The WHY of 'Less is More'

One of the current trends moving into 2017 is the minimalism trend. A trend of owning less, and tidy places.

There are several different interpretations of what minimalism is, ranging from owning no more than a suitcase with the absolute necessities for living to sterile environments with just enough chairs, cutlery and plates for the number of people that reside there. Then there are those who see minimalism as a concept of simplicity and no clutter. For some that means stuffing stuff into boxes and storing these, for others it is about getting rid of all the stuff they don’t need and just do with what they do need, and no more. 

Joshua Becker, in his book 'The more of less', posed the definition that resides best with us: 

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them. 

What would that look like and feel like in early childhood education? What would our environments look like, and what would our teaching practices focus on if we promote the things we most value and remove all the distractions? Why would we strive for more simplicity, in our environments and in our practices? 

Let’s start with the WHY

Let’s start with our environments. Children in cluttered surroundings can't make decisions.  Too many toys/objects available gives that supermarket effect where there is so much on offer you can't choose.

Our children’s senses are overstimulated with noise, sight, impressions, most of them artificial, meaningless, and shallow. We are overloading our children with clutter, in the seen and unseen - you need to have this, you need to be doing that, and you need to be going there. How much time do we give them for free play, daydreaming, having fun for fun’s sake? We seem to have gotten to a point where we only value what is easily measured, ignoring that what is of real value often can’t be measured!

What about our teaching practices? When I managed Little Earth we had only four core values. They kept us grounded.  Everything could be tied to them, they were our anchor.  Some places try to have way too many 'selling points' or bullet points on their philosophy statement and in due course spread themselves too thin. Trying to meet all those points they do everything to an OK level only as there's too much to do anything in depth and well.

The same is said for too many goals for teacher development. How many of you end up with multiple goals and again skimming the surface rather than going deeper to make sure you have met all the goals? 

What is left?

For a moment think about how many authentic interactions you experience in a day? Get back to the basics of it, to the process, not the product. So many things are covered up with unneeded bells and whistles, including our relationships and interactions with the children in our care. Too much stimulation, too much ”stuff”. Take all that away, and ask yourself what is left? That is the core of it, that is what really counts. Less clutter makes space for love, care, beauty and kindness.

Is more really better?

For us at the Heart School minimalism comes down to simplicity. Simplicity is not the same as simpler. As Albert Einstein said:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

In our current climate there’s really just too much of all things. Too much clutter, too much paper work, too much pressure, too much, too much... 

The expectation we have put on ourselves is to fill the day so we have something to tell the parents at the end. The impression is that more is better. But if we look at what Leonardo Da Vinci said a century ago:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

we would answer the question "so what did you do today" with, "we took our time, we dreamed, we noticed and chatted about things we were patient enough to see". And we would have very contented children!

Next post we will talk about WHAT a 'Less is more' approach in our centres can look like.