number sense but it will be harder. They have dropped stitches and will probably never excel.

When you give children experiences with numbers as friends, you give them powerful tools to explore the world. Just do not do all the exploring for them. Numbers belong to life, they need to fizzle about in young heads, unimpeded.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 14 – Literacy

Chapter 14 – Literacy

LITERACY

It is a great moment in your life when your child leaves the prison of illiteracy. Spoken language is written on the wind, it can reach only the ear that is nearby. When we can read we can communicate with others far distant in time and space.

When the alphabet was invented by merchants, most scholars refused to use it, saying that if mankind could read and write the memory would atrophy and we would have the appearance of knowledge without knowledge itself. Nothing comes without its price! Most illiterate people have retained fantastic memories.

The American Revolution and the French Revolution declared that men have inalienable rights, that they should take charge of their governments. To do this well a literate electorate is required, so the children were mobilized, as if everyone knew it could not be done by the adults. Children were herded into schools, forced by fear of punishment to learn the alphabet the future advantage of which they could not possibly see. The legacy of this is still with us. Reading and writing are seen as academic, requiring much intelligence, difficult and distasteful in the learning process.

Writing became accessible even to children with the invention of the alphabet many years ago. It humanized writing because it connects written language directly with the sounds of spoken language. Each language has a limited number of sounds, but an unlimited number of words and sentences.

All over the world formal education begins at about six years of age, as at that age children first become amenable to it. In order to learn in school the child must be able to sit still, pay attention to the teacher, and follow directions. This is difficult at any age, impossible before six. However, after six the language sensitivity begins to fade, making reading and writing more difficult. Teachers work very hard, but it is a bit late. Reading and writing can be thought of as part of the whole language process to be mastered while the interest is so high. Teachers in the field of Special Education know that learning to read helps many children who have difficulty with pronunciation and vocabulary.

The letters are the key to written language. They can be seen and heard. If they are cutouts they can be felt. They fit the words like a jigsaw puzzle.   In the early years when children are so keen for new sights and sounds letters are easy to learn. Looking at sounds gives them a new dimension, feeling them helps even more. There are only 26 letters in the English language, not many for the colossal memories of the small ones. When they know the names of 26 people or 26 types of cars adults smile indulgently, but when they know 26 letters the same adults feel that they should dust off the presidential chair.

Learning letters and sounds is not learning to read. It is only an extension of the language process. It is actually a help in learning to talk since the sounds can be studied in isolation.

There are certain basic facts about children that are overlooked:

  1. All children begin to speak at approximately the age of two, showing that they have learned something before going to school.
  1. Between the ages of two and four all children learn at least twenty new words each day without any expert help.
  1. Pronunciation improves greatly during this period, showing that the children are working on it.
  1. All children under six take great delight in making and hearing funny noises.

All that is required to learn the alphabet is for some adult to give names to the funny noises. It should take a week at the outside. Concurrently the adult may purchase a colorful ABC book and show the child what the funny noises look like. Naturally, this should be done with enjoyment, not pressure, without using tests of any sort. It helps to recruit a teenage uncle who will make funny faces to increase the hilarity.

Anyone who tries this will succeed, and often the children will take it from there and pick out the letters in TV ads or street signs. The letters then have some relation to real everyday life. Parents should enjoy the process and not try to introduce Shakespeare at this stage. Then when you say words the funny noises pop out of them delightfully. Knowing their names gives the children a handle on them. This is not reading, but merely an aid to language development.

Between the ages of three and six children perfect their speech until it is nearly as good as ours. They also learn to ride a bike, work the VCR, fold the laundry climb fences, and draw pictures. By the age of six or seven funny noises have lost their appeal, they seem infantile, so our children are bored to extinction in the first grade. Their vocabulary is so rich that the simple words in the primers are no fun at all. This lack of interest makes learning to read a chore. Disillusionment sets in. The teachers do all they can to make a game of it, but it is too late. They try to make the work easy, which does not help at all. Their pupils become extremely adept at evading the lessons. All first-grade teachers are facing an uphill job.

When Sesame Street first opened on TV the education experts were dubious. They thought that it was necessary to reach the mental age of six before it was wise to subject children to the alphabet. Everyone was skeptical, except the children who watched keenly and learned letters and sounds quite happily.

Writing should come before reading. Writing is an analytical process where you know what you want to say. You must listen to your own speech, then put letters to represent it. You set them down in the order in which you heard them.   You have then put your thoughts down where people can see them. Reading is a synthetic process. You must look at the words, take them apart, make the sounds, put the word together, go on to the next word and guess the meaning of the entire sentence. It could come as a surprise.

Reading is far more than sounding out words. Until you can read you can have no idea how it feels, the rhythm of the eyes moving across the page, the delight of sharing the ideas of the author, the excitement of a story. It definitely helps to have had books read to you so that the sounds are there too. Until you can do it by yourself you can never know the feeling of independence where you can communicate on your own time, in your own way. You are in control. It is like having an adult at your beck and call.

Education is too important a job to be left to the experts. What is needed is the knowledge that each adult has two missions in life: that of building his or her own life, and that of helping children to learn when the time is ripe. Everyone, after all, is either a parent or knows someone who is.

It has been shown that when mentally retarded children are given the alphabet at three or four years of age, their speech patterns improve. They also can read and write well before they are six. They may not draw profound conclusions from their reading, but I often do not either.

Human history changed unalterably with the invention of the alphabet, and again with the invention of the printing press.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 13 – Timing

Chapter 13 – Timing

TIMING

Regardless of race, ethnic origin, economic status, we are all created equal. Each of us has 24 hours each day. Our lives revolve around days and nights. Sleep experts tell us that we have a circadian rhythm of 25 hours a day and that we adapt to the 24 hour system. The fall change to standard time is relaxing, whereas the spring change creates some tension. In the high latitudes there are more problems with the long hours of daylight in summer and darkness in winter.  Above the Arctic Circle you sleep when you are sleepy and wake up at odd hours.

Our bodies have many inner rhythms. They all adapt to the timing we find outside of ourselves. When we hear music we synchronize our own rhythms with what we hear. Music is based on bodily rhythms. The quarter note is quite like the heart beat. When the music plays we walk, move our arms, heads, especially the feet. There is a real exhilaration when the unknowns respond , almost mystically. Dancing is the combining of a hundred rhythms which make for orderly movements we had not thought of. We make these into rituals which become truly emotional.

When we look at a sculpture or painting we move our eyes about it with a rhythm which was carefully contrived by the artist. In the finest art our eyes are drawn from any point completely over the work without leaving out anything. They eyes then reverberate throughout the body if we only let them.

The 24-hour division of the day is purely arbitrary. In illiterate and isolated societies the people do not know about it. They can get along very well, but cannot very well catch a train without knowing the schedule. They usually go to the station armed with pillows, friends, and sandwiches and just wait without worrying very much.

The passage of time is quite psychological. One child of five was heard to reassure a friend that “timeout” of fifteen minutes was not bad inasmuch as his mother had given him fifteen minutes to play before bedtime and it had gone rapidly. Sometimes even five minutes can seem like eternity.

Our lives are bounded by time, yet at any age one’s life seems to be the same length. The years seem much more rapid when one is older. For a child of five a single year is 20 percent of his life. Recorded history seems to begin with one’s birth, everything before that seems quite medieval.

One result of the passage of time is our propensity to think we are the wiser for it. The individual at age 20 is quite sure he is wiser than the one of 10, but does not feel half as wise as the man of 40, and tends to be indulgent toward the oldster of 80. The smartest age, then, is the one you are in. This does not change with time.

Young children under seven or eight have not much conscious sense of time. They want to tell time, but only vaguely. You can tell them that supper will be ready when the big hand gets to the six, but they won’t watch it for any long period. They live in an eternal present. This is one of the things one can learn from children. They have excellent memories, photographic memories in the earliest ages, but they usually only recall former experiences when they can enlighten the present. Otherwise why bother? A few months ago is similar to a few weeks ago. Years ago is only the dim past.

When you take a small child to school and go away, that child trusts that you will eventually return, but since his sense of time is not yours he has no notion of how long he must wait and it is quite impossible for you to explain. When you go out telling the child you will be only a half-hour it means very little. Any intelligent child knows that something might happen, and occasionally it does. All children have a gnawing fear of losing a parent. The story of Cinderella persists throughout the ages.

Children resent being hurried or being bored, as do we all, but they cannot easily rise above it. It is the cause of many tantrums Their inner rhythms are slower than those of adults in many respects. They love to speed up and slow down as a means of testing them. Their minds are always on their own development, physically and mentally. They are always trying something new, always trying to attain or perfect some skill. The idea of the constriction of time is repugnant. They do not even want to stop an interesting activity for dinner, much less for going to bed.

Adults take the sense of time for granted, as will the children, but not now. They will lose something when they do. We live by the clock, we adjust ourselves to it. To be late is a social sin and there is no way we can explain this to otherwise intelligent offspring. We know their natural rhythms are slower, but what can we do when it is time to go? The best mode of action is to prepare the children well in advance, to give them more time to think about it that we would need. We can let them help get ready with an activity that won’t take too long.

Attention span is one of the problems of timing. When we begin a project it needs to be planned and proper time allotted. It might be drawing a picture or tuning up the car. If it is the latter we cannot afford to stop in the middle when we come to the end of our attention rope, whereas in the former it can be done. Children do not understand this, so to tell a child that a task must be completed in one sitting is unrealistic. Children try something, fail, and try again constantly.   They seem to know when to quit and try again later, but not always. Adults, with all our time sense, are not as good at it. My own attention span is about one hour for listening to a lecture, but it varies widely. When attention begins to wander one must be ready for it., otherwise all sorts of irrational behavior sets in. Children are apt to burst forth, and we wonder why our precious darlings are such barbarians.

When you have no sense of time you can enjoy the sunsets, the snow on the mountains, the lapping of the waves. When you have no sense of time you can carry a pail of water to the sink, go back for more until you are sure you can do it, or reach the end of your attention span. You can wash a table over and over whether it is clean or not. You can take off your shoes and put them on again forever without feeling any pressure to hurry. You can throw a ball into a basket all afternoon. The adult obsession with time is completely abstruse.

Adults fear the wasting of time. They do things which save it, such as rushing through the yellow traffic lights. This is a completely incomprehensible idea to children.

Adults live side by side with creatures of an earlier sensitive period. It is easy to be impatient with the work they have to do when you know how important yours is. You have forgotten how they feel. Because you have “outgrown” these attitudes you tend to think theirs is of less value. Don’t try to change them. All these things have a purpose. You yourself are the result of just such activity, just such behavior, just such manias.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 12 – Imitation and originality

Chapter 12 – Imitation and originality

IMITATION AND ORIGINALITY

There is indeed a human instinct for imitation. We are all copycats, not only the children. When we go to a foreign country we look at the differences in table manners and try to conform. It is only polite, we say. How else could human race be so adaptable? In Alaska we look about to see how the natives keep warm and try to find just such a jacket. We watch to see what the neighbors are doing and decide whether it is a good idea. We call it learning from each other.

Children are masters of imitation. They have the eye for it, the ear for it they perk up at sounds that I can’t even hear. Just watch a father some day with three small sons walking behind him. They will have the exact same swagger. Children come home from school with all sorts of strange words, some of them unacceptable. They copy the facial expressions of some older child just to try it out. A left-handed child can even imitate the movements of a right-handed parent in reverse, which is not easy. They get the hang of it during the first year. Adults have forgotten how much fun it is to imitate someone’s movements. If we could do it our golf lessons would progress much faster. Actually we could probably do it, but the interest just is not overpowering anymore. We have gone on to other interests but have lost something in the process.

Babies are best at imitation. I read recently that French babies cry in a different tone from German babies, so the process must begin earlier than supposed. They need it to learn to talk and to use their hands. The human hand is tremendously powerful but can do nothing unless under the direction of the mind.   The hand actually cannot develop without practice in imitation. They watch, listen and imitate all the livelong day even when you think they are just vegetating. They imitate facial expressions which involve tiny muscles. That all helps to get their own muscles under control. They are also thinking all the time, and eventually use the facial muscles to express their own thoughts and feelings in a way that other people can understand. They watch the movements of various adults, then try them all out to see what works best for them.

Children are working so hard for perfection in their imitation that they are extremely sensitive on the subject of clumsiness. They feel terrible about making the awful messes that eventually occur, no matter what they may say to cover it up. Criticism at these times can be devastating.

At first we think that all this imitation is cute, but later it becomes overwhelming. Parents find that they must watch their P’s and Q’s as never before. It is gratifying to see our good points in the mirror, but the last thing we want is to see our foibles repeated. Then when the children arrive at the age of three or more and begin the wholesale copying of other children we just don’t know what to think.

It is well to realize that children are not like billiard balls, set in motion by outside forces, propelled by Newton’s laws of motion. Actions of children are moved by inner forces, by self-directed goals. Children do not imitate every activity of every person they see. Much slips by without engaging their interest. Interest will be highest when it has to do with their theme song, “Help me to do it myself.” Children choose what to imitate, for the purpose of becoming independent members of society. The imitation is more of a transmutation than an exact copy.

Imitation is the basis for originality, strange as it may seem. It strengthens the individuality by the conscious and unconscious selections of what to imitate. Children through imitation become aware of their own capacities for a wide variety of actions they would otherwise not have thought of. In this way children grow in awareness of themselves as measured against someone else. Slavish imitation can actually teach us our own abilities. After a bit of this the children put on a few embellishments. In this way imitation and originality are two sides of the same coin. Because of all this imitation the gains of each person become the possession of all of the society.

My sense of myself grows by imitating you, and my sense of you grows in terms of my sense of myself. So the ideas of right and wrong in children tend to be the approval or disapproval of others. It is inevitable, but all this will change after these important roots are laid down. It makes for social cohesion, for social stabilitiy. It gives us a feeling of belonging, a feeling of being American. We salute the flag, saying the words in unison, imitating all the motions.

After a little slavish imitation one wishes to change things a little. After you have copied someone’s behavior you are in a much better position to see the advantages of making your own alterations before you really internalize it.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 11 – The pint-sized scientist

Chapter 11 – The pint-sized scientist

THE PINT-SIZED SCIENTIST

In describing the scientific method, we think of men and women studying nature to divine its secrets. The scientist approaches each problem with an open mind ready to receive all the facts before trying a hypothesis. With each new set of data a new hypothesis is formed, then carefully tested in every way possible, again and again, to be sure the conclusion is valid. Opinions are discarded when new facts do not agree.

It is said that Sir Isaac Newton deduced the principles of gravity after an apple fell on his head. Apples fall on the heads of all of us, about which we do very little thinking, but we do react in one way or another, largely dependent on the hypotheses we formulated in the early years. We “take it for granted.” As we watch the process at work in our sons and daughters we retrieve dim memories of our own mental struggles.

The laboratory scientist has at hand many fine instruments which enhance the senses. That is really all they do, those fine telescopes, microscopes, computers and all. The baby has none of these but are not his methods the same? Each scientist began as a baby with an absorbent mind and has dim memories of it which are used as a basis for all the adult work.

Babies operate using their bodies as laboratory instruments. The thalidomide babies hated their artificial limbs and actually rebelled against their use. When children lose limbs at a later age they do not so rebel. The basic experimentation is behind them.

The law of gravity comes to one’s attention immediately after birth. Raising the head takes a bit of doing, and when it is accomplished there is a real feeling for the power of this law, and for its utter reliability. While holding up the head we interact with this basic law of physics. Other reactions come when crawling about, then comes the first fall! The howl at that time is one of outrage more than hurt. It should not happen to a self-respecting baby with no ill intent in mind.

Let us look at a small boy aged five months who has just discovered that he can poise on hands and knees and actually move forward. It is an experience fraught with delight. Our hero heads across the room picking up speed, having absolutely no knowledge that momentum is the product of mass and velocity with some influence on impact. The wall looms, impact occurs, baby cries. If you look carefully you will see the outrage and frustration. “There, there,” we say in comfort, thinking of the pleasure-pain principle we learned about in books, instead of remembering. We put him down. Does he refuse to crawl again because of the pain? Not in the least! He charges across the room again, this time stopping just short of the wall. He will never hit it hard again! It is not the first time he has controlled his actions in response to a law of physics, not will it be the last.

Our baby encounters the laws of friction when crawling on rugs or on waxed floors, walking on pavement, grass, snow, puddles. Other problems occur going up ramps and hills with varying angles of elevation. Many conclusions need to be drawn, and drawn judiciously. Then there is the question of height. Our scientist must fall off the couch many times before proper conclusions come concerning potential energy and its conservation.

No scientist worthy of the name forms a hypothesis at the first trial, nor does our baby. He goes ahead undaunted by failures that would set back most adults, but to him each failure is another bit of data. He will fall down the stairs every day to the despair of his parents. But if they put him in a playpen he will experience the sadness of any good scientist whose laboratory is beyond reach.

Most of the knowledge we have was acquired before the age of twelve or fourteen. After that we don’t seem to care as much. We know all we need to know. Before this it didn’t matter whether we needed to know it or not. Now we need to be more practical. If we come from a fishing village we need to know how to catch and market fish. Higher mathematics doesn’t seem relevant. The scientist in us begins to adapt to whatever social group we belong. Belonging becomes much more important than anything else.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 10 – Curiosity

Chapter 10 – Curiosity

CURIOSITY

“I have six honest serving men,
They taught me all I knew.
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.”
-Rudyard Kipling

You had them once, and used them well, or you would not be as knowledgeable as you are. Now you must cope with them! It is not easy. You can tell when your child is six years old as the problem increases a lot then. Before six you hear, “Mom, what’s this?,” or “Dad, what’s that for?” You can answer these in a word or so, but “Why” is harder to evade. It can tie you up for hours. Here are some of the ways to get out of it, but they are purely temporary:

Ask your father.
Because I said so.
Curiosity killed the cat.
So that little girls can ask questions.
Look it up in the encyclopedia.
Wait until you go to school.
It will take me a long time to tell you all about it.
Wait a while, I’m tired now.

You can surely think of others. Curiosity is built in like an internal hard disk, and like such a disk all entries are stored in memory with a key to retrieving them, usually a word, sometimes a tune, often a shape. Curiosity gathers in the entries, a central processer works them over and comes out with “Why.” Small babies can’t talk, but are curious just the same.

