Discover the Child

Discover the Child
"There is a tiny light in the unconscious of mankind which guides it toward better things." "We must follow the child, but we must follow the child as his leader." -Maria Montessori

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pedagogy of the Cat


"Our world is a fast world... Our divinity is speed... The child teaches us his work is slow... Because the child is constructing his neural network, this is done in a slow temper. So the questions is, in order to educate towards speed, what must we do? We need to go slowly. If you want your child to go quickly, then slow down. If you want your child to have those capabilities to adapt to tomorrow, give him everything he needs for right now. We sacrifice the present for the future thinking we are doing something good to our children... Only interested in results, schools are a barrage of verifications, correct results, obsession with speed. You can only educate for speed by slowing down. My great teacher, who has gone far away, where we cannot send letters, used to call this the pedagogy of the cat. It is the fastest animal in the world when a cat is in the process of catching a fly. What does a cat do all day? He sleeps. 
- Raniero Reigni, International Montessori Congress, August 6, 2013

Take every moment you can spare and slow to the speed of your child. Observe with the intention of understanding, not with the intention of intervening. Connect with loving intention, not with the purpose of shaping your child's actions and desires. Create a world that is accessible to your child and what he needs now, not a world that gives him skills for what you hope for him to be in the future- a football player, a soccer player, a dancer. Share in your child's joy in the world exactly as it is. 

Go to nature quickly, then slow down. Let your child fall and get dirty. Let your child wander in no particular direction and follow, taking interest in what he'd like to share with you. Let your child scrape his knee. Let your child struggle and become frustrated then persevere and succeed or even persevere and fail. Give empathy freely and direction very sparingly. Embrace every failure and relish every time your child repeats the same action over and over again, knowing your child is a scientist working tirelessly to understand the world through his senses.

Slow down enough to notice signs of concentration then never ever interrupt. Fade quietly and wait, silent and invisible. Let your child's own interest shine. Withhold praise and reward that eclipse this interest. Your child is the scientist, life is his experiment and only he knows when he has achieved his goal. His is a work of becoming.

Stop a moment to sit on the floor and look at the world at his level. Is this world rich and beautiful? While the beauty we observe merely washes over us, hopefully leaving a positive impression, beauty in a child's world becomes a part of his being. Our children can only appreciate the beauty of our humanity if we bring this beauty into the world of the child in the beginning with beautiful language, art, music, gardens, and handcrafted objects. 

Your child wants to know where he shines in the constellation of his family. Is he a capable, trusted and respected person whose contributions matter to the people who are most important? Create a microcosm of the world for your child that allows him to experience a new social role as a contributing member of his family and offers an opportunity for him to develop trust in himself. He will become a person connected to his humanity who believes in his purpose.

We believe a child is not capable. Ask yourself, how much could you accomplish in a Wonderland world where you could reach nothing and anything handed to you was big enough for a person three times as large? Imagine everything is new in this world. You can make sense of a few things at a time as you attempt to orient, but instead you are assaulted by dozens and dozens of choices all of the time, nothing is in order, and nothing is predictable. How much could your child accomplish if the world is scaled down to fewer things, fewer choices, and predictable routines with ample time to complete a task?

Above all, love freely. Loving in the moment is an act of complete acceptance. Let go of all worries, of who your child may be in the future or the pain he will most certainly experience. These fear-laden expectations sit in waiting and sharpen the edges of our words. Know your child is strong. He is a master of joy. If we go slow enough we can see the rough, choppy surface that results from a hurried life settle to reveal the deep, still water that is the true nature of the child.