My son has always been into costumes. His first was Elmo. Next came a super cute monkey. A Wonderpet. Spiderman. Batman. SuperWhy! Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. You get the picture. He is the one at the park, in full costume, in March. We count down to Halloween, not because of candy, but because it's the one day that everyone else is also wearing a costume.
So you can understand my apprehension (no frustration really) when I read this article titled Danger of Fantasy by Maren Schmidt, M.Ed..
"Around age four-and-a half a child has a strong need for vocabulary and can learn over 250 new words per week if given the opportunity. When language enrichment does not occur, children will create a fantasy world with imaginary friends and activities."
"We need to protect our children from make-believe situations that can harm their impressionable minds."
So... I'm damaging my child by not introducing him to enough new vocabularly words and he's acting out by creating fantasy worlds?
Yea... I don't know about that.
I'm a mom. I'm the oldest of five kids. I've spent my whole life around children. From being a mother's helper to babysitter to nanny to having my own. I've always seen imaginary play as something to be pursued. As something beneficial. I also know that I'm not the only one who thinks that.
There is something quite unique about using the Montessori Method in a Homeschool environment. In some ways things work smoother. There is consistency from waking to sleeping. Their home environment is their school environment.
But that also means that if we were to stick to traditional guidelines, my son would have to give up all of his costumes. Not just at school but at home too.
And I think that may crush his spirit.
So this week I've been taking a close look at this whole issue in our home. Is this an outdated philosophy? Is it something we are going to just ignore and blend with all the other things we blend in a homeschool? How is his work affected? His behaviour? His attitude towards life? His focus?
I (and my husband) were extremely surprised. When asked to take off his costume because he had an important day ahead, he thrived. He focused. He did math work I didn't know he could do. He read independently for hours.
Put the costume back on and we had massive meltdowns. Whining. Very little focus. We had a horrible playdate earlier in the week- one in which he just happened to wear a special costume.
Now some of that may be the normal ebb and flow of the week. We all know that our kids work better at different times of the day and some days need more time to run and be silly. But it was hard to dispute the change we saw in him.
I'm still not ready to give up the costumes yet. But we did work something out together for the time being:
costumes can be for break time.
(and Halloween of course)
I don't know if it's the middle layer we are striving for. We have some great homeschool friends that consider their home "Waldor-issori." Her kids get ready for school by putting on dresses and jester hats and it's adorable and awesome. I would love to be them. But it may not work that way. And that's ok.
How about you? How does the fantasy world play into your environment?