The trouble with children is that they do not understand us, so they assume that we think their way, and their way changes every few years. The tiny ones assume that we also are fascinated by simple words, by shapes and colors and feels. As soon as they store some of them away they go on to new ones without thinking much about the former ones. They have no idea that we have goals, duties, schedules to keep, relationships to maintain, dishes to wash. They love to watch us do all these things, curious as to why and how, but they think we do it all for fun as they would if they were allowed. Their goal in life is to be able to do it all and know it all just like Mom and Dad.

Children think that adults are curious, because why not? Isn’t everyone?

Our curiosity is still there but is not such an overpowering urge. We may think of the scientist who retains curiosity, but not like a child! The scientist keeps it within bounds. The astronomer is mightily curious about various planets and galaxies, but doesn’t care very much about why “ate” and “eight” are spelled differently.

We adults tend to prioritize our curiosities. Those which have a bearing on our jobs or our hobbies or our long-term goals take precedence. We speak about what is “more important” than something else, a phrase which is meaningless to a child. For a child, the only long-term goal is to build themselves. They want to know about every little thing, you can never tell, after all, when it will come in handy. It might fit in with some word they have heard before.

This childhood attitude is exasperating. It is comfortable to say that it is “immature.” by immature we mean, of course, that it is less like us – therefore not to be valued as highly, something to be “gotten over.”

We know that the children will end up thinking like us, how could it be otherwise? We know we attained our lofty stature by going through such periods as we see in them, so we know it is something they will “outgrow.” The children see this attitude. Since they are trying desperately to imitate us, they too think this is “immaturity”, something to be outgrown.

Curiosity changes with the other changes. The baby who first learns to crawl is extremely curious as to what is in every drawer, behind every cupboard door that it has been watching for all these months. He crawls into every room to see what is there, touches everything, puts everything possible into the mouth. When we, as adults, go to a friend’s home we are not curious about these things. We do not feel any need to know what is in the next room, or in the kitchen drawers. The child wants to know the name of every little thing, whereas it is quite possible for us to go into a friend’s garden and not know the names of every one of the flowers. It does not make us at all uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t even remember where every chair in the living room is placed.

The older child wants to know why the moon is in the sky, where is Africa, why do we have electricity, and everything else. We collect an inordinate amount of general knowledge before the age of twelve, after that we lose this sort of interest, but we become curious about social and emotional things, we wonder why someone doesn’t like us, how to dress, how to fit in to the teenage milieu.

As an example, let us look at my friend Dolores, aged 14. She is deeply in love with the boy next door who watches her admiringly. Her mother tells her that this is “puppy love” which she will outgrow to make way for the more mature variety. Dolores, looking at her parents and looking at her admirer, can hardly see maturity as a thing to be hoped for. However, she is not sure that her mother is wrong, so trusts her own feelings less.

They actually think we know everything, these children, that anything we don’t know is not worth knowing. This fits in with our way of thinking rather well. In order to be like us they need to know everything, and how can you do this unless you ask questions? They want to be able to do everything we do, and how can you do that without asking questions?

It doesn’t take long to learn the names of the six honest serving men, a few months will do. They only have to hear their names once and it is as if they had been standing in the wings all their lives.

There are children who do not seem to be curious. These children have been discouraged, but they are not disheartened. It has all gone underground where it doesn’t bother you so much. After all, the children love us so much that they really don’t want to bother us any more than they can help. It is just hard to understand what sets us off.

The more you feed the curiosity the worse it gets.

You might think that schools would help in this sort of thing, but not really. You can’t ask very many questions in school, the teacher tells the class what they are studying and the children are pretty well limited to that. Besides, there are so many other children that there is only so much time for personal questions. The teacher is busy, like most adults, nice and helpful as adults try to be within their funny limits. Teachers need to keep order If the class is studying arithmetic and a small girl is curious about a bird outside the window she can’t do much about it. Teachers absolutely refuse to be serving men. They like to be in charge. Children vaguely see the sense in this, but they put up with it.

“What’s this?”, “What’s that?” you hear over and over from the smaller ones as soon as they can say the words. Before that they assume you know that they are thinking that way. This is a miracle in itself. Why should a baby even care? Isn’t love enough?

Children want to know more things than they can possibly learn. Why should they have such a keen desire? Their emotions are all tied up with this curiosity. They get all upset over some question that they haven’t quite understood. They simply cannot understand why you don’t wonder about things in the same way. They know you don’t, and feel a little sorry for you, and hope that never happens to them.

Actually, curiosity never really leaves us. It only gets down to manageable size.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 9 – The way it s’posed to be

Chapter 9 – The way it s’posed to be

THE WAY IT’S S’POSED TO BE

The sun rises and sets each day, the seasons come and go in regular order, I get up in the morning, wash, brush my teeth, dress, then go to the kitchen for orange juice. It is a routine, and we all have them. They are a comfort. We know what to expect. We do not even examine them very much, though if you did you would discover which shoe you put on first, how you frown when you comb your hair. When you bathe, do you begin with the face or the feet? Always? Which part of the newspaper do you read first? Always? It is restful to know what is going to happen next. One feels on top of things, in control, so to speak.

We live by so many of these routines. Things seem to go on automatic pilot. It is comfortable to go along without thinking much about it. In a new situation you need to stop to think at every turn. Imagine how it would be if you landed on Mars! Children are in that position.

The mechanism of building up all these things is complicated. Nature seems to know how much of them you will need when you are grown up, and gives you a time table for the forming of them. Before you can crawl or walk you just see how things are done and try to fathom what is going to come next. You check to see where all the furniture is placed. If someone moves a chair you immediately notice and wonder about it. Parents should realize this and keep things in place for babies.

It is hard to fathom how much interest our children have in how things are done, the order in which they happen, the layout of the house. Even riding in the car the baby in the carseat will note the landmarks and know when you are nearly home. They are so small that adults have no idea how much they care about these things. We are interested but take it all in stride. Only the explorer of unchartered territories can understand, and then not really. He has done it before!

All this interest becomes a mania at about two years old. It lasts for several years until the children get a handle on things. Any change in routine, any major move can create real distress. They wail without being able to explain what it is that is so awful, and if they could you would just laugh at such foolishness. In case of real disasters it is the two to four year old who is hit hardest emotionally. Parents say, “Oh, they adjust!” without realizing how difficult it is to do that. It causes real stress and the usual reactions to stress are difficult for the adults who do not understand.   Parents expect the children to be able to control it without any erratic behavior, but this does not happen.

“The terrible twos” we call it. They are absolute ritualists at this time. They know how it is supposed to be and insist on it imperiously. Let father sit at the “wrong” place at the table, let someone give the child the “wrong” spoon and you may actually witness a full-scale temper tantrum. To such a child it is a vital matter that everything be in its proper place, that things happen in proper sequence. The adult in charge usually has no idea how he feels. Trouble ensues. The fearful adult is quite sure the child is getting the best of things, “getting his own way.”

Habits are hard to change, ingrained as they are from so far back. If you examine them you can dimly realize how much work was done by the child you once were.

Children build up habits beginning from birth. In the first four or five years keeping the routine is an absolute mania, later on it is a comforting habit, teenagers tend to reevaluate them, adults forget about them. Teachers of school-age children know the importance and keep careful routines. Pupils dislike substitute teachers because they never pass the papers the “right way”. If Mother is ill and Aunt Mary must come, she never sets the table the right way or knows the proper bedtime routine. Older children grit their teeth and bear it, but the small ones howl in distress. Teenagers build up very sophisticated routines which they keep slavishly.

Adults have a very different attitude toward order. We like to have an orderly house or office because it is convenient, it makes it easy to do things. For the child order is a need of life. They cannot bear it if they are not sure where everything is. They, after all, are not creating the order, they are using the order to create themselves. They are taking in the environment, but must sort out everything, put things into categories, and how can you do that if things don’t stay put? The principle of order is built in, but it needs help, some sort of stability. They are working hard to make sense out of the thousands of things around them. We have already done that, so take the whole thing for granted.

Small children like to play games of hide-and-find where you put a toy under a blanket and remember where it is. Older children enjoy games of checkers where the rules are simple and unchanging. Adults enjoy chess for the same reason.

Teenagers are impossible. Their manias for ritual are different. They are not a bit bothered by the changes in furniture arrangement, but they want to dress alike, use the same slang expressions, even nod their heads the same way. They even like to cry over the same movies. They need to be sure of their ability to conform before they can afford to be themselves.

The rituals of the world have their start in early childhood. Religious services are unchanging, you know what to expect in ritual meals. You might have ham at Thanksgiving time, but not if you have children. The child you once were comes forth and insists upon turkey. Some people forego a tree at Christmas, but not parents!

We can help children by keeping the furniture in place, by keeping as much order as we can until they have it under control. Most of all, we need to be aware of the problem. Many parents who move about often say that their children adjust. They do indeed, and often do not protest, but it is hard on them. They learn very early not to bother you too much because you don’t understand anyway. The stress is still there so they live with it. Also, adult overreaction is something to be feared. Adults are big and strong so children learn to keep out of the way.

All these manias pass, but have their purpose.  If they are frustrated there is a price to be paid. When your child is absolutely sure of routines, when the categories stay put, he will be willing to let a few things change. The more order you have, the sooner this will happen, and the less stress on all of you.

Before the branches can grow the roots must be put down. The deeper the roots the stronger the tree. The most helpful thing you can do is enjoy the process.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 8 – What you see is what you get

Chapter 8 – What you see is what you get

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

To observe is more than to see, it rather means to think about what you see and to shake off outside ideas that creep in to tell you what you are seeing. It means not to be afraid of surprises and to see what is really there, not what is supposed to be there. You can’t even see it if you aren’t looking for it. Even scientists find it difficult.

We have come a long way in our knowledge of childhood, but we still cling to the old ways. We also have a few prejudices of our own times. To really see children we need to look between the cracks because the true nature of the child requires special conditions if it is to reveal itself and to develop.

There is nothing new about child misunderstanding. Long ago children were considered miniature adults and were dressed accordingly. Most of the sins against children are committed by well-meaning adults who see what they expect to see. Today we still tend to think, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that children, as long as they are loved, need mainly custodial care until they are about two, then comes the need for getting them to be clean and neat and to stop touching everything. Most mothers now work, by desire or necessity. The women’s lib movement asks them to be “free” of the care of children that is so very confining, boring and exhausting. Such menial work is not deemed to help a woman realize her potential. Parents come home tired these days and lack the patience required by the little ones. There is not enough time even to observe, so we tend to fall back on the old untruths.

We see what we expect to see, and our expectations seem to have an effect on what children think of themselves, and on their behavior toward the adult who comes up with the expectations.

Children, as they appear to the ordinary person, seem to be clumsy, careless, lazy and destructive. They cry to “get their own way,” or to “get attention.” Of course they do. How are you going to find out anything about the real world if you are left in a playpen with plastic toys? With this sort of expectation there comes a restlessness which the adult cannot dominate. No sort of “discipline” helps. Even when the adult appears to have son, there are the other reactions of naughtiness or tears, greediness, possessiveness. Such a child will not feel capable of doing anything unsupervised and will resent being told what to do and how to do it.

It takes hours and hours of practice to train fat little fingers to grasp and hold things of various sizes and shapes. Children who are called “clumsy” tend to believe it, especially when they watch the dexterity of the adults. Sometimes they stop trying. In one way or another, they react.

Most of us feel that children need to be “trained.” In this training you tell the child “no” then administer punishment, that being all you think he can understand at the early age of three. The fact that he can and does learn at least one language complete with all the grammar by that age is completely discounted. Artificial intelligence experts have yet to come up with a computer data bank equal to such a child.

Children are considered cute, lovable little minions, doing our bidding, coming up with funny little mistakes in syntax, funny little conclusions about things they see. Adults laugh at their mistakes indulgently. They are not even supposed to be embarrassed by such ridicule. In adult company they are to be seen and not heard. Any questioning is impertinence, not to be tolerated.

Children are considered both lazy and incapable. Teachers work very hard to get them to work, to make the school assignments interesting and easy, as if children want to idle away their time. The children need and want to be told that they are special because the adults do not really believe it.

A few years ago all school desks and chairs were fastened to the floor or made so heavy that the children could not move them. This was to keep the children from moving and making noise, which it thought their nature to do. They needed to be listening to the teacher or they could not possibly be learning anything. The need for physical movement came during the half-hour gym periods scheduled carefully by the adults.

Children are held to have a short attention span. This is due to the fact that they do not want to listen all day to what they are told to do. I wonder how many adults would lose their long attention spans under such treatment. The fact that a child will spend hours putting his shows on and off is not even considered except as a nuisance. Adults do not do such things.

As adults we tend to want activities to be a bit useful. We say, “Now you are clean, that is enough, stop. “You are getting all wet.” they say when a child plays in the wash basin. How are you going to find out the properties of water anyway? Listen to a lecture on it?

We must, as we live with the children, be aware that while we work to get something done, they work to perfect their movements. They do things over and over again to get the sequence of actions fixed in mind. It is a thing we cannot do for them, and they demand the chance to do it themselves. They have no sense of time, and will insist on tying their shoes when there are only a few minutes to spare in the family routine. It is most aggravating if you are not aware.

When we speak of a person behaving childishly, we mean that he is silly, inconsiderate, not knowing the proper behavior. Curiosity is not considered childish, whereas it is one of the greatest characteristics of childhood.

When our friends come to visit we show off our children. We dress them up, ask them to count to ten or to play the piano, using an artificially high voice. We make some other demand so that our friends can see that they are obedient. Subjects never neglected are school performance and sports performance.

One of the most fearful expectations is that if the parent does not properly curb all inappropriate behavior the child will grow up spoiled, probably a criminal or a dope addict.

The child is a person that you can only see if you are looking, see the reality under the appearance, the child who works with joy to plumb the depths in himself, trying to tie shoes, climb stairs, put things in the right place, throw a basketball, do everything exactly right. Each conquest brings feelings of joy and love for the environment that enabled it to happen and for the adult who helped just enough and not too much. This real child is eager for knowledge of every sort. He or she will be frank and open, not pandering to adults, but rather respectful and loving.

This is the child you must expect to see underneath the appearances. If you can do this, this is the child you will get. You will be able to stay in charge and not need to demand subservience. You will begin to under temper tantrums better. Best of all, you will be able to relax, you will not need to be constantly on guard lest your precious child grow up badly.

 

by Marietta Rawson

7 – Work, work, work

7 – Work, work, work

WORK, WORK, WORK

If I were to go down to the seashore and were to come upon a man filling a wheelbarrow with sand, and a small boy filling a toy wheelbarrow with sand, I could then compare the work of the child and the work of the adult. I would offer to help the man. He would hand me his shovel and sit down, thinking me a bit crazy. If I were to offer to help the boy, the chances are very high that he would not allow it, but would defend himself against my help vociferously. Furthermore, when the boy finished filling the wheelbarrow, he very probably would dump it out and refill it any number of times, whereas the man would never in the world do such a thing.

Adults do not fritter away their energies in this fashion. We try for economy of action, we admire the fast worker, we work to finish the job. The child is in no hurry to finish, but dallies away with no regard to time schedules which adults find necessary. Children will hold you up when dinner is ready, trying to put on their shoes over and over again. An adult sweeps the floor in order to get rid of the dirt. I once asked my pupils if they were allowed to sweep at home. An eager boy answered with delight, “Oh yes, my mother let me sweep and I found such a lot of dirt!

This sort of thing is not frittering or “playing” at all. It is practicing, it is experimenting. Much intelligence is brought to bear in finding the qualities of sand, how fast it flows, how big are the grains, what forms it takes in the wheelbarrow. Water is even more interesting. Since water makes up most of our bodies and covers most of the earth, it is incumbent upon us to know its properties as soon as we can. We have a working knowledge of physics before we ever go to high school.

Work is defined as activity with a purpose, as opposed to play which is activity without a purpose. Play has its place, is enjoyable, but cannot begin to give the satisfactions of work. The work we find unpleasant is work that we have not chosen to do, activity that is forced upon us. We find repetitive activity terribly boring, but the scientist who makes repeated experiments all day long does not fine it unpleasant at all. The artist who paints intricate draperies works enthusiastically.

All children like to handle water, “water-play” adults call it as they fill the bathtub and give them toy ducks to play with. However, the children derive much more pleasure when there is a purpose, such as washing their hands. Washing hands is an activity they have observed many times, it has a purpose. They will wash their hands over and over just for the joy of the activity, the joy of organizing a sequence of actions. The mind is then involved in all the hand motions. They do not stop when the hands are clean as would an adult.

Such an activity gives satisfaction, even great joy because the mind is directing the activity, and the small person gains a little more control of himself or herself.

When we work we interact with the environment. The adult uses inner energies, ideas, imagination, effort, to change the environment, to make it more useful, more orderly, more beautiful. The child, on the other hand, uses the environment to change himself, to perfect body movements, to find out how things fit together, to try things out, to learn all the things they will later take for granted.

Adults get up in the morning and relax a bit before starting to work. Children have no time to waste, so they have at it every waking moment. When they take time out they are watching carefully some activity that they will soon feel up to trying. Adults tire after working, children seem refreshed by it. They only collapse after many hours of activity. Adults hurry so that they may be finished. We map out our day with allotted tasks. Children seem to live in an everlasting present. They rejoice in the action itself, even when it is repeated over and over.

Adults are able to repeatedly perform routine tasks which need to be done. Children hate this sort of thing. They are happy to help with the housework but rebel against washing the dishes every day. As soon as they are good at a task they want to go on to bigger and better things.

Adults have something of this attitude when they take golf lessons. They go to the driving range and hit ball after ball, checking on every motion of the body. They watch the pros and do it again and again. There is no external aim here as is usual in adult work, but the inner aim of improving one’s prowess.

Adults like the idea of division of labor, for the child this is impossible. You cannot learn to pour water, to swim or make friends by letting someone else help. If you let this happen you surrender something of real value.

Children start and stop work at times inscrutable to adults. They can stare at a fluff of dust for long periods. They sometimes seem to go from one thing to another capriciously. Sometimes it is easy to distract them, at other times they cling to the activity tenaciously. Adults have a terrible time with this and wish they would hurry up and become “mature” like them.

