Friday, September 13, 2013

What a Young Child Should Know.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. It happens occasionally where I take stock of my own ideals and how those ideals mesh with my reality. I'm going through one of those times.

I'm not happy with Ethan's move to the other classroom. I'm getting over it, but I'm not happy. All of the children are younger than he is--many just barely three. It feels like we're going backward. And it bothers me. At the same time...on the complete other side of my personality, I couldn't be happier. I know that when it comes to social maturity, Ethan is a bit behind. It'll do him good to be in a classroom focused on gaining those skills, and I'm thrilled that he has teachers that are so focused on nourishing those skills.

So why unhappy? 

It's dumb, and I shouldn't be. He's doing great. He enjoys it so much more. But for some reason, I feel like he should be challenged more. And so I've been thinking about that and here's the thing. That's what we're supposed to think. That's what society has geared us to think. That's what a life working in education has brought. But it's not true.

My child will be academically ready to enter kindergarten. I have no doubt about that. And I'm already aware that Ethan doesn't "learn" anything he doesn't want. I tried for months to get the child to read. He wants nothing to do with it, and over the years, I've learned that there is a better way to handle Ethan.

Let him drive his learning. 

I don't know why I'm so concerned with him not being "challenged." I don't sit at home drilling him. We don't do "homework." We don't have "worksheets" we work on. We let Ethan guide his learning. So he was into the body like no other kid I've ever met. We watched videos and talked and read books and drew bodies. We bought him a miniature body and a stethoscope. We asked questions and encouraged him to explore through learning ourselves so we could hold conversations with him.

And then he moved into robotics. We bought robot kits and looked up different types of robots and played robot games and read stories with robots.

He decided space was next. So we read stories about space and talked about planets and contemplated the existence of other universes. And "Googled" what we didn't know.

And then through all these explorations, he began to merge his interests. Mars would need heart doctors when we colonize the planet. Or he could create tiny nanobots that could help repair parts of the body. Or he could build a brick robot that could travel to space.

And when he began writing in journals about all these things and creating elaborate stories that no one save himself  could read (phonetically written), I told him how wonderful it was and how interesting it was to read those stories and how much I enjoyed listening to him tell me all about them. I encouraged him to share those stories with others.

Shortly after Ethan turned three, I realized that I am merely along for the ride. Ethan is the guide of his own learning experiences, and I'm fortunate enough to be there, sitting in the passenger's seat, reading the map and providing gentle encouragement.

Given the space and the opportunity, Ethan will challenge himself.

I know there will come a day when he'll be expected to learn "this" subject on "this" day at "this" time. But that day is not today and it shouldn't be. Our society is such that just "being" a child has become difficult. We have schedules and activities and expectations for excellence, even at a very young age.

And so, I'm taking a page from Ethan's book. 

He is almost five. He has a whole year before he enters into the confining world of public education. In this year, here's what I want Ethan to know and learn:
  • That he is always loved. That I will love him unconditionally and that his teachers love him, too. 
  • That his creativity should be cherished and allowed to flourish. That he need only allow himself to be the guide of his creations.
  • That venturing into the unknown may come with risks but also comes with great rewards.
  • That communicating in a rational manner with others will bring him more gains that ranting and screaming.
  • That persistence may not always provide the end result he wanted but may provide a valuable lesson in negotiation and compromise. 
  • That he is an individual and his emotions are important to me and his father. 
  • That playing is important and shouldn't be taken for granted. And that he should be as silly as he wants. He has a lifetime to be serious. 
  • That I learn as much from him as he learns from me.
So that unhappy side has been a little more tamped down. I see my child as a child, and just as I allow him to guide his learning at home, I know they will do the same at his school. 

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a great plan for Ethan and I'm glad he is liking his new class. I know why you feel that way but each child's skills come at different times and right now he will learn the skills that haven't come yet by being in this new class. My son was always very smart but never had common sense where his sister had a hard time in school but had amazing common sense. Each child is different and Ethan's desire to learn is amazing compared to others.