Is Your Child Too Fussy? Think Again!

Children are tiny bundles of big, raw emotions in their purest, most unassuming forms.  There is so little that escapes them, so little that they do not notice or take to heart.
There are very few filters between them and reality.
The adult is one of them.
As adults, we mediate their interaction with reality. We censor, we select, we curate life for them, whether we consciously decide to do so or not. Mindfulness of this fact, of course, helps.

Some children, around 15 % of the general population, are born with highly wired nervous systems, and feel more deeply, being more sensitive to stimulation such as sounds, light, colour, space, as well as the emotions of other beings. Research in Psychology in the mid-90s by psychologists such as Elaine and Arthur Aron has led to the further study of this personality trait, termed ‘Sensory Processing Sensitivity’. Often children who feel deeply, often do not know how to cope with the strong emotions they feel, or what to do with them. They usually need more time than other children to process and respond to stimulation. Overwhelmed, they tend to either cry or act out aggressively. When these expressions are met with anything less then understanding and assurance, they develop ‘abnormal’ patterns of behaving such as risk avoidance, excessive aloofness or introversion, problems sleeping or tend to be viewed as ‘hyper-sensitive’ or worse, ‘too wound up’, or even just ‘fussy’. Adjectives and labels such as these only add to the often extremely vocal pressure to be ‘normal’ or ‘be like the other kids’. When internalized, this dangerously cripples the development of a strong identity and a healthy self-esteem and a sense of trust.

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As an early years facilitator, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that children with SPS often see the world more beautifully and vividly than everyone else. Take this anecdote from one of my students for instance:

“How does a plant look like?” (Facilitator)
“Beautiful it is, flower sits (!) on it…” (Student)

One of Aron’s most significant contributions to Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) all around the world is a counter-narrative to the years of being told to ‘take it easy’ or to not be stubborn- the possibility that SPS may be a gift, an evolutionary red herring that makes them better artists or poets or scientists or parents and definitely better human beings. This of course, is contingent to open and understanding socialization and child-care.

I love the IB Early Years Programme for their approach to young children as competent, complete beings in their own right, not just projects in the making.

Adult care-givers everywhere, whether they be parents or teachers, need to be more attuned into the worlds of children with SPS. With openness, understanding and a fluid, non-authoritarian approach, much irreparable damage can be warded off in the first place. Children with SPS do not need to develop thicker skins or indifference, they only need a listening ear and a warm, accepting hug from time to time. I love the IB Early Years Programme for their approach to young children as competent, complete beings in their own right, not just projects in the making. If their sensitivity is nurtured and given mediums of expressions, and not thwarted or judged, highly sensitive children have within them, the innate strength and resilience to create unexpected joy and beauty out of our complex and chaotic world.

-Ferzine

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT PARENTING AND TEACHING FROM THE OTHER SIDE

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Parents and teachers. Teachers and parents.

After each PTM (Parent-Teacher meeting) at our kindergarten, along with the class teachers, I participate in the process as the third person, trying to see and understand both sides.  According to my observations, there are several types of parents.

Some parents who  put a child in private school, expect their baby to be a genius, pushing him/her into different contests, forgetting the thing that every child needs his/her own time. The worst moment is when they start to compare their own kid with the development of others.

My observations give me the power to say that most of the children who are natural talkers (freely and constantly talk everywhere about everything), have some difficulties with drawing and writing neatly. I was among those who love to sit and do all the precise work, such as writing, reading and drawing and got all the high rewards for that. Later, step by step I excelled at speaking, and now I can’t imagine my life without talking.

An other type of parents nurture their child. They find time in their busy timetable and spend quality time with their toddlers, even coming up with their own approaches. Just recently, one father shared with us, that they brought alphabet magnets and put them on the fridge. From time to time, they ask their baby to go and bring some specific one. Isn’t it simple and incredible?! (Just thought about making some meeting parents to parents, where they will share about their approaches) Sometimes these parents send notes of gratitude or photos captured of the child taking action to teachers, making teachers feel on the ninth cloud.

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Talking about the third type, sadly, but there are some parents who just don’t show up to PTMs, or make a visit only for a couple of minutes, having more important things to do. In such cases, I’m just always wondering, then why did you decide to give a birth to a child. A Russian proverb literally states “Job is not a wolf, it won’t run to the forest”, meaning the child won’t never be at the same age again.

