Poem Portal #8: Bored In Class

montessori-materialsI grew up in Montessori.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Montessori is a teaching method that offers concrete materials for academic concepts and makes self-motivated learners out of children by giving them the freedom to pursue their own interests among these materials.  This was school for me from age 3 to 12, and I turned out pretty well, don’t you think?

nature-soupI’ve always believed in Montessori as a very beneficial teaching method.  It wasn’t until I took my AMI to become an assistant teacher that I realized Montessori is a bit like a religion: people interpret it differently.  To my horror, the brilliant creator – Maria Montessori herself – had very biased views about fantasy play.  She was a scientist, after all.  I was shocked to read in one of her books that she believed a child under the age of 6 who pretended to be mixing a stew with mud, leaves and twigs was “a child in chaos”.

My instructor agreed whole-heartedly with Maria Montessori’s belief.  According to him, children under the age of 6 are not supposed to be exposed to things that are not real.  Their imaginations (because he never denied young children have them) must soar on real objects, real cooking, real houses, real animals that do not talk or look like cartoons.  When he had his own school, parents were not to send their preschoolers in with any kind of fantasy or cartoon characters on their clothing.tinkerbell  Children exposed to superheroes before the age of 6 are doomed to jump off their roofs, because they cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy.

I’m sorry, but if a child can’t dream of flying as superman, what stops him or her looking up at birds and asking “if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why can’t I?”  What infuriates me the most is this impression that if adults only protected their preschooler from sight or sound of anything that’s not real (as if that’s even possible), a child wouldn’t fantasize.  For crying out loud, children ages 3-5 make “food” out of dirt and leaves!  And by the way, when they ask you to try this, they’re perfectly satisfied when you pretend to taste it.  If they really are 100% blind to what fantasy is, why don’t they insist you put the muck in your mouth?


Needless to say, I was hugely relieved to discover my new Montessori workplace sings “Puff the Magic Dragon” with the preschoolers.  It is my hope that the anti-fantasy aspect of Montessori is generally omitted in practice.

In July 2013, however, I argued once and then just decided my instructor wouldn’t see it my way.  He had these fill-in-the-blank notes for us, and some of the pages were a vertical line of letters where we could fill in the words he was listing.  I played boggle with these letters to help me tune out the theories that defied my every experience with young children:

Boggle over bogged down every time

Once I felt certain; this whole class made sense

Remember I was a child in this very method

Erase, waste, wrote, trace, tease, truce

Dare I ignore lectures and play with the notes?

If my face is respectful, I’m not listening to this

No fantasy in Montessori; steer young minds away

Camera, cream, cease, cross, crease, crass, crest

Let me shuffle your letters out of context!

Age is learned one way and told in another

Stream, scare, scoot, stress, secret, scream

Save the child from me; I believe in make-believe

Poem Portal #7: Bookworm


                Wiggly Reader

                Long rule in books, oh worm

                Fast flip, loose page; what a bother


There is no significant memory linked to the time I wrote this poem (circa age 20), but I feel it is a good portal for my book-hoarding confession.  I own 830 books, not including children’s picture books I use at work.  I don’t know the number because I just spent weeks packing my magnificent collection into boxes for a move.  I know because I have a spreadsheet documenting every book I own.  I also have a spreadsheet documenting every book I ever wrote down wistfully as one I would like to own but didn’t feel I ought to buy at the time.  This list currently has 1182 titles on it, so you can appreciate how much I restrain myself.  Unlike some book lovers, libraries don’t fulfill my greed.  No, I must hoard my own private library (yes, it is alphabetized), and boast of more books among my treasures than I have yet had time to read.  I think I’ve been this way ever since book orders came home in my backpack after school.Boxes

Despite how much easier digital books would be to haul around, I have never taken to that method for pleasure reading.  I love real, old-fashioned books that feel as substantial in my hands as they do in my mind.  I am always reading two at a time: one as a transit and breaks-at-work book (lives in my backpack) and one for those rare nights I turn in early enough to read in bed.  Tonight is not one of those nights.  I have been packing, cleaning and unpacking since Saturday, and on top of that my husband and I just got our .5 child: a puppy!

I had to pack my book boxes half-and-half with lighter things, so it will be a while before I unpack my collection to its entire extent.  Meanwhile, some titles to give you a peek at my world of books…


Currently Reading

Transit/Breaks Book: Firesong by William Nicholson

Bedside Book: Escape to Venus by Stanley Makepeace Lott (my grandfather!)


3 Random Titles from My CollectionCharlie

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble by Shirley Lueth

Just Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own! by Erma Bombeck and Bil Keane

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl


3 Random Titles from My Wish List

The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christopher Stasheff

The Guardian of Isis by Monica Hughes

Sundiver by David Brin