Monday, March 06, 2006

Philosenpfeffer 201

Philosenpfeffer 201: Now Quit Trying to Spin your Bellybutton Lint Into Gold and Tell Us Why Your Kid Can't Have An Exersaucer!

Ok. So you all went to college and even if you were totally baked all through freshman year, you still came away knowing what a philosophy is. If you were so baked that you can't remember what a philosophy is, or you think maybe I can't, or you just have some time on your hands, read my previous "Philosenpfeffer" post. That other post addresses why I decided to follow all these rules, but not why the rules are what they are. This second question is addressed right here.

Why Montessori-types don't do "infant stim"

Life is already stimulating enough. Like all the Montessori people I keep telling you about, I do not believe that the real world is boring for babies unless we make it that way. Singing crib mobiles, swings and bouncers and Baby Einstein all work to distract the baby from reality, and if you slow down and look at it, reality itself is plenty stimulating for someone who has lived up to now in a tiny, soft, quiet, dark ninety-eight-point-six-degree womb. There is a book I love called Trees Make the Best Mobiles. It says all this better than I can.

The hand is the chief teacher of the child. One of the primary tenets of the whole Montessori philosophy is that children first learn with their hands. For that reason, a Montessori classroom is full of beads and pegs and sticks and sandpaper to count, sort, touch and examine. None of these things "do" anything at all without the child's manipulating them. These materials are very powerful learning tools, but try putting a computer with a math game on it in a Montessori classroom and see how fast the kids drop their geometric solids to go play with it. The point is, reality sometimes has a hard time competing for attention with special effects, and I think a lot of valuable things get missed because of this, especially when you're young and it's hard to tell what's real and what's special effects.

Desensitization. We have become desensitized to too many things. The evening news and movies have desensitized us to all kinds of violent horrors. We are able to watch real people killed and maimed over our dinner plates, and we hardly give any thought at all to all the pretend people we see killed and maimed in movies. We have seen so many buildings blown up and people mown down with machine guns that it hardly registers when somebody sets a fire or throws a punch. This goes along with the previous point that too much artificial stimulation causes people to lose the ability to see and respond to real things, and I think that's kind of a shame.

Why I don't think I'm overreacting.

ADD. I see a lot of little kids in my line of work, and even though I totally believe in ADD as a real psychiatric disorder (though I do think three years old is a little early to tag a kid with a diagnosis), parents who suspect their kids of having ADD have--to a man--reported that the kid is totally content and focused while watching educational TV, and is successful in learning through computer games. Now I still remember the one about the chicken and the egg, and I know correlation does not constitute cause, but I have a theory that overstimulation desensitizes kids and can cause focus and behavior problems in a low-key environment like a Montessori classroom.

Sensorial Acuity. A primary tool in Montessori teaching is heightening the child's sensorial perception, so why not try to keep my kid's senses "sensitive" to lower-levels of stimulation by cutting out some background noise?

Why I don't believe my baby is bored.

So far, she doesn't look bored. She talks to me a lot, she looks at the bumblebees embroidered on the curtain, she smiles and coos when her arty, Calder-esque, totally quiet, too-high-to-bat mobile gets blown around by the ceiling fan, she sleeps well, and she stares and reaches for toys that don't do anything but sit there. She doesn't watch commercials yet, so she doesn't know what she's missing.

How long do you think she will let me get away with this?


la baba said...

I think you have a PhD thesis in the making here. And a book, especially with gorgeous pictures of that incredibly beautiful infant! Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is absolutely fascinating.