Now, as I have a chance to watch this process from the other side, I have some thoughts about parenting and teaching as well.

One day, one wise woman, named Ferzine pointed out something, which felt to me just brilliant: “I don’t have students, who are in the middle. Only who already knows this or just don’t get it. And it’s not about child’s brilliance, it’s just about time parents dedicate to their children. Now they know about numbers or letters, tomorrow it will be words, then sentences and after various concepts. And this little gap now will remain till the end of school and influence the rest of their lives.”

-Lunara

WHEN PLATONIC FORM AND CHILDREN COLLIDE

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“How do you mean?

I mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and elevating effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number, and rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible objects into the argument. You know how steadily the masters of the art repel and ridicule any one who attempts to divide absolute unity when he is calculating, and if you divide, they multiply, taking care that one shall continue one and not become lost in fractions.

That is very true.

Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are these wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in which, as you say, there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit is equal, invariable, indivisible, –what would they answer?

— Plato, Chapter 7. “The Republic”

The one thing I ponder over with endless fascination is how we learn, specifically, how we connect unknown abstract concepts to real-world objects. This is a riddle as old as the history of philosophy itself. Plato was one of the first to identify and compound this problem, many contemporary thinkers (including linguists) now think he was very, very naughty to have divorced specific objects from their ‘eidos’ or ‘essences’. In thought, at the very least 😉

The example traditionally dished out to explain theory of universals and particulars in every Philosophy 101 class typically goes something like this:

Platonic form can be illustrated by contrasting a material triangle with an ideal triangle. The Platonic form is the ideal triangle — a figure with perfectly drawn lines whose angles add to 180 degrees. Any form of triangle that we experience will be an imperfect representation of the ideal triangle. Regardless of how precise your measuring and drawing tools you will never be able to recreate this perfect shape. Even drawn to the point where our senses cannot perceive a defect, in its essence the shape will still be imperfect; forever unable to match the ideal triangle.

Source: Wikipedia (!)

Triangles, along with other geometrical concepts, abstract concepts like beauty and truth as well as numbers are all, according to Plato, universals or forms, that exist eternally, in all their perfection, beyond space and time. That is to say, regular human beings like us will never be able to experience these forms in our everyday lives- the triangles and beauty we experience in our world of particulars, are only poor imitations, shadows, in which the forms inhere to a little extent. This so called ‘inherence’ itself is very intangible and therefore, debatable. There is therefore, according to Plato, no number ‘6’ in our world, it only inheres temporarily in, say a group of objects that can be quantified as 6.

While this may sound wacko, there is some truth in Plato’s problematization of universals and particulars. In Saussurean signification, the sign is comprised of a signifier and signified. Plato’s universals, are in a way, Saussure’s signifieds.

What takes my breath away is that my kindergarteners, the little tabulae rasae that they are, easily and quickly grasp universals from particulars.

What takes my breath away is that my kindergarteners, the little tabulae rasae that they are, easily and quickly grasp universals from particulars. A considerable part of our classroom transactions are spent giving these children examples of particulars. We were learning about the number ‘6’ last week, and I was thrilled and amazed when a child spotted the number (manifesting as a different particular, :p) in a book they were reading in D.E.A.R. later. It is nothing short of mind-boggling how quantifying ‘6’ objects finds its way to connect with the visual representation of ‘6’ and how that, may ultimately be derived from a universal form. What is admirable about the IB Primary Years Programme, is how sensitive they are to these nuances of learning- the emphasis given to conceptual understanding, and to form itself, as a key concept, continues to inspire and move me.

It fascinates me how we don’t ever come across these elusive forms or universals in the classroom or in the world outside and how we all yet, implicitly understand them. There’s something mysterious in that leap of understanding that I can’t wait to explore further.

-Ferzine

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ALTERNATIVE AND INCLUSIVE?

When Lunara brought this book home after her trip to Pondicherry, I couldn’t wait to dive right in. There’s a part of me that’s always wondered how an early years programme would look like in an alternative school.