Children are just as dense as adults. They actually think that adults love to vacuum floors and wash dishes. Adults seem to be privileged characters in that they are allowed to do any of these things whenever they wish. They cannot imagine anyone getting tired from such activity.

The aim of the child is to build an adult. The child does not realize this fully so can only follow instincts, instincts that tell him to copy everything he sees and hears, to find out everything, see how everything is done and adapt himself to it all. By means of this he learns to speak, to walk, run, climb, hold a spoon, a pencil. Sitting still is painful, so strong are the urges. It all seems to happen spontaneously but requires much, much work. To the adult it seems like play. Work, after all, is supposed to be unpleasant, isn’t it? Every adult owes the richness of life to the work of the child of long ago, work that you can’t even remember doing.

When children complain about washing the dishes it is usually because they already know how, are sure of themselves about it, and want to go on   to something new. They want to take part in everything. The adults need to understand this.

The idea of work for us is something unpleasant, burdensome, tiring, a necessary task to be finished as soon as possible, necessary for survival. We have a work ethic, we don’t like lazy people who go on welfare, yet those who are financially independent usually do not work. They are considered fortunate. Yet there are adults who love to work, who are never so happy as when they are busy organizing, ordering, building, planning. They don’t like interference either.

It is a fortunate child who is allowed to work, to work at tasks he chooses, tasks which help him adapt to the home in which he lives. Fortunate is the child whose work is appreciated by the adults around him.   Fortunate is the child who is helped just enough and not too much, who is allowed to fail and try again. The more failures the greater the glow of success.

 

by Marietta Rawson

 

Chapter 6 – The Mystery of Language

Chapter 6 – The Mystery of Language

THE MYSTERY OF LANGUAGE

Language is the central point that makes us human beings different. We all can speak, even the feeble-minded have a large vocabulary. No one can predict what a baby will do in the world, but it is evident that without speaking he would do very little. The power to think is bound up with language. Even very intelligent people would not be able to accomplish very much without being able to communicate with others. To carry out any project people must deliberate and agree.

Language is also a wall which hems us in. Each ethnic group has one, and when they speak they exclude all others. There are expressions of agreement which those not “in the know” will never understand. Pronunciations are exact, the slightest deviation is noticed and commented upon. Languages bind people together and set them apart more than national boundaries. It is the mother tongue that does it, not the languages we learn later.

Adults get very emotional about language. Babies are much more emotional about it than we think. Languages of the world are kept alive by babies. Invaders who wish to keep control of a population try to stamp out the language by preventing the babies from learning it. They know that the parents cling to the language they learned so very young, that they can never change. It is not rational to cling to one’s mother tongue since people say more or less the same things in every language. Languages are learned by babies with a quiver of joy and the joy of speaking them remains with us.

A child has the power to absorb any language in any society- provided he hears it spoken or sung. Yes, music is a language too. Every child who hears language spoken or sung cannot help but learn it. Yet we adults know how much work it takes to learn a language. When we study a foreign language we must take lessons, study the grammar, memorize vocabulary and practice making sentences. We already know the difference between words and sentences, we already know what grammar is, we already know the little words like “is” or “the.”

The child must do this and much more. He must not only learn the language, but at the same time learn what language is, how it is possible to express oneself with words. He must deduce that the sounds coming from the human mouths are saying something. He must come to realize that everything has a name. He must pick out individual words from the flow of sound, recognize a word he has heard before and link it to a new situation. The same words are used over and over in different situations, making it even trickier.

Our child must also deal with words such as “up” and “down” which don’t name anything concrete at all. There must be some experience here to illustrate the difference, and there must be some idea of opposites and why we use them. Someone must say these words at the right time and in the right place, because words like this are only good for naming ideas. It thus follows that our child must learn what an idea is. A lot of ideas must be built from scratch before anyone can talk.

Grammar is usually thought by fourth and fifth-graders to be terribly dull. Why not? They have covered it years ago. One must get the words in the right order or they won’t mean anything at all to anyone else. One must realize that talking is expressing yourself to another person who knows the same words you do. One must learn to form plurals, how to make questions, how to use prefixes and suffixes, past tenses of verbs, even the irregular ones. All this takes a lot of work.

Much study goes on today as to how children learn to speak, and it is generally thought that they do not so much learn it as create it from the words they hear. The process is formidable. Babies must listen carefully, recognize that when people speak they are communicating. Then they must pick out words, recognize that the words can be names of the things they see, but not all words. They must know the rhythm and cadence of speech. The word order in the sentences is very precise. They must recognize questions and statements. In the very beginning they don’t even know that people and things have names at all. They also have not had the experiences they hear described. In addition they must be able to reproduce the sounds by imitating throat movements, lip movements, cheek movements. It is a formidable task, to be accomplished within the first two years of life, along with learning to crawl, walk, climb, manipulate things with the hands, etc. etc. It is no wonder that they are obsessed with it.

In order to do this there must be keen desire, something we usually don’t ascribe to children, certainly not to babies. We know they want to get their own way, but we think of it in terms of gaining power over us, not in terms of learning language. Actually they couldn’t do all this without the special powers given to them from time to time. There is a special mechanism for language that fades as we get older. During these early years there seems to be no limit to how many languages they can learn, provided they hear them spoken about them. Sometimes twins will create a secret language of their own in addition.

Only a child can internalize a language. We now know that every new sound, taste, smell, feel and sight fires up the neurons in the brain, makes new connections, and in the case of babies even creates new ones. No wonder it is an exciting experience! It is the building up of intelligence itself.

To facilitate this long and arduous process our child is given a large dose of curiosity, the impulse to imitate, the facility for hearing minute differences in sound, and the strong desire to pay close attention to all this. We think that babies’ attention span is small, but this is because the baby is paying such close attention that he learns a word the first time he hears it. If you do not believe this, just let someone use profanity only once. It is in the mind forever.

It is generally believed that we are born with a special mechanism in the brain for language. Part of the frontal lobe of the brain seems to be reserved for it. The baby is not born with any particular language, but is born with a mechanism for making a language of his own, using the sounds he hears. In the first year of life the mechanism is hard to see, but is being studied widely today. It has been found that after a month or two a baby can distinguish sounds in every language of the world. Each sound is remembered so well that every new one, no matter how tiny, makes our baby take note. After the first year this ability begins to fade until the adult is able to reproduce only the sounds of the languages he knows.

The timetable for acquiring language is in the first two years before adults think their children understand anything much. Adults are still trying to “train” them.   Children demand the chance to listen and imitate and are inconsolable if adults want any time to themselves. They are completely wrapped up in their own needs and you are part of it. There is so much excitement in listening that they cannot bear to stop. They think that surely you must have much the same excitement.

Adults tend to think that language develops with speaking ability, that because babies babble and then say single words that they don’t understand much in the first year. Actually the baby can usually understand a conversation after nine or ten months if it is not too profound, and can probably understand a simple story long before that. Mothers insist that they know many words even before that, and they are probably right.

Language also requires abstract thinking which we do not usually ascribe to small children. It seems to be instinctive. In order to say the word “hat” with any confidence one needs to have some sort of experience with hats, some sort of interest in them. A child needs to have seen her own hat, those of her parents and of guests, and to be able to use the word for a hat she has never seen before. Almost all sounds are the names of a class of things rather than a particular thing. Classification is a very sophisticated form of thinking, begins in the first year of life, as soon as there are a few things to sort out. You can’t sort out words unless you hear them quite a bit, and you can’t do that in a crib looking at the ceiling.

We look at babies as very cute and marvel at every bit of memory we see, but we do not stop to think how much work the little things are actually doing. When we see them “discover” some word we are really looking at the results of a very great deal of thinking. The ability to classify, to invent pigeon-holes for everything, seems to be built into the human brain. It is like an internal database with no known limit for the accumulation of data or classifications.

The key to all this is interest, and the baby’s interest in words is probably keener than it will ever be again. Actually it will fade after the age of seven, languages will not come quite so readily. It reaches heights of joy and delight where the baby will quiver with excitement. At times you will see a dull, stupid look, at which times everything is going in pellmell. At these times they are mulling over what they have heard, trying to make sense out of it all.

Even with the special sensitivities, languages must be learned one word at a time, so there is much work involved. We miss much pleasure if we don’t think about it or appreciate it. Within each child is an inner teacher with a specific timetable. First come the sounds, then the syllables. Words follow, then grammar, what to us adults seems the dullest part of the language, yet the child shows the keenest interest. First come the nouns, then adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, the tenses of verbs, verbs in the infinitive. And it all must be done by listening to adults who have no idea what is going on, adults who speak quickly, sometimes those who slur the words, even those with speech defects.

To know the name of a thing gives us the power to think about it. Once we know its name we can make a category for it and add to the category whenever we hear the name again. In the Old Stone Age people kept their personal names secret for fear of giving power to those who heard them. In the fairy tales heroes are named Jack or some other nickname. Small children are thus fascinated by nouns. If you have a fretful child, even too young to talk, try carrying it about the house naming the things in it. The fascination is so great that the child will forget its troubles. Even as adults we know all about name-dropping as a manipulative power. When school-age children are troublesome the use of long words will distract them very quickly. Teenagers do this sort of thing ad nauseum.

Children understand language long before they can talk, long before any adult realizes the fact. They can probably follow a conversation by six or eight months, so you should probably be careful in talking in front of them. It will help them greatly if you speak slowly, enunciating the words. It is not at all easy to pick out words from the jumble of noises, especially when two people are talking at once.

With all this to accomplish it is not surprising that children have no time to waste, even with their prodigious powers. They have no time to worry about anything else. Adults appear to be there strictly to help them, and they will demand help. They use up your time. They feel they have a right to get into everything to see what it is for and to find the words that go with it all. They do not want to get the best of you, that is an adult attribute, they just want to get on with life. With nothing to listen to how can they learn anything else. Desire is so great that left alone they will cry plaintively. They are quite happy if put into any room there things are going on, where people are talking, but true happiness comes when someone talks to them alone. Even then adults simply don’t seem to understand!

It is impressive that there is continuity of pronunciation from one generation to the next, no matter how difficult is the language. Accents vary geographically far more than they do historically.

There are a limited number of words in any language, but an unlimited number of sentences. Long before children can speak they have thought in sentences. Some children begin talking in sentences, sentences they have never heard before, expressing thoughts they wish to communicate. They do not parrot the adults, they do not usually ask for something to eat. Most children begin with single words, but they are usually nouns, naming something they want to talk about. “No” is frequently one of the first words.

Until the children begin to speak the adults invariably underestimate them. Babies are so cute, so delightful, that they are treated like dolls or like super-pets to be “trained”. They are slapped to “teach them a lesson”, then cuddled, as if they did not understand any other form of treatment.

The age at which children begin to speak varies widely. A few come out with a word by seven months, others sit about and smile for three years. There have been recent studies on this. It has been shown that the human larynx is positioned much lower in the throat than that of the apes who are able to breathe and swallow at the same time. Babies need to be able to do this, so that they come in with the larynx high. Then at some age it descends, at which time speech is possible. Mentally retarded children are often late talkers, but sometimes they talk quite early. Highly intelligent children are usually early talkers, but not always. It is possible that early talkers receive more adult attention and therefore become more intelligent.

There are some adults who retain the power to absorb language. They have not forgotten the “feel” of it. Most adults outgrow it, forget it and go on to more “mature” things.

Before talking occurs the babies seem unresponsive, so try out your own methods of communication. Ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no” and show them how to shake the head for the proper response. Ask them to do something. If they don’t want to do it they will ignore you because that response works pretty well, but watch every little nuance of movement so that you can tell how much is understood. Ask them where something is, as that is a fascinating subject. Read stories over and over, each time asking whether the child wants to hear it again. That seems to aid the language process, though no one really knows how. Try everything possible to promote nonverbal communication, and you will be surprised every day. Listening is a skill devoutly to be cultivated, before and after talking occurs.

When children begin talking adults are usually impressed with the rapidity of it. They do not ordinarily correct the mistakes, seeming to know they are temporary. The sentence ?I bringed it.” is never used even in ungrammatical households. You can see by this and other mistakes that the children have internalized the rules of syntax before they know all the irregularities. Children are extremely sensitive about these things, as sensitive as adults to language correction. The best help you can give is to repeat the sentence grammatically. Why should it make a difference, anyway?

When children are late talkers adults try to help. However, they do not say to them, “Now you are old enough to talk, I will teach you. Let’s start with the easy words.” They are not completely insensitive.

This is an appeal to all parents to tune up your awareness. It is so easy to underestimate the language process, to take it for granted without appreciating it. After all, your child is like no other. This is a good time to remember the joy and excitement of it all, to relive some of these peak experiences. When you do it there is a sharing that is too great to ever miss.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 5 – Delights of the senses

Chapter 5 – Delights of the senses

DELIGHTS OF THE SENSES

They need us desperately. Babies without proper stimulation can actually sicken and die. Babies are born without being able to turn over in bed or lift the head, but their brains are well developed, ready to cope with any environment, any culture, but they need a culture to cope with. There is nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses, so it is only right and proper that the senses should be well developed first, keen eyes, keen ears, and a body that stays put so that all the time is spent looking, listening, feeling, tasting and smelling.

The desire for sense stimulation amounts to a craving. Every inch of skin aches to be touched, preferably by the skin of another human being. The eyes crave something to look at, preferably a human face. The ears crave something to listen to, preferably the human voice. It is as strong as the sex urge in the adult. Our young parents would never refuse this if they understood it. Too often they do not. Our baby cannot talk, it can only cry or smile. The larynx is not ready, the brain is.

New neurons are being formed from the first day of life, how far ahead we still do not know. Connections are ready to be made, and are made with great speed. Adults cannot possibly see this. Every new thing to see, every new sound uttered in the room, is recorded, makes new connections, opens another synapse which can make many more connections. The brain actually grows in complexity as new sights, new smells, new sounds come into experience. Can an adult remember how all this felt? Probably yes. All adults should at least try.

Babies after a month or two can distinguish phonemes in every language of the world. They listen intently and perk up the attention with each new tiny difference in intonation, each new difference in pronunciation, things adults have not the power to distinguish. The baby does not listen so intently to the train whistle, though a very loud one may be heard every hour. The baby does not listen so intently to the barking of the dog, even though the dog is in the house making quite a bit of noise. No, the attention goes to the human voice. The baby does not know he will eventually be talking, but does it anyway.

Babies see our bodies well, our heads are not the largest part as the babies’ heads are to them. However, the interesting part of us is the face, particularly the eyes and the mouth. In the first few months of life the baby loves to look even at pictures of the human face. He knows in a surprisingly short time that these are pictures of people, not bits of colored paper. If the baby can learn so much in a couple of months it is staggering to think how much is possible in ten years!   Faces are the first thing a child draws when the ability is mastered. Even we adults look first at the face of a new acquaintance.

It is thought that children have heightened sensory abilities, beyond those of adults. Colors are brighter, sounds are louder. They probably have more taste buds. Certainly they have more intense likes and dislikes of food. Most adults can remember the wonderful smell of the kitchen just before dinner. It is delightful today, but not in the same way.   Children need to make the most of these early abilities.

Babies need to figure things out. Do things disintegrate when they leave the room?   They appear as if by magic. Unless you handle something how do you know it has three dimensions? When things are far away they seem small, but enlarge as they grow nearer. Why? Some things seem to move by themselves, others need hands to carry them about. Some things have the same shape but different in color or size. Where do we get out ideas of softness, hardness, length, height, warmth, wetness and so on? We have inner instincts to do this, to feel soft things and hard things, then to know what softness means. To do this we need someone to give us the experiences, and someone to give us the word to describe it.

Experience and language must go together. In order to build intelligence you must know what you are looking at, what you are hearing, and somebody must tell you. If no one ever tells you the names of the flowers in the garden you will soon lose interest and never be able to tell them apart. The sooner you know the words for the colors, the better distinctions you can make. Artists can distinguish many shades of color because they probably learned their names in early childhood. Children then make a large card-file system in the brain, to enclose everything they know, every experience they have had, using the words to name the file-folders.   It is like a replica of the outside world, making you able to manipulate things in your head. You can decide what to look at.

It doesn’t take many months for babies to discover the wonders of the human hand and the glories of touching.   They love to be touched, especially by human hands. The feeling is obviously ecstatic. Their own hands are especially sensitive. Before they can turn over in bed the hand will quiver when they see something they would like to touch. This means that the thing is interesting, it also means that the baby has decided what he would like to do. It usually does not occur to parents to wonder why such a desire should be there at all. We pass it off as random movements and let it go without proper appreciation.

We cannot close our ears. Everything comes in-the barking of the dog, the clatter of feet, the music of the stereo, the sound of water running. We must learn to isolate these sounds so that we can think about them one at a time. It is the only way to put them into the card-file system in our brains. Each one must have a name, or it will be part of a chaos. This is not as easy to do as to categorize sights, but the baby tries. It is a great help to have an adult play one note at a time and tell you its name. Then when you hear it again you say to yourself, “What ho!” It is of great help if you can see the thing you are hearing, it is of even better help if you can touch it. Then there are the qualities of the things you hear, such as loudness, tonality, smoothness, and the intricacies of rhythm.   When music plays all sorts of inner rhythms respond, as if a piece of you goes out toward the sound to sing with it.

Children pay extremely close attention to shapes and sizes. They want to know the name of each one. Usually, since we adults studied geometry in high school, we do not think it appropriate to give the children these names when they are very small and care so much. Actually the words “triangle” and “circle” are not difficult to pronounce. Since they are generic names they give the children the opportunity to sort out all the shapes they see. These words are easy to learn in the early years of keenness of eye. They love to sort gradations of size, and you may find many toys on the market to help. They love to fit things together. It is a pleasure to see a key fit into a keyhole, a puzzle piece fit into place, a screw into a hole. As the child handles things he gets the “feel” of something an inch long, but only if someone tells him that this is the length.

Other words children need at the time of sensory glory are those that compare the wonderful sights and sounds and feelings – such words as “bigger”, “longer”, “higher”, “darker”, “heavier”. There are a lot of them to give, and children are grateful for each one. They give you an ecstatic look when they come at the right time. Words such as these enable a person to make sub-categories, fine distinctions.

Some things, such as the moon, are out of reach. Babies can reach only so far. Reaching requires making deliberate movements, deciding on what to reach for, whether it will be possible to make it, what it will feel like when you do.   Sensitive fingers try to grasp, they miss, try again, finally make it.

