Expert Commentary: Finding 'Narnia'...It's Good for Kids

One of the hardest things I've ever done is run a school. I don't do it alone; I have a partner, a fine artist and fine friend named Edith St. Louis. But even with all our work together, running a school takes most of our time.


Sometimes the hardest work is working with so many different personalities beginning with the teachers. We have six employees at the Garden School , and each one is precious and different and interesting.


Each one of them works with the children in his or her own way. As a school owner, I see that individuality as an advantage. Children need to see many personality types. Because they are modeling behaviors, they are learning about different "hats" and as they try on different personalities on their way to being grown up, they need to witness strong, healthy personalities with a lot of understanding.


I'm a hyperactive mesomorph. My personality dictates that I work constantly. I am happiest digging ditches, but it has to be a new ditch. You'd think I'd be happiest when I am completing my chores. But I'm not. Chores are an annoying obstacle to work. Work is creation, work is improvising, work is making something from nothing and it comes after chores.


If reading a story to very young children signifies a chore – then making the story come alive, making the story have twenty imaginative doors that open, that take on a new life is the real work. Expanding the story into art and music and theatre and history and geography and science and religion is the fun part of the work – the work of life, the immaterial that becomes material.


And that is not always understood.


"It's just a story. You make such a big deal out of reading a story. Just read it and be done with it. Make life easy."


"Easy? Why should anything in life be easy and why would anyone want to make life easy?"


Then you get the look.


"If I can read a story why not reach for the stars? Why not open the back of the wardrobe and find Narnia?"


"Narnia? What's Narnia?"


Then you sit them down and if you wear glasses, you look over the rims. “Years ago, during WWII children from London were sent to the country to homes to protect them from the blitzes.  Often these were elaborate mansions filled with secret places and long dark corridors that led to those secret places. C.S. Louis wrote the Chronicals of Narnia about just such a group of children who were sent to a beautiful home in the English Countryside and there they found such a secret place in a bedroom at the top of a long curvy stairwell. In an old clothes press or wardrobe, they found the back of the closet opened onto a whole land filled with adventure and the invariable problem of good and evil.”


"What does that have to do with us?"


"Finding Narnia is what life is all about! It's about relating to a host of questions filled with adventure and always applying it to the invariable problem of good and evil. When you open your mind to a broader scape, a larger view, a more complete vision, life is fuller and more exciting."


Finding Narnia is what I want my school to do for the children who come to be educated there. Opening the back of the wardrobe for a child is like giving him a second life. Narnia will stay with a child forever and make him always look at life with a more imaginative eye.


But it takes someone who has been there to know where the wardrobe is and how to make it work. That's why Edith and I have continued to offer the arts as part of our curriculum no matter the leap for parents, students or our employees. Fine art opens the back of the wardrobe. It's about life; it's no longer a chore but a work of art.


In every person's life, the early years either encourage or thwart creativity and imagination. Thinking in variables is what you get in Narnia and that encourages a love of math and science. Very young children don't know about math variables, just play variables, and the play variables in Narnia are enchanted.


The more variables, the messier the art project, the better for the child. When you add music to a story, or actors or sound effects the story comes alive -you're adding sky and earth and action. With children more is more and less is less.


People who put chore limits on children's curriculum are not doing children any favors. Look at your provider and ask her what she's done to open the back of the wardrobe for the children she's cared for today.