Sunday, 21 September 2014

Book review: Absorbent mind

Woot, I finished the book! I tell you, it's big and heavy and there is so much information in it I feel I could read it another 5 times before really understanding it all. Alas, book had to be back in the library tomorrow.
I will do my best to review it. Honestly, I think each chapter deserves a review of its own. Next time, I may very well do that! I'm planning to get the book out again in a few months.
The first part off the book talks about how life starts. I found it fascinating to read what they already knew in 19-something. I'm a biologist, I taught genetics at uni,  none of the information was new to me. If it is, this bit may be quite hard work. Even I wondered why she was banging on about embryology! I think it does help in the later chapters, though. Maria quite regularly refers to the terms explained in the first few chapters.
Maria argues that the first 6 years of a child's life, the child doesn't learn in the way we often think about when considering learning. Rather, the child just absorbs the information. The child sees, hears, feels, experiences and remembers it all. Every bit of information is absorbed.  The first 3 years, this process happens unconsciously, and the second 3 years the child is consciously and actively involved in creating the experiences to be absorbed. I'm pretty sure any mother who's got a child over 3 can agree with this. It's pretty darn obvious! Language just seems to happen and you really don't need to sit with your child and teach. Just reading fun books together and talking about life in general is enough. Some words you really only have to say once within earshot. This is especially the case for those naughty swearwords nobody ever dare use in front of a child. I'm sure mine isn't the only one who says ducking car (car will be repaired this week, I promise).
Look how cute my child is!
His dad gave him a flower. He watched it, smelled it, tasted it, looked at it again, hey it looks different once chewed! Lucky I remember from my own childhood that these flowers are tasty, although a bit bitter. He absorbed every little bit of that day. 
I often think back of the time he was only a few weeks old. We were sitting in the train and Mr Curious was craning his neck, to be able to see. See outside, the movement, the people. He clearly enjoyed it. 4 or 5 weeks old only! 

Here's another cute photo.
Once the child turns 3, suddenly everything changes. A switch gets flicked and the child becomes conscious. Purposefully participating in life, no longer following his natural whims and urges.  Seb isn't quite there yet. 3 months to go, but I can see it in his friends. This is also the age children can start kinder, if you're lucky, montessori kinder (or pre school, or whatever your state calls it). Montessori argues that most children come to her schools with defects. Most children will have experienced some, or many obstacles in their life. Children need to be normalised. Any child not quietly, independently working still needs to be normalised. She argues that children don't want to be noisy, disrespectful, clumsy little peeps. They want to be kind and they want to work. Providing children with the ability to freely choose in a well prepared environment, without interruption to their concentration, will normalise them. Of course, this is exactly what her schools do.
I was very inspired by a drawing on page 211. Here, she explains how normalised people will automatically and with little effort, move towards the perfect center of superior evolution, or growth. Anyone who did not overcome the obstacles in the first 6 years of their life, will automatically and with little effort move towards insanity or criminal behaviour. For those, life is hard, staying normal is hard work. Always tempted, always fighting. I think many people are like this. I found it very confronting to read, wondering if I'll ever not fight. But maybe, going through this journey with my child will make it easier.  Maria compares this to people who need a special diet due to allergies. They always have to be careful and food is just never easy. I'm one of those people too! Lucky I discovered you can heal your gut and reduce food issues. Chicken soup. Maybe montessori is chicken soup for the soul! I'm certainly enjoying the materials, so who knows.
There is so much more to say about this book, but I will leave it here.
Off to the next book. I can't decide whether to go for something light or to stick with theory. Probably the last one, but as you can see, there is plenty to choose from!  I <3 my library.

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