During these early years children pay close attention to every sensation, no matter how small. Adults pay attention too, but usually only to those sensations that have to do with what we think is important. Children have no thought of relative importance. Everything is grist to the mill, everything goes into the mind as a whole and is sorted out later. It is a different way of learning.   To aid this the child is given a photographic memory, such a memory as few adults possess. Adults tend to remember the things they need to remember.

Children know that they have sharp eyes and ears. There is too much joy connected with them not to notice.   It is interesting to ask a small child to help you find your lost keys. He will have at it with gusto, usually locating them quite quickly. When you compliment him on this prowess he will look at you with gratitude-it is not often that it is appreciated.

These abilities seem to fade as we grow older to make way for new ones, but do they really? Perhaps it is only the interest that fades. Certainly we build our lives on the sensory foundations we laid down in the early years. Perhaps children lose interest after they are older because they want to pattern themselves after the adults who are not so immersed in sensations.

The very basis of intelligence is awareness of fine distinctions. I have a friend who has a body and fender shop. When he needs to repaint a fender he can match the colors just by looking. A good mechanic can tell you by looking just how far apart are the threads on a screw. Many musicians can tell the names of every instrument played on a radio program. Ancient Hawaiians could navigate by the feel of the swells and the location of the stars. These things cannot be learned without great interest and attention, the sort that needs to begin in childhood, the sort we are born with.

Human beings, unlike other creatures, cannot walk for nearly a year do not speak for nearly two. However, the greatness of the human being is in intelligence and in adaptation, and the instincts for these things are well established at birth. The urge to use these instincts is overpowering. The proper use of them brings great joy.

It is no accident that the body is inert until the mind gets going. It insures that every movement will be under the direction of intelligence, first intelligence must be built up.

It is no accident that the eyes and ears are keener than they will ever will be again, that the memory is tremendous in the beginning. Each new sensory experience is stored in this memory, never to be forgotten.   Scientific experiments have shown that each new stimulation makes for new neural connections, and actually forms the basis for intelligence itself. It is no accident that the hearing is so very acute, that attention is drawn to the human voice during the early years of acquiring language. The few children who have been locked away from contact with speech until they are seven or so will never acquire a rich vocabulary. The greater amount of sensory experience in these early years the better. Later interests will depend on them.

In order to build intelligence you must know what you are looking at, what you are hearing, and somebody must tell you. If no one ever tells you the names of the flowers in the garden you will soon lose interest and never be able to tell them apart. The sooner you know the words, the better distinctions you can make. Children can and do understand language very early because they have listened so intently from the first days.

Only parents have the patience to give the baby and the toddler the attention, the sensory experiences that they desperately need. A good daycare center can only approximate it. If they only understood this they would never shut a child in a playpen to wail despondently. They would never feel that the child cries for attention so that he can dominate the parents.

The baby is so inert that he can’t touch anything unless an adult carries him near the object and gives him time to focus the hand, the eye and the mind together. It takes a bit of experience to do it well, and some adult must take time to give it. If the adult gets tired before the baby has had time to get things together he will howl with frustration.

When the time comes to crawl about there is the need to handle everything, to see how hard it is, how it tastes, how much it weighs, how far you can throw it. You can never learn to live in a real world if you are shut away from it. Once you are sure of something you are ready to go on to the next thing. If you have never handled water how can you know what it does? The baby sees everyone else touching things, why can’t he? Why does everyone say “Don’t touch” when the need is so great to find out about it? How can you learn to be careful with glassware if you never see anything break? Why should some things be dirty? “Don’t touch” is probably the most repeated phrase in any language.

The more words a child knows, the more things he can handle, the better will be the behavior. You need to safety-check the house as well as every house you enter for some time. The little spies find everything, the afraid cleaners, the electric cords, little pins. You do not have to depend on slapping, by this time of life you can explain things quite well. This period is difficult. It will pass only when the curiosity is satisfied. If there are too many prohibitions the child will either rebel or become too compliant. If you wait too long to allow touching the crucial time will be gone, there will be dropped stitches in development.

Often in despair you set the child in front of the TV set. This holds his attention because there is much to see there, but there is nothing to touch. The small hands twitch and don’t make proper connections with the brain. The inner guide screams, the child screams, and you try to comfort him.

Babies are cute and cuddly, but they are not dolls or invalids to be kept quiet. They will fight for the right to move about no matter how inconvenient it is for you, the parents. They are obsessed with their own development, it is all they can think about. You come into their thoughts as the means by which they can find out about everything in the whole society. Such dependence is awesome.

A parent of my acquaintance was most successful about touching valuable things. The treasures were locked in a glass cupboard and brought out on special occasions for the children to touch. It was so special a time that the children needed to sit on pillows set out for the occasion. Each precious thing was slowly handled by the parent, then presented to the child who imitated the adult very exactly. Several presentations were necessary for some of the things, and the children were proud of each success. It became a weekly occurrence.

These toddlers miss nothing. They use every waking moment to explore, for what reason adults do not seem to even question. They get into everything, the chew the electric cords, they climb up on the stove. Yes, they need you to keep them out of trouble, to put some sort of rein on them to save them from themselves. But how exciting they are, these sensory experiences, how important they are to future years.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 4 – Angelina

Chapter 4 – Angelina

ANGELINA

I would like to tell you of a little girl named Angelina. She is six months old. She is the center of attention in her home. She can crawl all over the house, maneuver her walker all over the street. She feeds herself without spilling food (using her hands). She does not sleep at all during the day because there is so much to do and see. She is probably right-handed because every time she is offered a pencil or crayon she reaches for it with her right hand. She cannot walk though she tries it. She does not talk as yet.

Angelina follows her four-year-old brother everywhere. When he is drawing she watches intently, listens intently to his explanations of his drawings. He lets her touch his toys which she does slowly and delibereately. When asked whether she likes something she either shakes her head or laughs meaningfully. There are large magnetic letters and numbers on the ceiling above her bed, as well as large circles of different colors. These are taken down quite often, one by one, and explain ed to her. She loves the attention, laughs and jumps up and down.

When she came home from the hospital everyone made a fuss over her. They took turns holding her and talking to her, touching her, hugging her. She spent each day in a laundry basket dragged from room to room, hauled out to see things and to be nearer someone. If the family had popsicles someone put a tiny drop in her mouth. They kept her so busy that she never had a chance to be sad.

Angelina comes from a bilingual family, so she hears explanations in two languages, very different from one another. Her family members love to talk and have taken turns talking to Angelina since the day she was born. When Mother gets a little tired of it she hands the baby to someone else. Her brother takes charge of the laundry basket in which she has been taken all over the house so she always has company, talkative company, company of someone who is doing something, someone who loves her and belongs to her. Her big sister aged seven also comes in for very much attention. She comes home from school and explains to her brother and Angelina everything that went on there. She sings them the songs she has learned. Angelina listens. This baby does not cry for attention, nor does she seem to want to avoid it. The only time she cries is when some member of the family goes to school or to work, especially her father.

Angelina’s father is now on the night shift so that he can be with his children during the day while their mother is working. Angelina is included in all family activities, all outings, even when they go fishing. Everyone watches out for her and lets her hold the fishing line. I understand that so far she has not caught any fish.

Every waking moment Angelina has personal attention from someone who loves her, hugs her, tells her things, brings her into everything that goes on. The household for now revolves around her. No one seems afraid that she will be spoiled. If she is given any sweets she tries to share them. When her brother fell asleep on the floor she ran for her pacifier (which she keeps in a special place) to put it into his mouth. Everyone laughed. Angelina does not so far put everything into her mouth, she does not get into the other children’s things. She has thrown a number of things about, but that does not seem to bother anyone very much. Her brother and sister are not jealous, they seem to have faint memories of their own similar experiences at this age and want to get in on the act. They like being on both sides, and, after all, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Angelina probably understands most of what everyone is saying in two languages. Family members keep this in mind and do not say things to distress her. She knows where everything is in her home, she has learned to handle more things than one would think possible. She probably knows most of the letters and sounds, as well as the colors and numbers. We will find out soon when she decides to talk. For now she grins, laughs, tries to sing and dance when she hears music.

Angelina’s parents are truly thrilled with their third child. They feel that having a baby is such a rewarding experience that it is well worth their spending a few years of their lives on her. Her sister is now in a public school class for the gifted. Her brother knows all the states on the map and is working on the countries of the world with his globe. He knows the states so well that he does not have to read the names any more. The older sister checks the food ads in the newspaper, cuts out the coupons for things she likes and calculates the savings of 20 or 30 percent. She makes out the grocery list keeping the aisles of the supermarket in mind to save her mother steps. Both children are adept at using the VCR, have their favorite songs which they play over and over.

I think every day about Angelina and wish that every baby had such an opportunity. Her parents are unique, mostly because they truly appreciate the personality, the humanity, the possibilities of their daughter as well as her cuteness. They don’t seem at all worried that she will misbehave or be spoiled or have any bad qualities at all. It takes a lot of appreciation to raise a child, a lot of listening, a lot of understanding, as well as a lot of love. It does something to and for the parents. In such work we touch the heart of the universe. Is this sacrifice? Is it demeaning?

Most of give lip service to the well-known fact that the capacities of the human mind are unlimited and that early stimulation is important. But most people do not really believe it, and most children are bored. This is the greatest reason for the prevalence of temper tantrums and for most childhood emotional disorders. Angelina and her siblings are indeed unusual, but they need not be.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 3 – Where would we be without them?

Chapter 3 – Where would we be without them?

WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT THEM?

Can you imagine Hamelin after the Pied Piper took away all the children? No noise, no spills, no messes, no schools, no homework, no Nintendo, nobody pestering you for anything? The only places we know of without them are army camps, work camps, convents and monasteries, retirement villages, places where adults find relief.

A home is the capsule of any culture. When you visit another country you must visit a home before you can truly know it. The home must include children. You cannot understand a people unless you see where they first opened their eyes, the environment they drank in before they could stand up and make trouble.

Society smiles benignly on parents until the children are five or six, insisting primarily on lack of physical abuse. However, before this time they have had a definite effect on our culture. Our child has learned the language of the family and the neighborhood so well that it is ingrained. If the babies did not learn the language, the language would die. Efforts have been made by dominant cultures to stamp out despised languages by isolating the children and forbidding them to speak it. This has worked, but not often. Latin is a dead language even though up until this century most educated people knew it and it was the official language of the Catholic Church. People did not soak it up as do children, but studied it in school – much too late to revive it. The only language to be truly revived is Hebrew because there was a concerted effort to teach it to babies.

The traditions, the ceremonies of any culture are preserved by the children. You might have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, but if you have children you are sure to. Where would Christmas be without the children? Santa Claus would not be the same at all if nobody believed in him. Hannukah is for children. Parents remember how it was for them and truly want to show the children the special beauty. Midsummer Day is a pagan holiday which no new religion could squelch. Every culture has these days with special cakes, special dances, special times to remember. Many of these rituals go back for hundreds of years unchanged. Without childhood participation they would never last. Children, especially the school-age children, love ritual. They become quite teary-eyed over singing the proper songs for the proper holidays. Adults keep the rituals going for the sake of the children, but mostly because they were once children themselves.

Children are a source of human love. When a child smiles, the most jaded adult will smile back and leave even the smallest encounter with a child refreshed. Parents are no longer rational human beings when their children are under discussion. Their eyes shine with glory. During wartime it is considered far worse to kill a child than to kill an equally innocent man. When you have a child there is someone who will always love you no matter what happens, even if he stops talking to you. Children need your love, and they are ready with their own variety.

Children are a source of oral tradition. Before the advent of writing they listened to the elders and remembered everything. They have the photographic memories to make it possible.

Jokes that are told to children are never lost. Jumping rope rhymes stay with us for generations completely forgotten by the adults. Stories told to children remaian in the culture forever, even though the adults don’t even like them.

Geographically speaking, children keep a society in place. They imbibe an eternal love for the place where they live in the first years. Even though they may have wanderlust, later on there will always be a craving for home base. They will think glowingly of the wide open spaces of the prairie where you can see forever, of the majesty of the mountains reaching to the heavens, of the clear air of the desert, the call of the sea and the surf. It keeps most of us in place, enough of us to keep the society stable.

Children keep our oral tradition. They have the memory for it. Writing was invented by merchants, scholars refused to use it. They said that if men learned to read and write their memories would atrophy and they would have the appearance of knowledge without knowledge itself. It is indeed true that illiterates have better memories than the rest of us, they have retained their childhood abilities. We have not as much oral literature as do illiterate countries, but we have some. Folk tales and fairy stories have come down to us intact from the Old Stone Age because they are told to the children. If we think about it, the story of Cinderella is probably more widely and more accurately known than even the story of Hamlet or Othello.

Children keep our neighborhoods stable. Parents are apt to stay in one place for their sake. They are also less likely to change jobs, more likely to save their money. Lasting friendships are made amongst neighbors whose children play together or go to the same school.

Children keep adults on a straight and narrow path in many ways. It is hard for adults to lie, cheat, or steal when they are watching, and their eyes are everywhere. Teachers as well as parents are forced onto pedestals.

Children enable adults to see their own parents in a new light. For the first time they begin to realize that their parents did the best they could, that their shortcomings are not so important after all.

There wouldn’t be any schools without children. Schools try for standardization in order to equalize the opportunities they offer, but schools are also shaped by the children who attend them. Everyone knows that children need to “feel at home” there, so teachers adapt themselves accordingly. Schooling is an attempt by society to fit the young into its mold so as to prepare them for success within its system. It does this rather well. Schools also take care of children during the day.

Children take up much public money, mostly in the form of the schools they attend. Buildings must be safe, curriculums need planning, teachers are assiduously trained in our universities. In some countries parents are given a stipend for each child by the government. Health clinics are provided by most societies.

No, we wouldn’t be the same without these little creatures to share our lives!

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 2 – Here they come!

Chapter 2 – Here they come!

HERE THEY COME!

Why do we have children anyway? The answer seems to be that we can’t help it. The most interesting subject for adults by far is sex which has only one aim, subvert it how we will. The most pressing problem in the world today is overpopulation, and while quite a little is being done about it, the children keep coming. We talk quite a bit about having control over our bodies, but the children keep coming. It is possible for a woman to have as many as twenty children, a horror to be avoided, but nature rather likes it. Eternal vigilance is required.

There is also social pressure to have children. We are told that it is our tie with the future, that we can pass on our inheritance, whatever that is. We are not told of the financial burden involved, or anything else discouraging. Even our parents tell us what a pleasure we were to them, and of course we believe that implicitly. Our friends have babies and look blissfully happy. Those with teenagers look rather worried, but we don’t think that far in advance. Senior citizens tell us endlessly about their wonderful grand-children. We are talked into it.

Children interfere with our lifestyle-in fact, they change it drastically. You have to hire a babysitter if you want a moment of freedom from them. Day care centers proliferate so that women as well as men can be relieved of the drudgery of diapers and bottles. Adults believe that in the office rather than in the home one can realize one’s potential. Some parents even desert their families because they feel too tied down. Family vacations are promoted with separate facilities for the children so that adults can spend time on the golf course or the tennis court. Along with this there is attachment. New people as important to us as our parents have come into our lives. They are there for good, there is no sending them back.

Yet the children continue to be born, and not only by accident. Adults want them. They look forward longingly to the day when the children will be old enough to be good company. In the meantime they love them dearly, the cute little things!

It is generally conceded that adults are in control of the world and responsible to pass on family values to the next generation. We work hard to do this, and actually believe that it is possible until we are surprised out of our minds. Our 16-year old comes home from school one day and tells us that he or she has decided to study the language of Uzbekestan, or something else we would never in the world consider. In whose hands is the future anyway?

If we can polarize humanity, children are one pole, adults the other, equally important. Adults feel they are the useful ones, the productive ones, the keepers of the secret. Children make no attempt at being productive or creative, their sole purpose is to make the future adult, to be ready to assume control twenty years hence, in a world no one today can know with any certainty. Therefore, complete obedience to parents and teachers is unrealistic for them.

Parents accept frightening responsibilities. They must keep the children from all sin, they must prepare them to earn a living, they must assure them of social competence, self-assuredness, good health, respect for authority.

Adults are made by children, not the other way around. Children use the adults of today to make the adults of tomorrow. They get everything they can out of their parents, then go on to size up all the other adults they see. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work.   Without the work of children all adult knowledge would be lost in a few years, as in fact much of it has been.

Adults do not like being exploited by children. They fight back for their very sanity. They have exploited their own parents until exploitation has become a habit. They panic when they are not in control. With reason they resent the inroads of these immigrants from who knows where. It is a generation war with predictable strategies on both sides.

Children cannot help doing what they do. They come with an inexorable timetable, a time to walk, a time to talk, a time to get teeth, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Their greatest pleasures are in following the timetable to the letter. There is absolutely nothing any child or adult can do about this.

Let us picture a young couple, recently married and wanting to have children. They know instinctively that it is part of their destiny and that it is one of life’s greatest joys. So they begin to think about it, sometimes sharing their thoughts, often not. They have no idea what they are in for.

These young people are already in the hands of the children they have not yet conceived. Biology tells them that sex is interesting as well as delightful. Relationships with one partner of the opposite six seem important, as exciting as variety actually is. They gloss over the fact that Mother Nature blinds the eyes of otherwise rational adults until they do all sorts of things in obedience. It suddenly seems a good idea to have a house with several bedrooms and a yard.

The young couple have built their lives well. They are usually financially independent, but not always. They have ideals toward which they strive, a vision of life well lived. They know what they want in the way of recreation, careers, living environment. They have probably set up a home. They have sorted out their parents, chosen those parts of their early homes to emulate, those parts to avoid. The new home is never exactly like the homes of either of their parents   It is the expression of ex-children, their final triumph, their last.

Usually we know what we want in the way of children, a boy who likes to go fishing, a girl who doesn’t play with dolls, a fine athlete, a good student, a loving person who thinks of himself or herself last. We will see that this happens because we sill strive to be a good influence, and we will protect our child from all bad influences. We never expect the children to be born with brains.

