Tuesday, July 06, 2010

More on fantasy

I received a notification about a comment needing to be moderated, went to the Blogger dashboard, clicked on the link to get to the awaiting comment, and it was gone! I don't know if this is a Blogger issue or if the person who submitted the comment decided to remove it. If the person who submitted it did intended for it to be published, let me know and I will copy and paste it from my email!

In any case, it brought up a good point: Why is fantasy the no-no? Since kids all around the world do it naturally, just like they naturally walk on beams or lines, why the problem with it in the classroom? Why isn't it considered educational?

Maria Montessori writes about fantasy in The Absorbent Mind, I think, and possibly elsewhere. True fantasy takes the child AWAY from the present moment, AWAY from reality. Children under 6 already have such a shaky grasp on what is real and what's not. I still recall my nephew being absolutely serious when, at age 5, he told people he was going to be a Jedi when he grew up!

So my earlier response did not go as far as it really should have. Part of the answer as to why not fairy castles with the Pink Tower is because such activity takes the child away from reality at a time when they most need to connect with what's real. At the 3-6 level, Montessori is very focused on helping the children connect with the real world around them. It's why they are given child-sized brooms and sponges--so they can do these real life things on their own. And why they are allowed to engage in food preparation--so they can do these real life things on their own. The sensorial activities help them connect with the world around them through their senses. And so on. Making fairy castles with the Pink Tower does not help them do a real life thing!

Think of yourself if you are daydreaming or off in lala land while doing something else. You are not really connected with what you are doing, are you? If you were studying for a test of some sort and kept pretending something else, you wouldn't get very far with your learning, would you? This is no different for the child using the Montessori materials. Those materials ARE their "study materials". But not just any study materials: study materials to help them grow in the here and now.

I'm not saying that fantasy needs to be abolished from our homes. There is a time and place for fantasy play and with the Montessori Method, it is NOT with the materials that are designed to help the child develop in the here and now. Let them have some other blocks to make their fairy castle after your school time is over with. But let the Pink Tower be for what it was intended. :)


Evenspor said...

That was my comment, and I did not delete it, so I don't know what happened to it.

I hope you don't mind if I continue to play the role of devil's advocate. While a classroom teacher needs to blindly follow the method she was trained in, because that is what she has told the parents of the children she would do, I do think it's important if you are going to discuss the theory to take a good, hard look a every aspect and not take it for granted as "gospel" especially in a homschool setting, where things need to be applied differently anyway.

The purpose of balancing on lines was probably not apparent to many people until Montessori pointed it out. The assertion that imaginary play does not accomplish something "real" is based on assumption and is flawed.

While I am no expert on the subject, psychologists have found several purposes for imaginary play in children (I know one good resource on the topic is the book "Playful Parenting"). Imaginary play greatly benefits a child's social and emotional well-being and helps them grow and learn in those areas.

I have heard the Montessori method lauded for the way it addresses education of the "whole" child.

The social and emotional sides of intellengence and well-being are now considered by most experts to be just as important as the mental, physical and spiritual sides.

Is it possible that, as a pioneer of holistic education, Montessori gave us a good foundation and ideology, but may have not been 100% correct in all of her ideas? After all, she was only one person.

Annicles said...

I have two reservations -
1. so many of our children come from imaginatin poor households. They a plonked in front of the tv or computers for hours at a time, go to the cinema rather than the park, to an indoor playarea rather than the woods. Sometimes, the only place they have to develop their imagination is at school where they have the space and are given the respect to act automonously.
2. Montessori was of her time, therefore we need to be aware that child development and the understanding of the development of the personality has progressed so far in the past fifty years since she died that some of her observations can be seen to be built on shaky ground. One of these is her assertation that imagination should be separated from the development of the personality or of a child's understanding of reality. There is a distinct line between a child who believes they will become a Jedi, or throws themselves from a window believing he will fly because he is wearing a superman costume and the child who extends his use of the pink tower/broad stair to create a vision he has in his mind. The ability to use what is to hand to create something from the imagination is a quality that is encouraged in adults and needs to be encouraged in children.

Just my (possibly) humble opinion.

Discovering Montessori said...

I MISSED OUT!! What a wonderful discussion. I would like to add that I observe role playing often in the practical life area. When one child is working with chopsticks,and another may be doing a pouring activity beside one another. They remain focused on their work as they are "pretending" to prepare breakfast. This is a childs' work right? Also, my six year old loves creative writing more now since working with the practical life and sensorially materials.