Rethinking education & learning

It appears that 2010 is my rethinking year, my fine tuning, my readjusting period. I'm learning to not always care what others think of me, but to do what needs to be done to make my family and me happy, healthy, and the best they can be. Might I be wrong? Sure. Might I fail? Sure. But, at that moment I do what makes the most sense and has the best outcome for my family. Maybe I'll change my mind down the road, maybe my kids will make their own decisions, maybe they'll want to be vaccinated, maybe they'll rebel, but we'll deal with that later.

Being home again, I definitely know that I do not want to sit around with the TV on all day long. I've been vacillating between implementing a schedule and "educational type program" and just being free spirits, doing whatever we feel like doing that day. I've decided on...smack in the middle. Kian has a thirst for learning, everything and anything. He comes up with different things he wants to learn about, almost weekly. A couple weeks ago it was sharks. This week he wants ladybugs. So, on our trip to the library this week, we will be finding some book(s) on ladybugs (I hope they have one!). He loves to do art, crafty projects, so those always find a way into our day; be it paper and glue, paint, mud and sticks, etc. He is interested in letters and some words and lately is more into the fine motor aspects of it-drawing and writing letters and words. He always wants to know why, how, when, where, etc. He was thrilled to stop and watch planes at the airport, and needed explanations on how it all worked. I love that about him.

"Children must master the language of things before they master the language of words"
Friedrich Froebel, Pedagogics of the Kindergarten, 1895

In one sentence, Froebel, father of the kindergarten, expressed the essence of early-childhood education. Children are not born knowing the difference between red and green, sweet and sour, rough and smooth, cold and hot, or any number of physical sensations. The natural world is the infant's and young child's first curriculum, and it can only be learned by direct interaction with things. There is no way a young child can learn the difference between sweet and sour, rough and smooth, hot and cold without tasting, touching, or feeling something. Learning about the world of things, and their various properties, is a time-consuming and intense process that cannot be hurried.(site)

I've had this guilt, coming and going, about not throwing myself into "educating" him with all the bells and whistles, so that he is reading, writing, doing math, putting robots together and figuring out scientific formulas at age three. Um hello. Brain, did you leave me? Apparently so. There's always another program on the infomercial to make your baby smarter. There's always more classes and camps for your infant and toddler. I know some kids who's schedules are packed so tight there's no breathing room, and have more 'hobbies' than most adults have in a lifetime. A lesson for everyday of the week, and then some. Where's the kid in that? Where's the play in that? I had a client who was receiving speech therapy, the kid has about 5 real words at 3 years old-he can only say 5 words!, but he's been "reading" with the baby reading program for a year and a half. Great. I think...? He can't talk but he can recognize words on cards. In today's society that's just not functional, where will that get him?

Actually, this developmental ped thinks we're pushing too much too early:
"If we insist on pushing writing, reading and spelling before the children’s minds are ready, we will continue to create an epidemic of behavior and learning difficulties, especially in our boys. (she talks about the neuro pathways that need to be developed first)
It is time to remove the desks from kindergartens and preschools. Our preschools and kindergartens need to fill their curriculums with play consisting of lots of sensory integration activities that will strengthen fine motor movements, visual motor abilities, balance, muscle tone, proprioception, as well as strengthen children’s social and emotional development. Activities like imaginary play, climbing, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, walking the balance beam, playing circle games, singing, playing catch, doing meaningful chores, painting, coloring, playing hand-clapping games, doing string games, and finger knitting will strengthen their minds for learning. Children need these healthy, harmonious, rhythmic, and noncompetitive movements to develop their brains. For it is the movements of their body that create the pathways in their mind for reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, and creative thinking."

Don't get me wrong, if a child wants to learn, then go with it, full-steam ahead. I like to think I'm being "developmentally appropriate" with my discipline, with knowing where a child's understanding lies in relation to his behavior-good or bad, and why. So, why not with learning as well? Apparently, my brain was fogged by overload of work, kids, husband and stress, wanting too, to have a superkid, the smartest, brightest, ahead of the class kid, above average child. Moment of clarity. Duh. Hello.

Play is learning. Do I support and give Kian as much information as he wants when he tells me a subject he's interested in that week? Absolutely. Do I take the time to explain all the whys, wheres and hows? Of course. Do I need to sit down for 2 hours each day and make him memorize the days of the week, the 3 forms of water (liquid, gas, solid, just in case you are wondering) and on and on? No. He's going to go to school for 17 years (from kindergarten through college) give or take a few, why formalize it now? I actually have fears about him in public school and not allowing for learning in all forms--hands on, etc. But we will explore those three forms of water in the pool, washing our hands, ice in our cups and on the steps, steam from our broccoli, etc.

