There is something so unnerving about sending the first child to school. Maybe your kids go to public school, a charter school, private school, or you're a home school family. What we all have in common, we love our kids and we want what is best for them! Especially their education, because we know it is so so important.
So here is what happened when I began the journey to enter my kids into the education system available and my reaction to the huge changes that have taken place.
My journey started in the classroom where I sat observing what a whole day would be like for my kids at a nearby school. I started to get the rhythm of things in each classroom. It was very scheduled. I wrote down the schedules and noticed only one recess. The recess was after lunch. This was unusual to me.
All my memories of school flooded into my mind. My kindergarten days were full of "playing" and I thought school was fun! I had a half day of school in the mornings with a recess and returned home for the rest of my day.
I decided to observe the children's behavior with this dull day, one recess schedule, and keep a tally every 15 minutes on how many kids were engaged? How many got trouble? How often did the teacher have to remind the kids to listen or stay on task? I wrote it all down in my notes.
The teachers were great at keeping these kids in line. I wasn't trying to be critical, but even with highly creative methods to keep the kids on task, my tally rhythm increased as the morning went on. These kids needed recess, I needed recess, and the teacher most definitely needed a break!
Not only was the lack of recess bothering me now, but where was the exploring and creativity? These two things are incredibly important to the development of young children, and I just thought this was common knowledge, especially among educators. So why were educators now ignoring the principles of great teaching?
My answer to this came with some observation into the curriculum. The teachers were told what curriculum to use and incredibly were teaching what I learned in first and second grade to kindergartners. After contemplating how great that was, a sinking feeling came over me. At what cost? Do we even know the answer to that? If we had a time machine to collect future data...well then maybe we would know.
Was I making a big deal out of something so small. I didn't feel like it was a small matter. My kids would be spending, now, the equivalent of 30 hours a week doing one of the most important thing in their lives, learning. I had to really believe in what I was choosing for my kids, was right. There are so many conflicting opinions on what that is. So who was I going to trust? Do you ever feel so strongly about something so conflicting? It isn't an easy feeling to have.
I couldn't make such a big decision alone, so I studied the greatest educators of all-time to find out what they said about education and play. Educators like Jesus, Plato, Aristotle, Dewey, Montessori, Augustine, Quintillian, Froebel , Freire, Socrates, Charlotte Mason and more. What I learned was beyond enlightening, and is something I recommend you do for your kids. Here is just a sampling of what these great minds had to say.
Friedrich Froebel- "Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul."
Albert Einstein- "Play is the highest form of research."
"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination"
Plato- "A direction in which education starts a man will determine his future"
"Life must be lived as play"
Charlotte Mason- "children are born with all the curiosity they will ever need, it will last a lifetime if they are fed upon a daily diet of ideas"
Maria Montessori- "Play is the work of the child"
"a child loves his play, not because it is easy, but because it is hard"
"one of the tests of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child"
Aristotle- "educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all"
Martin Buber- "Play is the exultation of the possible"
A.S. Neill- "Childhood is not adulthood; childhood is playhood and no child ever gets enough play"
John Dewey- "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."
John Holt- "We ask children to do for most of a day what few adults are able to do for even an hour. How many of us , attending say, a lecture that doesn't interest us can keep our minds from wandering? Hardly any"
"children need what we rarely give them in school- time for messing about"
John Locke- "Curiosity in children is but an appetite after knowledge, and therefore ought to be encouraged in them, not only as a good sign, but as the great instrument nature has provided to remove that ignorance they were born with, and which, without this busy inquisitiveness, will make the dull and useless creatures."
Socrates- "education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."
Leo F. Buscaglia “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”
Well, there you have it, and that is just the tip of the ice berg.
Learn from the Masters
These masters of childhood education have collectively said the same thing, that children and play are important in education. We are adults acting like stubborn children when we ignore all the knowledge that has been gained in our history, but don't listen because we think we know best.
We can pretend that we value their great wisdom by quoting and placing them in books, but without actually implementing the advice and doing what they say, we don't allow them to add value to our society.
We have created an education system that undervalues histories greatest educators, our children and the educators we have now. Despite the sad statistics of our current failing education system, complaints from parents, kids, and teachers, we as a society continue to make choices that allow the implementation of this non-working system. It doesn't matter how much testing or money we put into the more instruction vs. play education system, because the core ideas of the system are not correct.
Does it matter that our kids are unhappy? Yes.
Does it matter that teachers are forced into curriculum and not child development? Yes.
Does it matter that children are growing up hating school and education? Yes.
Does it matter that kids have no idea what they want to do when they get out of school? Yes.
Does it matter that creative outlets such as play, music and art are being cut from schools? Yes, it does matter.
I encourage you to give your children time to play, explore, and be creative. We know how much we loved it as kids. Don't fall into the trap that shoving more information into our children is going to make them better, happier, and more successful. It is not possible when their childhood is taken from them in the name of education. And, we as parents, and educators, know better than this.
Createful Art is a website dedicated to making it easier for families and educators to incorporate creativity, play, and art into childhood. You can become a part of this growing community of those that value art by subscribing to the newsletter to receive the latest content.
Art has certainly been a huge part of my life, my childhood and my education. My hope is that all children get the same opportunity I had and can enjoy art as well.