Much thought is given as to how to be a good influence. Consideration is given as to the good influences of their own parents, the times when their advice was taken, without thinking of the majority of times when it was not taken. Always when one thinks of parents one thinks of love, that life force that holds people together while they are struggling, that cement that binds with bonds that seem to have no reason at all. Young adults usually blame their parents for most of their faults, that is, those that they are ashamed of. They give them credit for those virtues that they are proud of. There is usually much discussion of all this to which their parents are not invited to participate.

Prospective parents always plan to be a good influence on their children, but they also plan to be in control. They carefully plan their strategies based on the memories of the children who made them. An important aspect of this is the type of punishment to be used. They usually remember the punishments of their own childhood more than the rewards which were probably given more often. The justice of these punishments seem more important than their severity, though that also comes in for criticism at this time. The young people think they are now out from under the thumb of tyranny, and that authority now rests with them. How wrong can anyone be?

Now the home is made and the first baby is on the way. Everyone is happy, baby showers are given, all sorts of preparations are made. Let us look at a few of them:

The baby is to have a room of its own if possible. In many societies children sleep with their parents until the age of five or six, but not ours. We want our children to be close to us, but not too close. We value our privacy, so we think the child will value his. Ideally we want to have a separate room for each child so that no one will fear encroachment, the greatest fear of new parents. They feel that the child should partake of their lifestyle, but certainly should not disrupt it.

One major purchase is a crib. This is a sturdy bed with bars like a cage. It is high so that parents can reach in easily and baby cannot get out. It has a rubber sheet so that the baby cannot soil anything, so that washing can be kept to a minimum, floors protected. Sometimes it has wheels to make it movable, but even so it is not designed to go easily from one room to another.

Another purchase is a car seat. This only shows how dangerous is our society that our children must be strapped in at all times. We also are strapped in, but it does not really get through to us that every time we get into a car we are headed toward danger. We do not want to frighten our children, so we give some sort of lame excuse. We want to keep them safe, but have no intention of keeping them out of cars.

We still buy playpens, another sort of cage, properly to be used by adults to keep their treasures so that children cannot destroy them. We buy walkers which are also restrictive. A high chair is considered important. This is a restraining device, but also intended to give the child a place at the table.

We buy lots of beautiful clothes which do little more than please the eye of the adults and hamper the movements of children. In some societies they use swaddling clothes which, of course, are even worse. We have washing machines today, whereas in the old days the washing of all these lovely things took valuable time which could have been spent giving attention to the baby.

We sometimes plan ahead for the children to get into some sort of prestigious school, even though we ourselves hated school. Most of all, we pray that the children will not be handicapped in any way. That would be too much of a disgrace as well as an expense. We want our children to be unique, but not too different. It would be best if the child would be just like us, which rarely or never happens.

Many mothers, especially working mothers, do not plan to nurse the baby, so load up on bottles and sterilizers. They have heard that nursing is healthier, but it would tie them down too much. In earlier times wet-nurses were employed. From Nature’s point of view each baby has an innate right to its mother’s milk.

Pregnancy is uncomfortable, and everyone is anxious for the new little one to arrive. We count the days, examine each little symptom. Bags are packed, plans are in order for the lying-in. Hopefully the plan is to have natural childbirth.

When the baby arrives the parents, particularly the mother with the new hormones, go into the Baby Daze. From perfectly rational human beings they become parents. The suddenness of this is astounding, especially to outsiders. The mother can think of nothing else but the baby. If you mention another topic her eyes glaze until you pause for breath and she can come back to the only thing worth thinking about. No other facts come anywhere near her consciousness. This Baby Daze will wear off when the baby is about 18 months old, unless she has another in the meantime.

The new mother claims that the baby keeps her busy from morning to night, in spite of the fact that she has a washing machine, a microwave oven, vacuum cleaner, and much more. The baby has her in its grip and will not soon let her go.

There is tremendous affinity between the new mother and the baby. The least cry can wake the mother, even though she has been a sound sleeper all her life. Continual crying tears the heart out of her. There is a tribe in Africa where the mother carries the child without using diapers and “knows” when action is required. Many instances of this affinity can be shown. It is obviously due to hormones which Mother Nature, under the baby’s direction, has inserted. Nursing is one example. The mother begins to have milk in about four or five days, then the amount and richness of her milk keeps pace with the baby’s growth. The milk is produced specifically at the baby’s request, and if the baby does not nurse the milk will disappear.

The baby does not care a fig whether it is born into poverty or luxury. It does not approve or disapprove of any environment, only delights in it. Here is where it will always belong.   It has come into the world with a specific program, a specific timetable for growth, and a determination to adhere to it. Part of this is to adapt to the present environment until is actually becomes “second nature.”

Medical science is only beginning to realize all this. In these days mothers can have the baby rooming in at the hospital and nursing is encouraged as well as natural childbirth. Even so, after the first few days or weeks many mothers send the child to a daycare center from choice or necessity. When this happens the hormones continue uninterrupted. The Baby Daze abates not. Mothers at work sense when their babies are unhappy and their minds are halfway in the daycare center. No matter how young is the child, no matter how many hours are spent away from the parents, the child knows with whom he or she belongs. The children of kings and queens who see their parents for a precious hour a day have no difficulty in identification.

The Baby Daze is a thing designed by Nature and deserves much more respect than it gets. If you would like to see it in action stop the mother of a new baby in the market and tell her the baby is beautiful!   Who in one’s right mind would croon over a baby day and night, a baby who cannot talk and cannot even turn over in bed? Yet this sort of thing is exactly what the baby needs desperately and what no daycare center can provide. The eyes crave something besides the ceiling to look at, preferably a human face. Ears crave sounds, particularly the sound of the human voice. Every inch of skin craves contact with something, preferably someone else’s skin. Hurrah for the Baby Daze!

The Baby Daze affects fathers also, and adoptive parents. The needs of the baby are demanding and transcend simple custodial care. Fathers take part in it, but they also privately wonder what happened to the delightful wife they used to have and wonder whether she will ever return. He is completely unprepared for this, so jealousy sometimes rears its ugly head. If someone had only told him he would understand, he would pay a lot of attention to the child, encourage the dazed mother. He would be richly rewarded, the bonds of love would weave ever more tightly. In any case he has lost all hope of a carefree life, if he ever had it.

For a few months everything is fine. The baby is shown off to everyone, doted upon by grandparents. The baby lifts its head, grasps the rattles, even sits up, but then it starts to move on its own. The experience is ecstatic for the small one who has been examining everything in sight in preparation for this day, but soon brings strange emotions to the young parents. Nothing is safe, not even the expensive things!   Cupboards are raided, drawers are emptied, everything goes into the mouth. The conflict has begun.

No matter what you have been told it is unexpected and disconcerting.

When the children go to school society takes an interest.   Before that the government insists only on custodial care. There are few requirements for these care-givers, and they are ordinarily poorly paid.   Most schools are funded by the governments, so follow the purposes of governments which are to have a stable society with people who can earn a living and participate peacefully. To that end children are organized into age groups, taught the skills needed to fit in. Every attempt is made to treat them fairly which usually results in an attempt to regiment them, at least in their eyes. It is hoped that they will learn social skills in this way.

However, before any child goes to any school he or she has had a definite effect on our culture. Our child has learned the language of the family and the neighborhood so well that it is ingrained. If the babies did not learn a language the language would die. Efforts have been made to stamp out a despised language by isolating the children and forbidding them to speak it. This has worked, but not often. Latin is a dead language even though up until this century most educated people knew it and the Catholic church used it in services. It was learned in school – much too late to revive it. The only language to be truly revived is Hebrew because there was a concerted effort to teach it to the babies.

Love seems to be strongly connected to children. When a child smiles the most jaded adult will smile back and leave even the smallest encounter refreshed. Parents are no longer rational human beings when their children are under discussion. Their eyes shine with glory. Everyone wants to protect these beauties.   During wartime it is considered far worse to kill a child than to kill an equally innocent man.

When children are born homes come into existence. The home is the capsule of any culture. When you visit a new country you need to see a home before you can know it truly. Children spend most of their lives at home taking it all in, ready to repeat every detail when they are grown up. They remember the smallest events, the exact way that Father held his knife when cutting the turkey. The traditions, the ceremonies of our culture are kept alive only when the children participate.   Where would Christmas be without them?

Writing was invented by merchants, scholars refused to use it. They said that if men learned to read and write their memories would atrophy and they would have the appearance of knowledge without knowledge itself. It is indeed true that illiterates have better memories than the rest of us, they have retained their childhood abilities. We have not as much oral literature as illiterate countries, but we have some. Folk tales and fairy stories have come down to us intact from the Old Stone Age because they are told to the children. If we think about it, the story of Cinderella is probably more widely and more accurately known than even the story of Hamlet or Othello.

Jokes that are told to children are never lost. Jumping rope rhymes stay with us for generations.

Geographically speaking, children keep a society in place. They imbibe an eternal love for the place where they live in the first years. Even though they may have wanderlust later on there will always be a craving for home base.   They will think glowingly of the wide open spaces of the prairie where you can see forever, of the majesty of the mountains reaching to the heavens, of the clear air of the desert, the call of the seacoast. It keeps most of us put, enough of us to keep our society pretty stable.

Traditions would not last so long if it were not for the children.   They are especially persistent when accompanied by special foods, special music, ritual actions, and, of course, the smells. Christmas is for children, Hannukah is for children. Parents remember how it was for them and truly want to show the children how beautiful it was. Midsummer day is a pagan holiday which no new religion could squelch. Every culture has these days with special cakes, special dances, special times to remember. Many of these rituals go back for hundreds of years unchanged. Without child participation they would never last.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Chapter 1 – Alike and Different

Chapter 1 – Alike and Different

ALIKE AND DIFFERENT

Children do not look like adults. Anyone can tell the difference. It is not only size, but also shape. Children’s heads are inordinately large in proportion to the body, noses are small, chins recede. But also these things change constantly. They start out quite small, but double the body weight in a month or two, which adults would not dare do. They grow in spurts, sometimes it seems like overnight. Legs stay short for quite a while then suddenly get long and spindly. Clothes are outgrown again and again. From 20 inches or so they come up sometimes to six feet or more. The pudgy baby becomes a beanpole, and then fills out in the teen years quite beautifully.

Adults keep changing also, but not so dramatically. Hair turns gray, wrinkles emerge, but that is about all. We don’t have to constantly adapt to changes in size and shape. This is an important difference. We are aware of it but don’t think about it very much. We vaguely remember peering over the edge of the dining room table on tiptoe or climbing up on chairs. We put these things behind us, quite properly.

However, when we live with children we should dig down into the memories so that we realize what they are going through, how as soon as they learn how to use legs they suddenly lengthen, how huge the furniture is, how far you much open your mouth to accommodate a spoon, how scary is the large toilet. For years nothing fits them. Their own furniture usually consists of a crib (in the shape of a cage) and a highchair to be set at the table. Homes are set up to fit adults and children are considered pre-adults. If you get furniture to fit them you would need to change it every few years.

Children come into the world weighing six to nine pounds, and will eventually attain a weight of at least one hundred and sometimes more than two hundred pounds. This is not gained regularly, two pounds a year. Sometimes the pounds and inches seem to come overnight. To children this seems quite normal and quite pleasant. They cannot understand the compacency of adults who don’t need to concern themselves with such things.   Their legs are short for years, so when they fall it is not as traumatic as it is for us. They fall and hurt themselves every day and cannot fathom why the adult is upset when it happens to him or her. They are expected to get up and brush themselves off after a mishap which would cause injury to an adult.

Children do not think the way adults think. For this reason adults usually think that they do not think at all and must be taught to think when they go to school. Any adult who thinks in this way should try to remember how it used to be when he or she was a child and listened in on adult conversations.

We all come into the world without much control of the body, we don’t get up and walk for a year or so, whereas a horse rises on its legs within the hour. However, the number of possible human bodily accomplishments far exceeds that of the horse. You know that if you ever read the sporting pages of the newspaper. Our movements await the control of the mind, and the mind is ready from day one. Before we can even hold up our heads we can look, we can listen, and we can think as well as any human being of any age. We only have less information. Some of our very best looking and listening and thinking come before we can even crawl across the room. We are designed that way. When the time comes to walk we know where we want to go.

As adults we cannot remember much before we were about three years old, so that our own babyhood is a complete blank. Therefore we tend to think that babies are unaware of what is going on. Certainly we don’t think they understand anything much before they talk at about two years old. But children up to four or five years can remember quite far back. Actually we all remember everything, but we don’t think about it. We take for granted what we know and use it in present situations. There is no use going over the old thoughts. There are too many new ones. But if we think that children are unaware because they don’t say anything we deceive ourselves mightily. Did you ever try to hide Christmas presents? Successfully?

Just as the body changes selectively, according to plan, the mind comes along with its own changes, changes that we have lived through and vaguely remember. In the first six years the child takes in everything like a sponge, and these things are fixed firmly in the mind. Nature makes the child inert so that he or she can spend every waking moment looking and listening and setting up categories in the mind for each new sight and each new sound, each new smell, each new taste.   Nature also gives the child an overpowering desire to do this, so much so that if you leave it in a crib with nothing to see but the ceiling it will wail in despair. If you understand this you will find a big basket and drag it all over the house to give the small one lots of scope.

Scientists tell us of new findings that show new neurons actually forming in the brain with each new sensation, showing that intelligence is building up. Aristotle said that there is nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses, so you see that Nature is quite wise in forcing the young child to concentrate on the senses before going on.

During these early years children pay close attention to every sensation, no matter how small. Adults pay attention too, but usually only to those sensations that have to do with what we think is important. Children have no thought of relative importance. Everything is grist to the mill, everything goes into the mind as a whole and is sorted out later. It is a different way of learning. To aid this the child is given a photographic memory, such a memory as he or she will never have again. Their eyes and ears are inordinatly sharp. If you lose your car keys it is the 3-year-old who will find them for you.   It is the small child who cares anything at all about the differences in pitch of the Chinese language. They cannot help paying such close attention.

Adults are indulgent about this, but it is hard to accept the fact that we have lost these powers, so we say we have “outgrown” them, as if it were an advantage. Children think the powers are quite natural, that everyone has them, and cannot understand adults who gloss over such things.   It seems most unreasonable to them, but soon they learn not to talk about it.

Some adults, usually artists and musicians, have retained the power of attention to these things. Perhaps they are immature because they refused to go on. We call them geniuses because they are so few in number.

It takes a lot of effort to gain control of an everchanging body. You must try out every possible movement and see what happens. You must not be discouraged if you fall down or get a bad taste in your mouth from something. You must accept all setbacks, all frustrations. You might howl a little at fate when you sit down hard, but you take it all in stride. Failure is barely noticed. Success is greeted with triumph. The more obstacles you have overcome the greater the triumph. The last thing you want is for someone to stop you or try to help you too much.   When the road was opened to Pike’s Peak most mountain climbers were quite disappointed.

Adults think they must save children from failure and frustration, not realizing a bit how much of it they know about from early babyhood. But then adults look at things quite differently.

Children are programmed to fit into their culture, and use adults for this purpose. They imitate their movements, the sounds of their voices, even their facial expressions. They work hard to figure out all the intricacies of social interaction. Usually nobody tells them in advance how to act so they sometimes go haywire when they don’t know what is expected of them.

When we have passed this sensorial, orientational period we go on to wider things but not bigger tle to do this when forced to, but usually they do not like it. The teachers try to make the work interesting, “like a game” as if no learning had ever gone on before. Children are by this time able to cope with the adult world, are indulgent toward adults, but they do learn how to manipulate them quite well.

 

by Marietta Rawson

Introducing “Marietta’s Lessons”

Introducing “Marietta’s Lessons”

We are excited to introduce a new Blog Series entitled “Marietta’s Lessons.” Every  two weeks we will release a chapter written by Northwest Montessori School’s own founder, Marietta Rawson. Below is a table of contents for the stories to be released. Stay tuned!!!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 – Alike and Different
2 – Here they come!
3 – Where would we be without them?
4 – Angelina
5 – Delights of the senses
6 – The Mystery of Language
7 – Work, work, work
8 – What you see is what you get
9 – The way it s’posed to be
10 – Curiosity
11 – The pint-sized scientists
12 – Imitation and originality
13 – Timing
14 – Literacy
15 – Mathematics
16 – Courtesy
17 – Obedience
18 – Be Quiet!
19 – Whose fault is it?
20 – Genius
21 – Boredom
22 – Stress
23 – The Reality of toys
24 – The Tumultuous teens
25 – The Sense of Beauty
26 – Tell me a Story!
27 – Always Underfoot
28 – Imagination
29 – Freedom
30 – The rights of Children
31 – Schools
32 – Ascending Education
33 – Nostalgia

NWM Spring Fundraiser

Our Spring Fundraising Campaign is in full spring! As we strive to meet our spring funding goal, make a donation and then join us for some fun events and help us raise more money for the school at the same time.

Spring Fundraiser Donation

To help us achieve our goal of $25,000 this spring, we ask that each family make a suggested minimum tax deductible donation of $250. Donate online now by clicking on the PayPal button or pay by check or credit card using our Donation Form.

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Dine-Out Event at Razzis Pizzeria

Tuesday,  April 7th, 5:30-7:30pm

All families and kids are welcome! Razzis will donate 20% of the evening proceeds to Northwest Montessori. This is a great way to support our school and enjoy dinner with friends!


Fiesta De Mayo at Ray’s Boathouse
May 5, 6:30-9:00 pm
A Cinco de Mayo party for parents to celebrate our community and spring fundraising.

Come enjoy our Spring Fundraising party, Fiesta de Mayo, featuring:

  • A silent auction offering unique Seattle experiences, handcrafted items, class projects made with love by your children, and more.
  • A raffle with a grand prize trip to Mexico.
  • Bring a bottle of your favorite wind for everyone’s favorite: the wine raffle!
  • Live entertainment brought to you by an authentic Mariachi band.
  • Delicious Mexican cuisine and drink (did we say Margaritas?)
  • Fun, fun, fun and more fun. Olé!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
6:30 pm-9:00 pm
Ray’s Boathouse – Northwest Room
6049 Seaview Ave NW, Seattle, WA

RSVP by April 29 to gracie@northwestmontessori.org or (206) 524-4244.