"The educators who established early childhood as a legitimate time for guided learning all emphasized the importance of manipulative experiences - of seeing, touching, and handling new things and of experiencing new sensations..." Found here.

I stumbled on this article this morning while looking for "preschool curriculum activities". I love when things back me and make me feel justified in my decisions. (Italics and colored text added by me)

Why, when we know what is good for young children, do we persist in miseducating them, in putting them at risk for no purpose? The short answer is that the movement toward academic training of the young is not about education. It is about parents anxious to give their children an edge in what they regard as an increasingly competitive and global economy. It is about the simplistic notion that giving disadvantaged young children academic training will provide them with the skills and motivation to continue their education and break the cycle of poverty (*this might be somewhat true). It is about politicians who push accountability, standards, and testing in order to win votes as much as or more than to improve the schools. yes yes yes!
The deployment of unsupported, potentially harmful pedagogies is particularly pernicious at the early-childhood level. It is during the early years, ages four to seven, when children's basic attitudes toward themselves as students and toward learning and school are established. Children who come through this period feeling good about themselves, who enjoy learning and who like school, will have a lasting appetite for the acquisition of skills and knowledge. Children whose academic self-esteem is all but destroyed during these formative years, who develop an antipathy toward learning, and a dislike of school, will never fully realize their latent abilities and talents. (while many undereducated areas love the universal pre-k, and it is very helpful, I've seen so many of these kids don't even know their colors at age 4, yet they're being 'trained' to read, they don't even know concepts of big and little, yet are being overwhelmed with writing their names and letters. There needs to be foundational learning.)
If we want all of our children to be the best that they can be, we must recognize that education is about them, not us. If we do what is best for children, we will give them and their parents the developmentally appropriate, high-quality, affordable, and accessible early-childhood education they both need and deserve.

I still want a superkid, who can solve quadratic equations in first grade (I loved those in math!). I want a child who can play a round of gulf with his dad at age 8, and beat him. Is it realistic? No way. I don't necessarily want my 12 year old going to med school and performing surgery though. I see girls today with their clothing and way they talk and act and I think "how sad, they're trying too hard to be grown up and missing their childhood", and we as society are letting them. Childhood is but a sliver of our lives. A mere 16-18 years out of 80+ years we are alive. Learning is a lifelong process. So, I'm going to step back and try hard to not worry if Kian can't play the dulcimer in first grade or has to use his fingers to do some math. A well-rounded child who functions socially, who has confidence in himself and his world, who contributes something to this society and knows he can do anything he wants with his life, that's what I want.

*references: Miseducation, preschool learning, teaching our children,

Also very interesting: (we need to stop thinking children have to be "seen and not heard")
"The proprioceptive system is strengthened by physical movements, like sweeping with a broom, pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying groceries, emptying the trash, pulling weeds, or hanging from monkey bars. When children do these types of activities they stimulate pressure receptors within their muscles, tendons, and joints, thereby allowing their minds to make a map of the location of these various pressure receptors within the body. A connection is made between the mind of children and the various parts of their physical body. In this way children develop a sense of where their body is in space (proprioception), and even if their eyes are closed, the children will be able to feel or sense the location of muscles, joints and tendons within their trunk, arms, legs, fingers, and toes. In addition, as the children move their arms, legs, hands, and feet forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right, they will start to gain a sense of the spaces around them. Now, when these children look at the shapes of letters and numbers, their eyes will follow and track the lines and curves. The memory of these movements will then imprint upon their mind. They will have the capacity to make mental pictures or images of these numbers and letters. They will easily remember the correct orientation of numbers like 2 and 3 when they are writing. There will be no more confusion between the letter “b” and the letter “d.” The correct orientation of the letter or number will be seen within the mind before it is written.
This proprioceptive system impacts other areas in children’s lives beyond being able to sit still and having a visual memory for abstract forms. It also affects their ability to fall asleep by themselves at night and to stay asleep throughout the night. When the proprioceptive system is not fully developed, children will have difficulties falling asleep at night by themselves. They will frequently wake up during the night and then need physical contact with their parents in order to fall back to sleep. Since their own proprioceptive system is not yet developed, lying next to their parent will activate their pressure receptors and allow them to feel their body, relax, and fall back to sleep. For these children, closing their eyes at night makes their body disappear because their mind has not made a connection to the pressure receptors within their muscles, tendons, and joints. This is why so many children want the light on at night when they go to bed. They need to see their body and the spaces around them since they cannot “feel” their body when in darkness.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Need to start that children s book anytime now