I've got to say it somewhere

(No, I don't have any information on the adoption paperwork snafu. I need to take a break from it all today. Maybe J. will call for me tomorrow and find out what happened with it all. Supposedly it is all taken care of.)

I am part of a fairly (ridiculously?) large number of facebook groups. In terms of keeping up with goings on in the adoption world and especially in the rare disease world, they are truly invaluable. (Where else would I even begin to find a group of people who have children with Linear Nevus Sebaceous syndrome?) I also belong to some other parenting type groups (slippery slope and all that, I think), and sometimes I read things and just have to walk away... or write about them more generally here and get it out of my system. It just seems better than to start a firestorm in the comments section somewhere, even if I think I am right.

At the risk of repeating myself, this is for parents of preschoolers, which these days is evidently age two and up. (I think I'll save the rant about whether two year olds should go to preschool in the first place for another day.) And what is my message for you? One word: Relax.

Our society, especially if you live where I do with a particularly affluent and educated population, does a great job of selling you a bill of goods. And that bill of goods is the idea that education is difficult and expensive and time-consuming. Am I saying that teachers are not important? No, a good teacher can make a subject come alive and spur a child to want to learn. Am I saying that some children don't have difficulties in certain areas and that specialized help can be useful and even necessary? No, I live with a child who needs specialized help and know first hand that not all children learn the same.

What I am saying is that there are things that no child needs. No child need hours of homework after a full day of school. No child needs a schedule so full (of even good things) that there is no time to just sit and think. No child needs ridiculous amounts of testing. And no preschooler needs academic work. To think that children need any of these things to learn is to let fear take over and to forget that children are hard-wired to learn. It takes a lot of work to turn off  the wiring, but a heavy dose of the things I just named will do the job rather nicely.

What children need is time and space. They need time to grow and mature so that they can learn difficult subject matter at the appropriate time rather than being pushed into learning something prematurely. They need to sit and think and look like they are doing nothing. Our brains do best with a rest time to sort through what we have learned, to ponder things, to let our brains make connections that only time will allow them to make. They need to play. Play is integral to how children learn, particularly young ones. Play is how they learn. Little ones were meant to explore and experiment and make messes and wiggle. They were not meant to sit in chairs and do worksheets.

Actually not-so-little children were meant to do these things as well and I think I could make a pretty good case for adults resting, day dreaming, and playing, too. Why are we so afraid of letting children have time and playing? Why are we so afraid of letting them grow up at their own pace rather than ours? Why are we so afraid of them not learning something? You know, it's OK if a child does not do every activity offered. They'll survive. You won't ruin them. You might actually regain your family's sanity by not driving hither and yon every single non-school moment of your day.

Keep your little ones close. What they need most is you. You, the parents, are the people who are most important to your child. You are the people who help them to regulate emotionally. You are the people who give them their sense of safety. You are the people who make them feel loved. You are the people who teach them the most important things of life. This comes first. This is what is important.

Reading can wait. Math can wait. Even college can wait. Help your child develop into a person first, with interests and self-knowledge and empathy and the ability to do hard things (the ability to work through frustration and failure). Stop being afraid of the wrong things and be willing to stand up for what you child really needs.


Carla said…
Love this!

At my son's 3 year old check up my pediatrician asked what I was thinking about school. I looked at him incredulously and said, "I wasn't. He's only 3." He surprised me by saying, "Good. Don't. You can't tell a difference between those who do pre-school and those who don't and everything he would learn academically, he'll just learn from you naturally."

I love it when someone in the professional world "gets it" and isn't afraid to say it despite popular opinion.

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