Drama Llamas present “Alice in Wonderland”

Drama Llamas present “Alice in Wonderland”

Drama Llamas of Northwest Montessori School present:

alice in wonderland“ALICE IN WONDERLAND”

Adapted by Karen Klobucher with musical arrangements by Elizabeth Truman

Thursday, April 2nd at 6:30 pm

Shorecrest Performing Arts Center
15343 25th Ave NE
Shoreline, WA 98155

$7.50 Advance
Get Advance Tickets HERE!
Or Visit: http://nwmalice.bpt.me/

 

“Which would you rather do,” I asked The Coocadagy Players, the drama company at Northwest Montessori, in 1991. “`Alice in Wonderland’ or `Julius Caesar?’”

“Caesar,” they cried.

Not having the stomach to direct 6- to 11-year olds in a mob stabbing, I staged a pillow fight and they suffocated Caesar.

In 1997, I suggested Alice again with success. A representative from Seattle Children’s Theater came and loved that we had six Alices in the production.

Fast forward past a hip injury and recovery to ride a bicycle 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the AidsLifecycle challenge.

In 2009, the Coocadagy drama company renamed itself the Drama Llamas and performed three scenes of Alice in the gym at Emmanuel Bible.

Six years later, at the second rehearsal for a full-blown 50-minute musical version of Alice in Wonderland, in walk Grace Fletcher, Paavo Saari, and Kenji Picardo, all “founding” members of the Drama Llamas (dang, they originated the name!). They wondered if they could help backstage for this Alice. Many of the sixth years you will see in main roles were first years in those three scenes in 2009.

Have we walked through a looking glass at Northwest Montessori? We ARE a curious folk.

In this 50th year of the school’s existence, such dedication, loyalty, and camaraderie by students past and present is an inspiring reflection of the school’s commitment to community, art and beauty.

Thank you Northwest Montessori, with all my heart, for allowing me to be a part of the after-school drama program since 1991. Long live Alice! Long live Northwest Montessori!

Karen Klobucher

Winter Open House

Winter Open House

Winter Open House FlyerOpen House For Prospective Parents

Saturday, January 10th (10:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.)

– Celebrating our 49th year we invite you to come meet the staff and tour the classrooms
– Learn about the Montessori approach to the education of children
– Recognized by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)

Primary Program – Ages 2 1⁄2 to 6 years of age Half Day 9am-12noon M-F Extended Day 9am-3pm M-F Dawn to Dusk 7am -6pm M-F

Elementary – Ages 6-12 years of age 8:45am-3:15pm M-F Lower Elementary 6-9 years of age (grades 1-3) Upper Elementary 9-12 years of age (grades 4-6)

Before and after-school programs also available

At All Northwest Montessori School Branches


Wedgwood – 7400 25th Ave NE
Woodland Park – 4910 Phinney Ave N
West Seattle – 7344 35th Ave SW

For more information:
206-524-4244 or 206-634-1347
This is a parent only event.

Open House!

Open House!

Open_House_flyer

Open House For Prospective Parents

Saturday, January 10th (10:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.)

– We invite you to come meet the staff and tour the classrooms
– Learn about the Montessori approach to the education of children
– Recognized by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)

Primary Program – Ages 2 1⁄2 to 6 years of age Half Day 9am-12noon M-F Extended Day 9am-3pm M-F Dawn to Dusk 7am -6pm M-F

Elementary – Ages 6-12 years of age 8:45am-3:15pm M-F Lower Elementary 6-9 years of age (grades 1-3) Upper Elementary 9-12 years of age (grades 4-6)

Before and after-school programs also available

At All Northwest Montessori School Branches

Wedgwood – 7400 25th Ave NE
Woodland Park – 4910 Phinney Ave N
West Seattle – 7344 35th Ave SW

For more information:
206-524-4244 or 206-634-1347
This is a parent only event.

Of Pink Towers, Cosmic Education, and Harvard

Of Pink Towers, Cosmic Education, and Harvard

One of our parents Maia Driver, attended a parent evening at Pacific Crest on September 25th.  She has shared her thoughts about the talk. We appreciate her taking the time to recap the evening so eloquently . Thank you Maia! 

Of Pink Towers, Cosmic Education, and Harvard

Taking the Leap into Montessori Elementary and Beyond

I got some bad news last month at the lecture by AMI trainer, author and Elementary guide, Phyllis Pottish-Lewis. Apparently the Pink Tower was not invented by Maria Montessori. Nor was the Broad Stair, which, thanks to some clarification from my five year old daughter, is also and more commonly (to her) known as the Brown Stair.

While you reel from the shocking report, I will share some good news with you. No, Maria Montessori is not rising from the dead to sign a guarantee that my child will attend Harvard (and from some of the audience questions after the talk, I know that this is on the minds of many parents out there). I did, however, come away from this lecture with a solid reminder that the greatest gift that my child will get from her Montessori education is a strong sense of self. And, if I continue her Montessori education through Elementary and even through adolescent/teen years, her sense of self will be such that I don’t have to fret about what she will be or do in life because she will know what she wants and how to get there.

The basis of all of this starts with the Primary classroom. Maria Montessori developed a strong philosophy and practical guidelines that begin with the idea of the absorbent mind. As Montessori parents, you are probably aware of the idea that children’s minds in the Primary stage are like sponges. What may come as a surprise is that in the Elementary plane, the absorbent mind is lost.

What, you say? If I keep my kid in Montessori Elementary, she will cease to learn? Not exactly. What I learned from Phyllis is that Elementary children simply take in information in a different way. Now is the time when imagination is very strong. Whereas in Primary, children were focused on facts, Elementary students use their imaginations to create, engineer, and look into the past. Along with this imagination also comes the power to reason. It’s not so much that these older children can’t learn facts; but they want to know the reasons behind them. These kids also have a natural instinct to work in groups. And in these groups, they want to take on great works; whether it is building a life-size dinosaur or constructing a working windmill. The Montessori model at the Elementary stage allows space for big ideas to become reality even if the life-size dinosaur does not fit in the classroom or they end up needing an electric battery to get the windmill to work. In a nutshell (if Montessori philosophy could ever be contained in said nutshell), a Montessori education follows the natural tendencies and development of children in various planes of development, each lasting six years; they are further broken down into the three year cycles with which we are most familiar.

Another important piece of Montessori Elementary education that Phyllis brought to light goes beyond traditional academics and focuses on service to society. Maria Montessori wanted children to see how people needed help in society, thus the “going out” trips. Children at this stage want to do this. This helps set children up to become adults who feel connected to the world at large. This is where Phyllis made the tie-in to Cosmic Education. Carl Sagan jokes aside, this simply refers to the idea that all aspects of the universe are interrelated. Montessori children learn how they fit into the universal puzzle and more importantly, they learn to really understand the impact of their decisions on this puzzle.

 

You might wonder how Montessori holds up today, given the changes in the universal puzzle since Maria Montessori’s day. One parent targeted just that issue when she asked after the lecture, “How would Maria Montessori change her philosophy in the modern world?” Answer: “Not at all.” Interestingly, a few days after the lecture, my husband came home from a conference bubbling about a TED talk he heard on the airplane. The gist of the talk is that if children teach themselves in collaborative groups with no adult assistance (but maybe a little adult encouragement), children glean exceptional knowledge, far beyond a typical academic setting. Curious children need not be taught; to learn about what interests them, they look to other children, both in the role of teacher and student. They touted this as revolutionary research, but this all probably sounds pretty familiar to you—yep, Montessori.

As Montessori parents, we often wonder if our children will meet the “bench marks,” be competitive with other kids who follow a more standardized path, be rulers of the universe. What Montessori teaches us is that the “proof” is not necessarily found simply in the pudding. It is something intangible that helps our children have the confidence to excel and find happiness in pursuits that they are passionate about, which may or may not include ruling the universe. Call it Cosmic Education, call it Montessori magic; but whatever you do, trust that your children will become the people they are meant to become.

______________________________

For further reading, Phyllis recommends not tackling Maria Montessori’s The Absorbent Mind just yet, but suggests starting out with To Educate the Human Potential for Elementary parents and The Discovery of the Child for Primary parents.

You’re Invite: 3rd Annual BARN DANCE!

You’re Invite: 3rd Annual BARN DANCE!

barn dance invite 14Come one, Come All!

Grab your partner and dosey doh for Northwest Montessori School’s 3rd Annual Ol’ Fashioned Barn Dance on Friday, October 17, 2014 from 6:30-8:30pm at Hale’s Ales Palladium 4301 Leary Way NW. Seattle, WA 98107.

Don’t miss this opportunity to put on your boots and wear your cowboy hat! Bruce & Bonnie are coming with their fiddles to play two-step, swing, waltz, and call dances.

TICKETS: Ticket Price Includes: Pizza, Veggies & Lemonade
Families – (limit 4 people) $30
Adults – $10
Children – $5

Tickets available for purchase at all branches or by calling (206) 634-1347 or email events@northwestmontessori.orgPlease purchase tickets by Tuesday, October 14th

Additional Concessions for sale: Your choice of Hot Dogs, Brats, Popcorn, Beer and Wine

PARKING: Available in Fred Meyer parking lot on NW 43rd St.

Spring Events!

SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

(click above for more info)

And So Has Our Spring Fundraising

Thank you for your support of Northwest Montessori School throughout the year! As you may have heard, it is time for spring fundraising. In lieu of a full auction this year, we are asking each family to make a suggested minimum donation* of $250 to help us reach our goal of $40,000. Your generous donation will help us continue to do things like upgrade our facilities, provide scholarships for families in need, improve safety and security, maintain our vans, and improve technology.

IT’S RAFFLE TIME AT NORTHWEST MONTESSORI!

(click above for more info)

As part of our Spring Fundraiser, we’re selling tickets for this year’s raffle. All families will have a change to obtain tickets amd sell them to their family, friends, and co-workers. Raffle tickets are $10.00 each. Winners will be announced at our Spring party on May 28, 2014. Winners need not be present to win.

GRAND PRIZE: TRIP FOR TWO ADULTS AND TWO CHILDREN TO DISNEYLAND (ANAHEIM)

Grand Prize: Trip to Disneyland

VIA LA PRIMAVERA!

(click above for more info)

You’re Invited to a Spring Celebration!

Northwest Montessori School parents, teachers, alumni, and friends – Please join us for Viva la Primavera!, a celebration of our community and the beauty of spring Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Annual Giving Campaign Raised $56,000!

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What an amazing result for our Annual Giving Campaign. Your gracious donations have helped us raise $56,000 for Northwest Montessori School!

Thank you so much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fundraiser 2014 Almost There!

Therm1FUNDRAISER UPDATE: Our gracious donors have helped us raise almost all the way to our Goal for a current total of $53,000 for Northwest Montessori School!

Our 2013-2014 Fundraiser has a $60,000 Goal. So far we are on pace, and right now is the perfect opportunity to push us toward that finish line. Please make a donation today. Every dollar makes an invaluable difference in the lives of children.

We are pulling strong. Contact us so that we can fill this tree and make that substantial impact in the lives of our students. The future is a brighter place with with your help.

DONATE NOW

CONTACT: 206.524.4244 or info@northwestmontessori.org

Northwest Montessori’s Drama Llamas to Present “A Proper Au Pair,” a tribute to Mary Poppins

news_drama
Northwest Montessori School’s play this year is entitled A Proper Au Pair, and is the Drama Llamas’ tribute to Mary Poppins, adapted by Karen Klobucher, and with musical arrangements by Elizabeth Truman.

A Proper Au Pair will be presented on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014, at 6:30pm, at:

Shorecrest Performing Arts Center
15343 25th Ave NE
Shoreline, WA 98155

Buy tickets for A Proper Au Pair





Forbes: “The Future Of Education Was Invented In 1906”

Forbes posted an article mentioning the significance of an age-old technique of teaching and pointed toward Maria Montessori as the source. Read more at the original article.

In fact, the future of education was invented in 1906. That’s the year Maria Montessori, who was the first female medical doctor in Italy, opened her revolutionary school. People who talk about Montessori education often talk about some of the specifics–no grades, child-size objects, students choose their own activities, the same set of materials in every classroom, etc. but that’s missing the point. Montessori education was so groundbreaking because it was the first (and, to my knowledge), scientific education method. By which I mean the following: every other education method is based on an abstract model of the child and then derives education methods from that. Maria Montessori, a doctor and a researcher, went the other way around: she experimented with methods and, based on the results, built up a theory of the child, which she then tested and refined through experiment.

Only $20,000 Left to Meet Our Goal

 

Therm1

FUNDRAISER UPDATE: Our gracious donors have helped us raise 2/3 of our Goal for a current total of $40,000 for Northwest Montessori School!

Our 2013-2014 Fundraiser has a $60,000 Goal. So far we are on pace, and right now is the perfect opportunity to push us toward that finish line. Please make a donation today. Every dollar makes an invaluable difference in the lives of children.

We are pulling strong. Contact us so that we can fill this tree and make that substantial impact in the lives of our students. The future is a brighter place with with your help.

DONATE NOW

CONTACT: 206.524.4244 or info@northwestmontessori.org

 

ENTER YOUR INFORMATION
We will contact you to process your donation as soon as possible.

[contact-form to=’jthorslund@northwestmontessori.org’ subject=’Online Donation – Contact Request’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Phone Number’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Donation Amount’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Payment Type’ type=’radio’ options=’Check,Credit/Debit Card,Other’/][/contact-form]

We’re at 60% of Goal!


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Our 2013-2014 Fundraiser is well under way and we have made a significant distance toward the $60,000 Goal.

To date we have raised $36,000 for Northwest Montessori School!

We have a good start, so lets fill the tree and make a difference in the lives of children. The future is a brighter place with students from Northwest Montessori School.

DONATE NOW

CONTACT: 206.524.4244 or info@northwestmontessori.org

Winter Open House

Winter Open House Flyer

Winter Open House Flyer

Celebrating our 49th year we invite you to come meet the staff and tour the classrooms

Learn about the Montessori approach to the education of children

Recognized by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)

Programs Available:
Primary – Ages 2 ½ to 6 years of age
Half Day 9am-12noon M-F
Extended Day 9am-3pm M-F
Dawn to Dusk 7am -6pm M-F

Elementary – Ages 6-12 years of age
8:45am-3:15pm M-F
Lower Elementary 6-9 years of age (grades 1-3)
Upper Elementary 9-12 years of age (grades 4-6)

Before and after-school programs also available

|

OPEN HOUSE FOR PROSPECTIVE PARENTS
Saturday, January 11th
10:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.

Wedgwood – 7400 25th Ave NE
Woodland Park – 4910 Phinney Ave N
West Seattle – 7344 35th Ave SW

For more information:
206-524-4244 or 206-634-1347 www.northwestmontessori.org

This is a parent only event.

Donate While Holiday Shopping With Amazon Smile

What could be better than donating to Northwest Montessori School by making one click?

Introducing AmazonSmile. A service where your eligible purchases on Amazon.com automatically donate 0.5% of the price to Northwest Montessori School. It’s like getting two lattes rather than skipping one, for the sake of the kids.

Amazon-Smile-670x250This is a fantastic way to give this holiday season. All you need to do is use our link into Amazon.com, then log in and off you go. AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Northwest Montessori School every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop through our link, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to us!

  • Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Northwest Montessori School whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.
  • AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.

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Happy Holidays, from all of us at Northwest Montessori School.

nwmontessori_holiday

Building the Pink Tower: Indie GoGo Campaign

 

 

20131106072751-BADGEv04small-150x150Join us in supporting an important Montessori film.

Please do not consider this a solicitation, but rather information about this project.

Two Montessori parents set out to film a documentary about the school that changed their children’s lives, how they parent, and who they are. Enjoy a special segment from the producers and the documentary trailer below. Building the Pink Tower intertwines expert interviews with beautifully filmed, authentic stories of how Montessori education is changing the lives of children.

We believe all children deserve to go to school in an environment that honors their unique talents, encourages their natural interest in learning, and supports their development of concentration, collaboration, and creativity. That’s why we decided to make Building the Pink Tower … a documentary film that will break down myths about Montessori education and promote dialogue about how to honor the developmental needs of children while preparing them for the future.

Open House – Nov 2nd and Jan 11th

Upcoming at Northwest Montessori School:
Open_House_flyer
Celebrating our 49th year we invite you to come meet the staff and tour the classrooms.
Learn about the Montessori approach to the education of children.
Recognized by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)

Programs Available:
Primary – Ages 2 ½ to 6 years of age
Half Day 9am-12noon M-F
Extended Day 9am-3pm M-F
Dawn to Dusk 7am -6pm M-F

Elementary – Ages 6-12 years of age
8:45am-3:15pm M-F
Lower Elementary 6-9 years of age (grades 1-3)
Upper Elementary 9-12 years of age (grades 4-6)

OPEN HOUSE for Parents
Saturday, November 2nd &
Saturday, January 11th
10:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.

Wedgwood – 7400 25th Ave NE
Woodland Park – 4910 Phinney Ave N
West Seattle – 7344 35th Ave SW

For more information:
206-524-4244 or 206-634-1347
www.northwestmontessori.org
This is a parent only event.

This Week at Northwest Montessori

Here are a few things that are happening next week!

header_01Thursday, October 17th
The Great Washington Shake Out
Annual statewide earthquake drill
10:17am on October 17, 2013.
More information at:
http://www.shakeout.org/washington/

barn danceFriday, October 18, 2013
Northwest Montessori School’s 2nd Annual
BARN DANCE at Hale’s Ales Palladium
Buy your tickets Today!
Friday, October 18, 2013
Hale’s Ales Palladium -4301 Leary Way Seattle, WA

Don’t miss this opportunity to put on your boots and wear your cowboy hat! Bruce & Bonnie are coming with their fiddles to play two-step, swing, waltz, and call dances.

Tickets Include: Pizza, Snacks & Lemonade
Families $20 (limit 4 people)
Couples $10
Single $5

Tickets available for purchase at all branches or by calling (206) 634-1347 or email events@northwestmontessori.org
Please purchase tickets by Tuesday, October 15th.

Additional concessions for sale: Your choice of BBQ Beef or Pork Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, Pretzels, Beer and Wine

viewerAll Week
Lunch Tips
Northwest Montessori School parent and Registered Dietician, Brandi Olden helps her daughter make lunch everyday. Here are a few of her favorite tips to make lunch preparation a bit easier. To learn more about Brandi please visit her website at http://creatingpeacewithfood.com

Lunch Tips

  • Make foods easy to eat by cutting up fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • An insulated thermos isn’t just for soup. Leftovers can offer your child a hot lunch and reduce your prep time.
  • Let them dip; studies show that children eat significantly more fruits and vegetables when given a dip. Try ranch, ketchup, mustard, hummus, seed/nut butter or yogurt.

