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.
Northwest Montessori School was founded in 1965 by Marietta Rawson, who began her career in education as a public school teacher. After attending a lecture on the Montessori method of individualized education, Marietta was so inspired that she traveled to Italy to take Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) training. Upon her return, Marietta started the first Montessori school in Seattle.
Today Northwest Montessori remains one of a select few AMI-recognized schools in the Seattle area.