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While ‘What is special about the kindergarten in Auroville?’ does in no way claim to be an academic text, the fact that it is written by a professor (Heidi Watts) lends to it some air of credibility. Although the book was by no means paradigm shifting for me, I found a few ideas listed as practices in the kindergarten fairly novel and interesting. Ideas such as a ‘quiet room’ and an ‘activity room’ besides uniquely shaped blocks (why do all building blocks inevitably go the lego route anyway?) really spurred on many thoughts in my head.

What really makes the kindergarten stand apart for me, is its authentic inclusivity. Too many schools self-proclaim themselves as inclusive, when they usually only meet one or two parameters of inclusivity. Merely accommodating special needs by ‘mainstreaming’ is not a sole determinant of inclusivity. It was heartening to see children of differing ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds intermingle (in the school) in the book. Of course, only someone who’s actually been there (like Lunara!) is in a position to tell us how much boundaries are really being pushed. Alternative schools generally struggle with accommodating diversity of belief, and the apparent self-reflexivity does not always suffice in ensuring such spaces do not acquire an exclusive, cult-like status in the local communities they belong to.

“Too many schools self-proclaim themselves as inclusive, when they usually only meet one or two parameters of inclusivity…”

A quick and informative read, the ‘book’ does box itself into a corner by attempting to take on comparisons between early years programmes in Waldorf, Montessori, progressive schools and the kindergarten itself. What could have been an interesting and nuanced comparison is sadly reduced to grand sweeping statements that only base themselves on the writer’s subjective observations and limited experiences of working in say, a Montessori school. I felt like a more extensive use of the listed bibliography and perhaps by referring to more sources and examples within these traditions and finding specifics, for instance, within the progressive tradition would have made the book a more rigorous and useful read that would only have enhanced Auroville’s credibility further.

But I must say the book never claimed to aspire to such objectivity. In so far as its implicitly stated aims go, it perhaps only seeks to introduce the kindergarten at Auroville to the general reader or visitor. It is fairly successful in this regard, and leaves the reader feeling that the kindergarten must be a special place and wanting to know more.

-Ferzine

What is special about the Kindergarten in Auroville?

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Just recently during my solo travelling I came across a book, called “What is special about the Kindergarten in Auroville?” by Heidi Watts.  And due to my current occupation and an interest in pre-school education and child development, I found it catchy and felt curious. Sooo, here we go or reflection 2 about Auroville kindergarten.

But first, you might ask yourself “what is Auroville and what is special about it, if it has its own named after kindergarten?”  So just let me introduce what is the place itself.  If you google it, you could find that “Auroville (City of Dawn)*  is an experimental township mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, India with some parts in the Union Territory of Pondicherry in South India”. Quite unsual  sentence with many names of geographical places, isn’t it?! It’s unique place, under the protection of UNESCO, which main vision is “to realize human unity”. Place, where “all nations, religions, politics and creeds are cleared”; “people live in peace and progressive harmony”.

Let’s back to main topic about Auroville kindergarten, I suppose you might feel curious now. Heidi Watts, being a visitor in that place highlights peculiarities of Auroville kindergarten and makes a comparative study on Montessori, Waldorf, Progressive schools and Auroville itself.

Talking about Auroville, there are few principles created by founder of Auroville, The Mother**, and resonated in kindergarten:

“Nothing can be taught”

“Work from near to the far”

“Mind must be consulted in its own growth.”

The idea that human being should be a man of varied attainments is quite close to me. And this kindergarten’s curriculum is based on five domains developed by founder: physical, mental, vital, psychic and spiritual. All classes are interrelated to support these domains, whereas children learn by doing.

Among special activities I liked Mud House and Quiet Room the most. In Mud house, children of older age are supposed to build one big hut by themselves and work as a team, whereas in Quiet Room, children are welcomed to come two by two for 45 minutes and play with whatever they want, while others have regular classess. The last one helps children explore and express themselves without pressure of the group.

“To love to learn is the most precious gift that one can make to a child: to love to learn always and everywhere” states the founder.

Furthermore, Heidi Watts points out about developmental stage theory, where “children are not thought or treated like little adults. Childhood is recognized as a stage in human development with special qualities all its own.” Every child knows about the world as he/she sees it and the things may be different from what they see, but they will come to it later. And the message to you is “don’t force your child to learn the right answer, because he/she doesn’t have enough experience”

– Lunara

You can read more about:

*Auroville

**The Mother