Remember food safety.
Pack perishables in an insulated bag with an ice pack to keep them fresh until lunchtime.

Work Party Thanks!

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Dear  Northwest Montessori School Families and Staff,
Wow!  We want to thank you all of you that so enthusiastically participated in the Work Parties March 16th.
Wedgwood has newly refinished picnic tables, newly painted doors, trimmed, pruned, cleaned, planted, weeded, scrubbed – Oh My!  It feels great, and everyone had a good time.
Woodland Park’s North garden bed and triangle bed was cleaned and spruced up as well as trees, bushes pruned and chipped.  Outside planters were cleaned, swept walkways. etc. etc.
We all had a fun time and appreciate all the hard work.  Let’s do it again!
West Seattle has a week long clean up planned. Parents and staff will do their part as they have time.
Your generous giving of your time, talent and muscle shines!
From all of us,
Thank you

Northwest Montessori Work Party March 16th 10:00a.m. to 2:00p.m.

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Parents, please join us for a beautification work party at Wedgwood and Woodland Park Branches on Saturday, March 16, 2013 from 10:00a.m. to 2:00p.m.

This community building event will offer time to mingle and get to know other families and share your ideas for other social events as well as ways to contribute to our school.  We will have classroom sign-up sheets with project ideas that we would like to have done on the 16th with additional space for you to add projects ideas you have and would like to do or organize for the school.

Work project ideas for Wedgwood include:

  • Flowers planted in our window pots, standing pots
  • We would like our hanging planter replanted.
  • We would love to have new benches by our gate.
  • Sand and refinish our wood tables and picnic tables (this is a job that will gradually be completed).
  • We would love our fruit trees pruned Julie will help.
  • Bring and place slats in cyclone fence at the end of Louise and Tebby’s walkway.
  • In addition to sprucing up our indoor and outdoor environments you will have time to mingle with our parent community.
  • Maybe some light classroom painting.
  • Home work ideas:
  • New placemats and curtains for Laura and Elisabeth’s room.
  • Knit clothes
  • Sew or finish sewing new aprons
  • Contribute toward new blinds in all the rooms.

Work Party Project ideas for Woodland Park:

  • Re-plant outdoor flowerpots.
  • Bring a powerwasher to clean around the school.
  • Paint yellow table legs
  • Begin the process of refinishing wood tables in all rooms.
  • Re-pot indoor plants with fertilizer and compost.
  • Please bring gloves and tools and items for the projects you plan to participate in.  We will have varnish and oil for wood furniture.
  • A list will be available for you to sign up  and also a place to share your ideas for future projects.

See you on the 16th!! Do a sun Dance!!  Bring a lunch or snack.  Don’t forget your gloves!

*On another note a copy of our emergency plan will be posted on this blog site for your convenience.  Safety updates include:  Rolling emergency kit Backpacks for every room.  Film will be put on windows by March 16th.  We will update you on the Wedgwood fence lock and gate as soon as we hear back with bids.

 

When a zoo is more than just a zoo: Extending children’s learning activities

(Originally published in Early Childhood News, by Marie W. Sloane, M.S.T.)

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“Why do the children just play all day?” asks a parent. “How do you know if they are learning?” Teachers in child-centered classrooms are often asked these questions because parents (and administrators) sometimes have difficulty discerning whether real learning can take place without teachers using worksheets and children sitting at desks. As teachers abandon “refrigerator” art projects and holiday curricula in favor of following children’s interests, they must learn to explain what they are accomplishing, both to themselves and to others.

Do children “just play” all day? Yes and no. Teachers and children both generate ideas that guide learning in an emergent curriculum (Jones & Nimmo, 1994). Children actively follow their own interests by experimenting regularly, trying out new ideas, and representing what they are doing in many different ways. At the same time, the teacher’s role is extremely important. By acting as a facilitator and guide, the teacher helps transform simple play into active, hands-on learning (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992). Children left alone to play will certainly discover new things independently. However, these same children working with a teacher to extend their activities learn a great deal more because they are challenged to develop knowledge and skills beyond what they can do on their own.

Extending Children’s Activities

How does one extend a child’s activities? The trick is to conduct interactions using three key questions:

  • What do I already know about this child?
  • What can I add to what he or she is doing?
  • What sort of feedback am I getting?

Question #1: What Do I Know?

Activity time is in full swing (note it is not called “play time” or “work time”). The hum of busy children fills the air. You cross the room moving toward the block area after helping Charlie get started at the easel. Sara is busily setting up blocks to form small enclosures. You hear her say, “Zoo. I’m makin’ a zoo.” Assuming you have the time to sit and work with Sara for a few minutes, you have the opportunity to extend Sara’s learning through play. Start by thinking about what you already know about the child and by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How long does this child usually stay with an activity?
  • What kind of depth will this child add on her own?
  • What does she know about this topic?
  • What are some new facts she might be ready to learn?
  • What does this child know about letters and numbers?
  • Is it appropriate to think about teaching her letters or numbers?
  • What other goals do you have for this child’s development?

If you cannot answer the bulk of these questions, you need to observe the child further and learn more about her current abilities and interests. If you have enough background information, think of the direction you and the child might go with play.

Question #2: What Can I Add?

You sit down next to Sara and comment on how hard you see her working. You ask her to tell you about what she is making. She explains that she is building a zoo.

“A zoo sounds interesting,” you reply. “What might go in a zoo?”

“Animals,” she says firmly as she gets up and brings over a bin of small animals.

“Oh, animals. What kind?” you ask.

“Tigers,” she says, placing two into one of her cages. “And lions, and bears, and gorillas…”

Sometimes asking children one or two simple questions about what they are doing will stimulate further thinking and help them add more depth and detail. As they pursue their ideas, you can move off and work with others. After a short time, ask yourself again, “What can I add?”

You return a few minutes later and ask, “How’s the zoo coming?” Sara is apparently finished adding animals.

“Fine,” she replies.

“What are you going to add next?” you ask, sensing that she is about at the end of her own ideas.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, what else do zoos have besides animals?” you probe.

“I don’t know,” she says again.

At this point you have a number of options. You could suggest getting a book and consulting the pictures to learn more. You could change the approach and suggest counting the animals or writing signs for the zoo, or you could suggest that she tell a story about her zoo. Deciding which avenue to pursue relies on thinking back through what you know about Sara and the goals you have for her. After you have chosen an approach and tried it out, ask yourself the final question.

Question #3:What Feedback Am I Getting?

“How about people?” you suggest. “Are there people at this zoo?”

“No,” she replies firmly. “This zoo is only for animals. No people even come to it.”

When a child responds negatively to an idea, let it go. You may have gone in a direction that has lost his or her interest, or you may have exceeded a child’s attention span for this activity. He or she may feel like saying “no” to a teacher! Pay attention to your third question, “What sort of feedback am I getting?” Try another approach.

“No people, I see. There are certainly a lot of animals. I wonder how many animals there are?”

“Well, I see two tigers,” Sara volunteers.

“Yes, two tigers. I see them too! I wonder if we could start there and count all of the animals?”

“Sure, one, two, three…” Sara counts up to 21 with your help, higher than she has ever counted before.

“Wow, 21 animals!” you exclaim. “That is great! I wonder if we could write that down so we can remember it?”

“Why not?” Sara says as she grabs a marker and the piece of paper you have strategically placed near the block area.

“What should we write?” you ask.

“Twenty-one,” she replies. “Write, ‘There are 21 animals in Sara’s zoo.’”You print her words in large letters.

“Sara!” she exclaims. “I see the part where you wrote my name!”

“Good reading,” you reply. “So, do you want to show your zoo to the rest of the class during Sharing Time?”

“Oh yes,” she answers. “Help me put my name on the list so everyone can see what I did!”

As you work with children to extend what they would have done on their own, you are helping them develop new knowledge and skills. However, as a facilitator of learning you should not take over completely. Instead, pay attention to the question, “What feedback am I getting?” and tailor your suggestions to each child. Their reactions to your ideas guide how far you pursue particular options. Following their interests, you help children increase their attention spans, add more depth to their work, and practice academic skills in meaningful contexts.

So, What Are They Learning?

Teachers in child-centered classrooms need to make special efforts to document and share children’s learning with parents and administrators. Take pictures of the children hard at work and with their finished creations. Post these photographs around the classroom with short explanations of what was learned. Show parents children’s work and explain skills a child practiced or knowledge that he or she gained. Invite administrators into your room to see you and the children in action. As you extend their activities, share the work that both you and the children are doing with others on a regular basis, and they will begin to understand the true value of emergent curriculum.

Woodland Park Zoo is located directly north of Northwest Montessori School’s Woodland Park branch, and provides a host of opportunities for early childhood education. We encourage you to take advantage of this great local resource. Don’t miss WildLights, now through January 1st, 2013. See the zoo in a whole new light! WildLights features wild animals and wild places recreated in thousands of sparking LED lights. Make it your family’s new holiday tradition!

Marie W. Sloane, M.S.T., is the assistant director of The Little Ones Nursery School in Northbrook, IL. Her experience includes multiple years of designing, implementing, speaking, and writing about developmentally appropriate learning environments.

References

Bredekamp, S., & Rosegrant, T. (Eds.) (1992). Reaching potentials: Appropriate curriculum and assessment for young children.Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Jones, E., & Nimmo, J. (1994). Emergent curriculum. Washington,DC: NAEYC.

Maria Montessori, a bold life breaking gender boundaries

(Originally posted in The Christian Science Monitor, Laura Edwins)

MariaMontessoriDoctor Maria Montessori may have given her name to one of the world’s most well known education methods, but the woman behind the philosophy is not a well known feminist figure.

In the early twentieth century Montessori, one of Italy’s first female physicians, was a true trailblazer, rejecting many social norms associated with gender roles in her time.

The daughter of parents who placed a high value on education, as a teenager Montessori enrolled in technical schools where she focused on math and science. Montessori planned to become an engineer, but then decided to study medicine.

Montessori applied to the University of Rome, but was strongly discouraged from attending because of her gender. She enrolled anyway, taking classes in natural sciences, botany, zoology, experimental physics, anatomy, and chemistry. She graduated with her degree in 1896.

According to the American Montessori society, she faced gender discrimination left and right. It was deemed inappropriate for her to attend classes with men while in the presence of a naked body (even when that body was dead), so Montessori did her cadaver dissections after class, alone.

After graduating, Montessori found employment at the university hospital, and began her own practice. She also began her soon-to-be famous research studying how mentally disabled children learn, which would be the foundation for her educational methods for all students.

When Montessori was 36, she founded Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, an experimental school where she could test her education methods. Rather than teaching the children herself, Montessori trained the teachers and then oversaw their work and observed the students. Her methods, quickly spread, and soon she was training teachers around the world.

Montessori traveled, speaking extensively on her approach to education, and also on women’s rights, and peace. She believed that peace could be taught in education, putting her at odds with Benito Mussolini in Italy. Montessori left her country in 1932 and was later was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize six times.

Even in her personal life, Montessori was unusual for her time. She had one son, Mario, but did not marry his father. Mario Montessori eventually became her collaborator in her studies.

Montessori’s legacy remains her education methods, but with her remarkable life she also stands as a model of a uniquely talented and bold woman.

Maria Montessori and 10 famous graduates from her schools

Maria Montessori would have turned 142 this year. Her Montessori schools helped shape several prominent business leaders and celebrities. (Google)

Maria Montessori would have turned 142 this year. Her Montessori schools helped shape several prominent business leaders and celebrities. (Google)

(Originally posted by The Christian Science Monitor, Chris Gaylord)

<i>Maria Montessori stands in many ways as the mother of alternative education. The Italian physician and teacher invented a new kind of school, one with self-directed learning, classrooms with mixed age groups, and no grades. Now, on what would have been her 142 birthday, thousands of schools bear her name. These Montessori schools have some very famous alumni, many of which credit the free-flowing classes with teaching them to think differently and allowing them to change the world. Here are 10 of the most prominent.</i>

1. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Google ran one of its famous doodles on Friday in honor of Maria Montessori. No surprise, really. Both of the company’s founders went to Montessori schools.

In 2004, ABC’s Barbara Walters asked Larry Page and Sergey Brin about the secret to their success. Both Mr. Page and Mr. Brin had college professors for parents. She wondered if that familial connection to learning played into their success. They said no. Their parents helped, but really their Montessori education was the key. Brin and Page specifically pointed to the curriculum of self-directed learning – where students follow their interests and decide for themselves what they want to learn.

“I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently,” says Page, who’s now CEO of Google.

The transformation from college friends to twin billionaires took several turns. Google may have never taken off if Brin and Page didn’t keep asking themselves: What else can I do? What do I find interesting? How can I make that happen?

As Forbes pointed out last year, Google “wasn’t launched by Larry Page and Sergei Brin as a brilliant vision, but rather as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model.” The Forbes article credits Montessori education for allowing them to keep tinkering. “Overall,” it says, “there was resonance with the idea that education concerns inspiring students to become life-long learners with a love of education.”

This model has seeped into Google’s corporate culture, as well. The company is famous for its 20-percent rule. Employees should spend one day a week working on something that isn’t in their job description. Basically, be self-directed. This Montessori ideal has led to many major Google products: Google Maps, Alerts, Reader, and many more.

Look for another Silicon Valley megastar as we continue down the list.

read more…

Raising Successful Children

Lizzy Stewart

PHRASES like “tiger mom” and “helicopter parent” have made their way into everyday language. But does overparenting hurt, or help?

While parents who are clearly and embarrassingly inappropriate come in for ridicule, many of us find ourselves drawn to the idea that with just a bit more parental elbow grease, we might turn out children with great talents and assured futures. Is there really anything wrong with a kind of “overparenting lite”?

Parental involvement has a long and rich history of being studied. Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved. Why is this particular parenting style so successful, and what does it tell us about overparenting?For one thing, authoritative parents actually help cultivate motivation in their children. Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University, has done research that indicates why authoritative parents raise more motivated, and thus more successful, children.

In a typical experiment, Dr. Dweck takes young children into a room and asks them to solve a simple puzzle. Most do so with little difficulty. But then Dr. Dweck tells some, but not all, of the kids how very bright and capable they are. As it turns out, the children who are not told they’re smart are more motivated to tackle increasingly difficult puzzles. They also exhibit higher levels of confidence and show greater overall progress in puzzle-solving.

This may seem counterintuitive, but praising children’s talents and abilities seems to rattle their confidence. Tackling more difficult puzzles carries the risk of losing one’s status as “smart” and deprives kids of the thrill of choosing to work simply for its own sake, regardless of outcomes. Dr. Dweck’s work aligns nicely with that of Dr. Baumrind, who also found that reasonably supporting a child’s autonomy and limiting interference results in better academic and emotional outcomes.

Their research confirms what I’ve seen in more than 25 years of clinical work, treating children in Marin County, an affluent suburb of San Francisco. The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.

The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re O.K.” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.

Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager).

But isn’t it a parent’s job to help with those things that are just beyond your child’s reach? Why is it overparenting to do for your child what he or she is almost capable of?

Think back to when your toddler learned to walk. She would take a weaving step or two, collapse and immediately look to you for your reaction. You were in thrall to those early attempts and would do everything possible to encourage her to get up again. You certainly didn’t chastise her for failing or utter dire predictions about flipping burgers for the rest of her life if she fell again. You were present, alert and available to guide if necessary. But you didn’t pick her up every time.

You knew she had to get it wrong many times before she could get it right.

HANGING back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. It’s easier when they’re young — tolerating a stumbling toddler is far different from allowing a preteenager to meet her friends at the mall. The potential mistakes carry greater risks, and part of being a parent is minimizing risk for our children.

What kinds of risks should we tolerate? If there’s a predator loose in the neighborhood, your daughter doesn’t get to go to the mall. But under normal circumstances an 11-year-old girl is quite capable of taking care of herself for a few hours in the company of her friends. She may forget a package, overpay for an item or forget that she was supposed to call home at noon. Mastery of the world is an expanding geography for our kids, for toddlers, it’s the backyard; for preteens, the neighborhood, for teens the wider world. But it is in the small daily risks — the taller slide, the bike ride around the block, the invitation extended to a new classmate — that growth takes place. In this gray area of just beyond the comfortable is where resilience is born.

So if children are able to live with mistakes and even failing, why does it drive us crazy? So many parents have said to me, “I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.” If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business. The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.

While doing things for your child unnecessarily or prematurely can reduce motivation and increase dependency, it is the inability to maintain parental boundaries that most damages child development. When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self.

There is an important distinction between good and bad parental involvement. For example, a young child doesn’t want to sit and do his math homework. Good parents insist on compliance, not because they need their child to be a perfect student but because the child needs to learn the fundamentals of math and develop a good work ethic. Compare this with the parent who spends weeks “helping” his or her child fill out college applications with the clear expectation that if they both work hard enough, a “gotta get into” school is a certainty. (While most of my parent patients have graduated from college, it is always a telltale sign of overparenting when they talk about how “we’re applying to Columbia.”)

In both situations parents are using control, in the first case behavioral (sit down, do your math) and in the second psychological (“we’re applying.”) It is psychological control that carries with it a textbook’s worth of damage to a child’s developing identity. If pushing, direction, motivation and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside. Having tutors prep your anxious 3-year-old for a preschool interview because all your friends’ children are going to this particular school or pushing your exhausted child to take one more advanced-placement course because it will ensure her spot as class valedictorian is not involved parenting but toxic overparenting aimed at meeting the parents’ need for status or affirmation and not the child’s needs.

So how do parents find the courage to discard the malpractice of overparenting? It’s hard to swim upstream, to resist peer pressure. But we must remember that children thrive best in an environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering.

A loving parent is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to breach a child’s psychological boundaries by invoking shame or guilt. Parents must acknowledge their own anxiety. Your job is to know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation. Will you stay up worrying? Probably, but the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable moves toward autonomy.

Parents also have to be clear about their own values. Children watch us closely. If you want your children to be able to stand up for their values, you have to do the same. If you believe that a summer spent reading, taking creek walks and playing is better than a specialized camp, then stick to your guns. Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of overparenting than an unhappy parent. One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.

