Thursday, 30 April 2009

Slow food for thought

Paris, June 2006

At lunch time today I was taking small steps on my knees behind a very young boy who was taking even smaller steps with his even smaller feet. Both of us were pushing a huge ladder-back chair. It was this little boy’s first "Petö" block and he was doing extremely well. He only began attending the integrated Montessori-Petö Kindergarten four weeks ago and he is already very well settled in.

He is a delight to work with.

We were making our slow-but-sure and very peaceful progress over to the neighbouring room to have lunch with all the other children. My boy had actually hoped that he was returning to kindergarten for a sleep, but food came first!

Always at the time when we return with the "Petö children" for lunch the kindergarten is a hive of activity, with children rushing past us as they return from the garden, go to the bathroom to wash their hands, and make their way to the table. To us who live in the slower lane with our ladder-back chairs, it appears that their clockwork has been over-wound!

If they are "unlucky" some of these high speed children get stuck behind a crocodile of ladder- back chairs and four-point sticks as we pass through the door. Which is precisely what happened today.

One very active, unable-to-sit-still-for-a-minute boy had stopped absolutely still to let us pass. He watched every move that we made, with me on my knees and my "little man" taking tiny steps while pushing his huge chair.

The waiting child remarked to me:

"You are always so slow. Why do you always take so much time?"

Timeless

This made me smile and also made me think of my recent posting on magic and clowns.

I suggested to the child that he might like to put his hands on my shoulders and walk along at the same speed as us, maybe he could even help us to go a little bit faster. I suggested that by moving slowly he might possibly see a little bit more of the world he always rushes through.

No go, that would not be the world for him!

He decided to stand still and as quiet as a mouse and watch the ladder-back crocodile go by, awaiting the moment when the doorway would be empty and the way clear for his dash to the dinner table.

I had just asked this boy to walk with us slowly and quietly to his place at the table, but no, that would just take too much time, something that today’s six year olds do not seem to have much of.

In September many of the Kindergarten children will begin school and then I expect that they will discover what it is really like to have no time. With lots of homework, music, sport and various other activities to fit in between school and bedtime, they will have a hard time to find the time to play with old friends, or even to sit and do nothing.

What a difficult, timeless time our "Petö children" are living in.

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