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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The S.T.R.U.C.T.U.R.E. rush

Toddler in Chief and I keep a very leisurely schedule. Outside of our weekly playgroup, we have no other obligations. I'm all for lots of down time, which encourages TIC to get creative with his toys. It also gives me some flexibility to write and read and rest with my feet up on the sofa.

My Mother-in-law has been an early childhood educator for nearly 20 years. She gave me some feedback regarding the whole push to get kids on schedules and in structured learning environments. I wanted to share it here:
...we are a nation of rushing our children. We rush them through the first year hoping they will be the first on the street to be weaned, then the first to be potty trained, then the first to speak, the first to do just about anything. Then it is the best preschool, the best dance class, the best of everything and it is high time to stop and examine what we are doing to our children. We are wearing them out and doing it much too early. Children in 1st grade have already done what most of had not accomplished till 5th grade. Who said earlier was better? Children need time to stop and smell the flowers and have time to be bored. I see so many children who do not know what to do if there is an afternoon of free time. They never have free time. Children need to have that opportunity to use their creative minds to invent things to do not always have someone telling them what to do or how to do it...

I guess the question is "for what are we rushing our children?" To make us look better as parents? To get our kid into the best college? It is bull---- to think that it will make that much of a difference. And at what price? I am always telling parents, it is not important if your child can recite the alphabet standing on his/her head, count to 6 zillion, what is important is raising children who are healthy emotionally and socially. The rest will follow if they feel good enough about themselves. The parents who listen are greatly relieved. Now if we can just convince the local kindergartens to do the same and educate parents as to what is most important. I fear we are raising children who are emotional basket cases and thus are constantly looking for extrinsic sources for accomplishment.
In the meantime, TIC and I do little stuff--like watering the flowers and watching the sky for birds and airplanes. And I believe those are the things that he'll remember most. I know they'll be what I remember most.

7 comments:

  1. That's another reason I homeschool--we get to choose our own pace and not rush around driving to a bunch of activities on someone else's time.

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  2. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Boy, in reading some of your recent posts, it seems like you really have a thing against preschool and other planned activities for toddlers. But just like other parenting issues out there, I do believe there is a happy medium. I don’t agree that a toddler’s life should be structured every minute of every day of every week, but some planned activities are a great way for them to have fun. I have a 2 yr old child in preschool a few hours a week who loves it…talks about it all the time. Because it’s fun. If you pick the right preschool, it shouldn’t be about drilling the alphabet or numbers, it should really be a place where the child can have fun doing age appropriate things like art, music etc. & making some friends.

    Your posts regarding this issue have been a bit judgmental in my opinion, which is surprising to me given the fact that when you focused on working moms vs. sahms, you really tried to flesh out the issue, instead of judging others for the choices that they make with their kids. Maybe it’s because you are trying to defend your choices with TIC. Not really sure, but as a reader of your blog, it’s starting to bug me.

    Just try to keep in mind that most of us moms are just trying to do what is best for our own kids with the resources available to them.

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  3. My husband just sent me a link to a press release about a Berkeley/Stanford study done to determine the effect of preschool on kids' cognitive and social development. I think you would find it interesting. The press release is at http://tinyurl.com/7ha78

    From the press release:
    "Most surprising, according to the researchers based at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University, is that the social skills of white, middle-class children suffer- in terms of cooperation, sharing and engagement in classroom tasks - after attending preschool centers for more than six hours a day, compared to similar children who remain at home with a parent prior to starting school."

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  4. Signing your kid up for a class is a great way to force yourself out of the house. Exposing your kid to new stuff is great. Getting them into a program that frees up some time for mom, especially if a new baby on the way is good too. I'm also very much in favor of preschool-- eventually. I just think that too many organized activities--whether they are gym class, music class, swim class, or preschool--for 2-year-olds is bad.

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  5. I agree with anonymous on this one. I have been reading your blog for a few months and have always appreciated the fairness and balance. But on this issue you seem a bit defensive. But (checking myself here) maybe where you live you don't have the same "preschool" choices I do? My daughter started preschool at 2. It was a co-op program; 2 mornings a week for 2 hours. It was perfect for us. She loved being with other kids, eating snack at the little table, painting, singing and talking the adults in the room into reading to her. It was, as a program for toddlers should be, unstructured "free play." And I loved that she got to do messy art and sensory table exploration (shaving cream, corn starch, confetti) in someone else's space. Plus, kids in a co-op environment learn that they can get comfort / love / attention from adults other than their parents - important especially for kids of SAHPs. There are a ton of "developmentally appropriate" non-academic preschools where I live and I feel lucky for it - for me and for my kiddo.

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  6. Let's see. I'm trying to remember why I started my daughter in preschool at two-and-a-half. Could it be that preschool preview night is the biggest event of the mothers' club to which I belonged and I'm an impatient person? :^)Maybe it's because I heard stories of years long waiting lists and standing in line overnight to register your child for preschool and put pressure on myself to snatch something up.

    My parents saw my daughter in August, before she started preschool, and when they saw her again in October, they could not believe how much her language skills had advanced in two months. Developmental? A preschool boost from being in a small montessori program with kids older than her? Who knows . . .

    My daughter went three mornings a week for three hours, and she really loved it. She always talked about her school friends and her teachers.

    But I understand what MIC is saying in that it is sad to see a playgroup break up and perhaps it is surprising that it would happen at age two and not age three or four. One of my playgroups broke up as well because of preschool. So maybe what anonymous and Lisa perceive as judgmental or defensive is really just sadness . . .

    I loved preschool in my daughter's life, and although our recent move has disrupted that, I hope I can get her into a wonderful montessori program again soon.

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  7. Okay, I haven't been reading your blog recently, but came here from Barely Attentive Mother (where we were linked together as bashing school -- an inaccurate portrayal, I think, but we touched a nerve and I can understand that).

    Anyway, I can't really respond to the comment that you're being defensive, but I always think that word choice is interesting -- perhaps the commentors who have called you that are themselves feeling defensive. It would be understandable if one interprets another's choice as an indictment of their own, different choice.

    If you are being defensive, its also completely understandable as you are charting a course different from the mainstream. Its part of deciding which path you are going to take.

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