Bona Fide Bones
Montessori is an education, a life that “cooperates with nature”. We “follow the child” as we recognize and respect that he is already naturally equipped with an absorbent mind and an inner directive gravitating him towards elements in the environment that would help him develop precisely what he is ready for. It’s like he knows it in his bones. Maria Montessori said, “Observation proves that small children are endowed with special psychic powers, and points to new ways of drawing them out—literally ‘educating by cooperating with nature’.” (She’ll go on to say, “So here begins the new path, wherein it will not be the professor who teaches the child, but the child who teaches the professor.”)
And when we pay attention, nature always cooperates back.
One day when our daughter was 28 months old, she was looking at herself on the mirror and she said, “Mommy, I want to take off my head. Because I want to see my bones.” (See more here). Obviously, a request I can never grant. But see what nature gifts our now-4-year-old (and still interested with bones)! A skull of a bird found just at our garden! I remember her saying “beautiful beak, beautiful bird” to another bird we buried in our garden before. And a skull and vertebrae of a lizard found just on our window sill! You can even see how the mandible works–one of her favorite bones. For her these are treasures.
Plus, a treasured local Book Sale find (our 4-year-old picked this over several other options)—Bones: The Unity of Form and Function by R. McNeill Alexander. We have other books on animal skeletons (including humans) that we enjoy like The Glow-in-the-Dark Book of Animal Skeletons by Regina Kahney and Skeletons: An Inside Look at Animals by Jinny Johnson; but these are illustrations of skeletons. This very interesting book by biologist R. McNeill Alexander contains over 100 photographs of bones! Photographs by Brian Kosoff.
I wanted to share a bit from the Photographer’s Statement at the end of the book, the entirety of which I read through tears (imagine spending hours and hours taking photographs of bones—the “sole physical remnants of a living creature”—that contain stories, give clues to the life and death of the creatures which owned them). Brian Kosoff wrote,
“In the course of my 15 years as a professional photographer, I have, on occasion, photographed some unusual subjects. But I had little preparation when I was asked to produce 140 photographs of bones. “Why bones?” I thought. It took months for me to answer the question…
The other thing I carry with me from this series of photographs, and which finally became my answer to the question “why bones?’ is the heightened awareness of how quickly life passes. All of these specimens were alive, interacting with their environment. Photographing them has made me think of my legacy to this planet. Will I accomplish anything lasting? Or will I merely leave a pile of bones?”