08 May 2009


We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
~Stacia Tauscher

I belong to several yahoo chat groups on unschooling. We have recently been discussing this article: Kindergarten Cram. If you don't feel like going to the link, the gist of it is Kindergartner's are now suffering through homework and testing. Egads!

Kindergarten is from the German meaning children's garden. What does one think of when they think of a child's garden? I know I think of trees and flowers and children running and playing, maybe stopping to pick and smell of the flowers, maybe trying to climb some of the trees. Maybe chasing each other and playing tag, or even having a picnic. I certainly don't think of little bodies stuffed into desks listening to some teacher drone on and on about their next testing session.

When I was old enough for Kindergarten both of my parents worked. I went to a normal public school Kindergarten (PS 98 in NYC) for about 3 weeks before my mother realized she could not work with the 1/2 day schedule. I don't remember too much about it other than the 2 1/2 hours going by very quickly. I don't remember going outside much, but it was right in the heart of Manhattan, so I can see why.

After realizing Kindergarten wouldn't work for me, I was put into a daycare center. I loved it there. I was in the class with the other "big" kids. Those of us who should have been in Kindergarten but weren't. I remember being one of the first kids dropped off in the morning and one of the last picked up at the end of the day. But I didn't mind it too much, I had a lot of fun there.

Those of us who were early arrivals got to eat breakfast at the center. I remember they used to let me eat bowls of peanut butter for breakfast. No one thought it was weird, no one shamed me, they just let me eat my bowl of peanut butter. I also remember they had a big table that they filled with sand in the cold months and water in the warmer months. Sand and water fun INSIDE! How cool was that! We used to make our afternoon snack together in the mornings, sometimes pudding, sometimes cookies. It was a fun thing to look forward to each morning knowing we would get to eat our creations that afternoon. We had our own cubbies and our own pillow and blanket for our nap time each afternoon. No one forced us to nap, if we weren't sleepy we just needed to have quiet time. Thinking back on all of this, I can't help but think that maybe some of my unschooling tendencies were quietly planted in my little head while at this daycare center. I think for 1973 they were definitely ahead of their time in their approach to children. But it was NY.

Finally, my most favorite memory of this center was the roof. Being NY, land is a premium and while there are plenty of parks, not too many were at schools, especially small private daycare centers. So they put a big chain link fence around the roof and built a huge playground up there. We had slides and swings and monkey bars and see saws and a sand box and it was all on the roof. And we got to go up there twice each day. Once in the morning and once after lunch. Even in the snow. I don't remember having to sit and "learn" something everyday while there, but I am sure learning took place. It was just in such a fun and free environment it happened naturally. Imagine that, learning being fun!

My own girls went to Montessori for Kindergarten. Montessori is also a very free environment. My girls loved it there. They too got to bake and create and go outside and just be kids in that environment. Their teachers were loving and genuinely cared about each child. That is what Kindergarten should be. I actually would prefer that Kindergarten didn't exist. Had I known about homeschooling/unschooling when my girls were little, they might not have gone to Montessori, but I can at least rest in knowing that by going I did them no harm. I am very glad I didn't subject them to public school Kindergarten, at least not what passes for Kindergarten today. Parents need to take back the schools. They need to do what is in the best interest of their children. Children need to play, they need to observe the world around them, they need to get outside and be in touch with nature. They don't need to be stuffed into desks in airless classrooms listening to some person who just wants to make it through her day drone on and on about meaningless drivel. Let our little ones be free. I can dream can't I?

You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.
~Jean-Jacques Rousseau~


April said...

Great post! I especially like how you added appropriate quotes :-)

Stephanie said...

Free, let them be free :)
Free the children!!!!!