Madeline Levine is a clinician, consultant and the author, most recently, of “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success.”

Maria Montessori: guru for a new generation of business innovators

(JAMES MARTIN, Special to Globe and Mail Update, Published Last updated 

Doug Hrvoic, president of Marine Magnetics Corp., with his daughter at a Montessori school fair. Hrvoic has incorporated elements of his own Montessori education into his business. (Photo courtesy Marine Magnetics Corp.)

 

Earlier this month, Google announced a new “multitask mode” for its Chrome browser, allowing people to increase productivity by using a mouse in each hand, at the same time. It was, of course, just one of the Internet giant’s many April Fool’s Day jokes. But the germ of the gag – “While browsing, you’re only using 50 per cent of your hands,” deadpanned a designer in a video tutorial – is just a hair away from being a viable idea and, as such, it gets at the heart of Google’s philosophy of innovation: Constantly question everything.

read more…

The Right Way to Train Attention

(From a post by Laura Flores Shaw, Head of School, Oak Knoll Kinderhaus Montessori. Originally appeared on The Huffington Post)

The controversy over what we should do for children with ADHD just keeps going, and going. In one corner we have researchers like L. Alan Sroufe, Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, claiming in a widely read New York Times’ op-ed called “Ritalin Gone Wrong” that in the long term, attention deficit drugs are ineffective. What’s more, Dr. Sroufe says, ADHD is not even an innately structural disorder — he argues that it is often brought on by family stresses such as domestic violence or frequent moving, or even a parent’s tendency to taunt or ridicule a child who is frustrated in solving a problem. In the other corner, we have researchers from the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders. They swung back quickly, claiming that ADHD is, in fact, heritable and that medication is effective. As the experts debate, 3 million of our children are taking stimulants every day. One of them is my much younger brother, Mike.

Mike, now in his last year at UCLA, has been on and off ADHD medication since being diagnosed in elementary school, and so he has some insight into what the drugs can and can’t do. Adderall does help him to focus on boring tasks, he says, but he doesn’t think it increases his overall effectiveness. In fact, he thinks Ritalin or Adderall would help anyone focus. This is exactly what Dr. Sroufe says in his Op-Ed: “Stimulants generally have the same effects for all children and adults. They enhance the ability to concentrate, especially on tasks that are not inherently interesting or when one is fatigued or bored, but they don’t improve broader learning abilities.” Then there’s the problem of the drugs’ fading effectiveness over long periods, as the child develops a tolerance. And so, in this debate, I find myself in Dr. Sroufe’s corner, especially since there’s a better answer than drugs for children with ADHD who struggle in school.

Research shows that attention can be trained, and over the past few years, attention training video games have become increasingly popular, but not just for children with ADHD. Because there’s research showing possible gains in IQ after training, parents are purchasing games even for children without attention issues and schools are implementing programs for all of their students. I was recently asked if I’d be interested in providing attention training games in my own school’s classrooms. My answer was a resounding “no.” I love technology as much as anyone, but ours is a Montessori school, and for attention training, Montessori students don’t need computers. Montessori environments are specifically designed to train attention by providing children opportunities to practice deep concentration for long periods without disruption. According to Dr. Montessori, concentration development is “the most important single result of our whole work.” This is why our preschool and elementary programs have 3-hour work cycles rather than a schedule that changes subject area every 30 to 40 minutes.

The periods of deep concentration Montessori students experience are what Dr. Mihály Csikszentmikály, refers to as “flow.” In his now classic book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he defines flow as “the mental state in which a person engaged in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” It’s a state that Dr. Csikszentmikály generally attributes to adults, but when he and his colleague Dr. Kevin Rathunde conducted a multi-year study comparing traditional school environments to Montessori environments, they found that “students achieved flow experiences more frequently in Montessori settings.”

Montessori environments, however, are doing more than merely training attention. Flow in a Montessori classroom fosters a love of learning, something computerized attention training games can’t do. A flow state is so pleasing, it literally makes you feel joyful, thus, the learning experience becomes associated with joy, not some video game. As Dr. Csikszentmikály writes, “Every teacher, whether they teach German or music or mathematics, is aware of how important it is for the kid to experience flow while learning because that would make them want to learn more.”

The reason flow is so pleasing to the brain is that it doesn’t require effort and self-control as it’s a state of effortless concentration that emerges from innate curiosity or interest. Yet, a byproduct of attention trained via flow is that a person becomes more self-regulated and, thus, can put more effort into things in which they’re not innately interested. And this is important since there are just some things you have to do – like memorize those math facts!

If children in conventional schools aren’t experiencing flow states more regularly, what are they experiencing? My guess is that they’re most likely experiencing a lot strain and pain in having to exercise a LOT of self-control and effort to sit still and pay attention to the person speaking at the front of the class all day.

Sometimes I wonder if Mike would have ever been diagnosed with ADHD if he’d attended a Montessori school. I wonder if he’d had the opportunity to experience flow on a daily basis, if his brain would have wired differently. I wonder that about him — and about the 3 million children in this country who take attention deficit medication every day. Can we imagine a public school system where every child experiences flow and doesn’t have to depend upon stimulants or even video games?

Maria Montessori: Follow the Child

Here’s a very interesting video uncovered by one of our Montessori teachers that chronicles the history of Dr. Maria Montessori and her development of the Montessori Method of education. Check it out.

Ahoy! Time to Search for Treasure for Our 2012 Annual Auction, “A Pirates Life for Me”

 

Procurement February is officially upon us.  Auction procurement packets, including procurement forms, were sent home with your children a few weeks ago.  The school will be soliciting auction donations throughout the month of February.  Please fill out a procurement form for each donation and turn it in to the office by Friday, February 27th so they can be cataloged and ready for the auction.

This year’s auction, A Pirate’s Life for Me!, will be held on March 31, 2012 at the Seattle Design Center Atrium. Jerry Toner, a wonderful auctioneer is returning for a fifth year to lead us through the live auction while dinner is being served. We will still have our delicious dessert auction and of course our famous wine raffle and trip raffle, which will be to Disneyland!

Before the Live Auction, we will announce the winner of the Case of Cash, which will return by popular demand this year.

Sponsor Opportunities

This year we would like to extend our procurement to the businesses you work for and or individuals.   Information about sponsorship can be found online and a Corporate Sponsor letter and form were included in the auction packets for you to submit to your employer’s and/ or businesses. Thank you for your help with this. We will be able to fund more projects with this added support while allowing for advertisement in our catalog and our invitations. All donations are tax deductible, we are a non-profit organization. This is a great way to include our community and help the school. The deadline for inclusion in the invitation and catalog is February 13, 2012.

Sixteenth Year Supporting Northwest Montessori School

Our Annual Auction, now in its sixteenth year, is one of the largest sources of support for Northwest Montessori School, providing money for school beautification, supplies and materials for our classrooms, scholarship funds and professional development for our staff.  This is all made possible by the generosity of Northwest Montessori family and friends.  We couldn’t do it without you.

Tips for soliciting auction donations

Visit the Auction page on the Northwest Montessori website for more information about the auction. We’ll be updating the website frequently with important information and updates about procurement and the auction.

This procurement pack includes a letter you can use to help you procure items and slips to accompany any donations.

Businesses and other organizations are happy to support local schools. Ask those with whom you or your friends are familiar. You will be surprised to find how receptive people are.

Call the businesses or organizations first to find out their donation policy and to whom the procurement form should be sent. This will save you and the donor time.

Follow up is important. It may take more than one visit or phone call to get your item.

Be sure to thank the donor in person when you pick up the item or the next time you buy something from them. The auction committee will send out thank you notes after the event. You can never say thank you too much!

Unlike many auctions, we allow, and even encourage donors to advertise their business along with their donated item. Donors are welcome to send along a stack of business cards, some pamphlets, or a small display. Displays that need to be returned must be clearly marked.

Completing the Procurement Slip

  1. Fill out a procurement slip (paper or online), even if the donor is giving cash rather than an item. Simply write “cash” in the item description box, if filling out a paper slip.
  2. Make sure all information is included, along with the donor signature and your name- the auction representative.
  3. Please specify the donor’s name and address clearly. We credit donors in the catalog and send thank you notes after the event, so this information is important!
  4. Extra forms are available at every branch. Go green this year and use our online procurement (item donation) form to donate an item. Or give us a call, and we will make sure you get all the forms you need.

A few things to remember about procurement items:

  • Procure the things that you enjoy. Chances are other people will enjoy them as well.
  • We cannot accept used or nearly new items.
  • Based on past experience, we have found that professional/consulting services and religious items do not auction well, if at all.

Sample Procurement Ideas

  • Seaplane Ride
  • Cooking Classes
  • Health Club Membership
  • Parent’s Night Out: Gift certificate for dinner, movie passes and babysitting
  • Fishing Trip
  • Behind the scenes tour (chocolate factory, zoo, radio station, etc.)
  • Yard Work
  • Xbox or Wii
  • Picnic
  • Ski Passes
  • Horseback riding
  • Jewelry
  • Children’s Birthday Party
  • Monthly pass for yoga
  • Dinner delivery
  • Games
  • Electronics (camera, iPad, e-reader, iPod, video camera, etc.)
  • Use of a boat, camper or pickup truck
  • Nature Walk with Guide
  • Window Washing
  • Handmade Items
  • Kayaking Trip
  • Golfing Trip
  • Hot Air Balloon Trip

Montessori: The Missing Voice in the Education Reform Debate

Original post by Laura Flores Shaw (Head of School, Oak Knoll Kinderhaus Montessori) in The Huffington Post

Over a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori discovered through scientific observations of children that they are not empty vessels to be filled — they are intrinsically motivated doers. She saw that providing a hands-on learning environment that valued choice, concentration, collaboration, community, curiosity, and real-world application produced lifelong learners who viewed “work” as something interesting and fulfilling instead of drudgery to be avoided. Now, research in psychology and neuroscience continually validates Dr. Montessori’s conclusions about children and learning, and Montessori schools are flourishing — not just preschools but, increasingly, elementary, middle and secondary schools. So as the education reform debate thunders on, with the many sides agreeing on little beyond the fact that our schools as they are currently designed are failing our children, I can’t help but wonder: Where is the voice of the Montessori movement in the American school reform conversation?

I first learned about Dr. Maria Montessori’s approach to human development while in graduate school to become a therapist. At that time, I was struck by the similarities between some of Montessori’s tenets and the theories and practices of therapeutic intervention for children. Choice, a key Montessori tenet, is at the heart of child therapy. Children’s emotional, social, and academic development improve when they are empowered through choice. At the same time, children, according to the psychological literature, need to have appropriate boundaries and limits to feel safe and secure. Montessori’s “freedom with discipline” (where “discipline means “to teach”) for children ages 3-6 and “freedom with responsibility” for children ages 6 and up align with this literature.

My passion for Montessori, however, really ignited while I was interning as a school therapist in a suburban public school district. Taking students out of a classroom where they had very little choice and bringing them into a small office where I empowered them with choices seemed counterproductive, a short-term fix. That’s when I realized I no longer wanted to provide interventions for children experiencing social, emotional, and behavioral issues. Instead, I wanted to be involved in the prevention of such issues. That, I knew, was happening in Montessori environments. So, I changed career course and became the Head of School at a growing accredited Montessori school for children ages 18 months to (soon to be) 15 years old.

Over the past five years, I’ve seen firsthand how powerful and effective the Montessori method is with children of varying temperaments and from varying backgrounds. I’ve seen children with severe developmental delays improve significantly because of how Montessori teachers are trained to interact with their students. And I’ve seen elementary-aged children from conventional schools who abhor learning have their love of learning reignited in a Montessori classroom.

Why is Montessori so effective? We know there is an indisputable link between movement and cognition, with the former actually enhancing the latter. We know that people of all ages need to feel a sense of control over their lives and that lack of control leads to depression and learned helplessness, which inhibits learning. We know from a huge body of research that extrinsic rewards and punishments don’t work and can actually adversely affect intrinsic motivation. Research tells us all of these things, yet students at conventional schools are still confined to their desks, with rigidly scheduled days, receiving grades for every aspect of their learning and behavior. Is it any wonder that the public school district needs therapists?

In contrast, students in a Montessori classroom are free to move about the room and are provided varying types of work spaces — tables, floor mats, and low-lying tables called “chowkies.” They’re given large blocks of time — generally around three hours — in which they choose their work and participate in one-on-one presentations (at the preschool level) or small group lessons (in elementary). There are no grades or tests. Instead, assessments are occurring daily through the teachers’ keen observations of the children. (The children are taught how to test themselves or each other so they can know if they’ve really mastered something, such as math facts. There are some things that do need to be memorized!) Ultimately, it is expected that the children will use their time in a productive way, balancing their subjects and being responsible for their learning, and what we see daily in our classrooms is that they are. At the end of each semester, teachers provide each student and his or her parents with an overview of the student’s progress, pointing out areas that need improvement.

Education reformers these days cast their nets far and wide to try to find a solution to the current malaise in our schools. They look to Finland, or to digital learning models. Why is Montessori ignored? At a recent Los Angeles public school district teachers meeting where school reform was discussed, one teacher asked, “Have we ever considered Montessori? My sister is a Montessori teacher, and it seems to work really well for kids.” His question, another teacher told me, was dismissed.

Maybe it’s because people are simply most comfortable with the familiar. Maybe it’s because many mistakenly think Montessori education is a model only suitable for preschool-age or privileged children. I’m convinced, however, that the greatest impediment to Montessori entering this conversation is that there are so many special interests — from textbook and test publishers to educational entrepreneurs — who profit from the system as is.

I can tell you that the solutions we are all looking for are both simpler and more radical than the noisy debaters would have you believe. We need to do more than reform education. We need to transform it.

We need to talk about Montessori.

About Laura Flores Shaw

Laura Flores Shaw is the Head of School at Oak Knoll Kinderhaus Montessori, an Association Montessori International (AMI/USA) accredited school in Pasadena, California, serving children 18 months through (soon to be) 15 years-old. She holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in psychology and formerly worked as a child and family therapist in a suburban public school district. Ms. Shaw speaks internationally on effective school administration using the principles of relational systems theory and the scientific correlates of the Montessori method. She is also the founder of the Collaborative Montessori Initiative (CMI), a Montessori advocacy project.

NWM Drama Llamas present The Wizard of Oz

Tickets are available now to this year’s Drama Llamas’ presentation of The Wizard of Oz. Our students and parents have been working tirelessly on this classic and timeless story. Please come out and show your support.

The play is being presented on Thursday, January 2nd, 2012, at 6:30pm at the University Prep theater. (See Driving Directions below.)

Show Information

Date: Thursday, February 2, 2012

Time: 6:30pm

Venue:

Founder’s Hall Theater

University Prep

8000 25th Ave NE

Seattle, WA

Tickets: $6.00

There are 292 seats in this theater so get your tickets quickly before they’re all gone. Tickets are $6.00 and, unlike other years, must be purchased in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door.

 

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Northbound on I-5

Take exit 171 and proceed onto Lake City Way. Turn right on NE 80th and go straight. NE 80th will eventually curve to the left and connect to Ravenna Avenue NE. Follow this to the left and turn right onto NE 80th again. Go straight across 25th Avenue NE and the school will be on your left, across from Dahl Playfield.

Southbound on I-5

Take exit 172 onto NE 80th Street and go straight. NE 80th will eventually curve to the left and connect to Ravenna Avenue NE. Follow this to the left and turn right onto NE 80th again. Go straight across 25th Avenue NE and the school will be on your left, across from Dahl Playfield.

Westbound on S.R. 520 or I-90

Travel west to I-5. Take I-5 northbound exit. Follow directions for Northbound on I-5.

 


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Share Your Montessori Stories

You know how parents love to tell their Montessori stories – how it changed their life or how good it is/was for their children? Now there’s a place you can do so online.

So many parents talk about their love of Montessori – either because they were Montessori children themselves or because  they simply appreciate what their child gets from their daily experiences at their Montessori school. MontessoriWords.com is an interactive blog where you can all express these thoughts – and more.  Parents from around the world have written in, telling of their appreciation for Montessori.

You can post anonymously, or register and post with your name.

Let the sharing begin!

When the Teachers Were Weary of My Observations

(by Marc Seldin, Guided Studies)

When the teachers were weary of my observations, they began to allow the children to do whatever they pleased. I saw children with their feet on the tables, or with their fingers in their noses, and no intervention was made to correct them. I saw others push their companions, and I saw dawn in the faces of these an expression of violence; and not the slightest attention on the part of the teacher. Then I had to intervene to show with what absolute rigor it is necessary to hinder, and little by little suppress, all those things which we must not do…

…the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity, as often happens in the case of the old-time discipline. And all this because our aim is to discipline for activity, for work, for good; not for immobility, not for passivity, not for obedience.

A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and voluntarily, without committing any rough or rude act, would seem to me a classroom very well disciplined indeed.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, pages 92-93

read more…

School 2.0: What should young people be learning (or learning to do) to experience successful, happy, interesting lives in the 21st century?

Join us on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012, from 6-9pm, for a special presentation entitled, “School 2.0,” by Stephen J. Hughes, PhD, ABPdN, and assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

School 2.0

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone over 100 years ago, yet would have recognised any telephone in use for most of the 20th century. It was only a few years ago that “Telephone 1.0” was replaced by mobile phones and bluetooth gadgets–the world of “Telephone 2.0.” For all our technical progress, education throughout the world predominantly follows a “School 1.0” model. Indeed, the basic features of Teacher, Learner, and Curriculum would all be familiar to Plato or Socrates were they to reappear today. However, life and work in the 21st century have placed increasing pressure on the School 1.0 model. What should young people be learning (or learning to do) to experience successful, happy–indeed interesting–lives in the 21st century? Can traditional school give young people what they need, or is it time to rethink education–to consider “School 2.0?” What does neuroscience tell us? Will the role of teachers change? What will students do? Will School 2.0 be as unrecognizable to us now as a bluetooth earpiece would be to Bell? This presentation explores the challenges faced by educators in the 21st century, and consider some promising approaches that are setting the stage for School 2.0.

Date/Time: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012; 6-9pm

Venue:

Museum of History and Industry

2700 24th Ave E

Seattle, WA 98112-2099