I am a firm believer that kids need time to play. I'm a firm believer that I need time to play (this one's been tough this year and I'm a hypocrite).
A recent article from Scientific American titled, "The Serious Need for Play" reconfirmed this philosophy and has got me excited again and my wheels turning, more on that article below.
There are some serious doubts about my laid-back philosophy that pop up when I hear of all the activities my kids' playmates are registered in. I'm not exaggerating when I say that some of Ariel's friends are involved in 6-7 classes/week. Gymnastics, skating, swimming, dance, piano, etc, and some of these are two nights a week plus weekends (not to mention expensive)! My kids are only registered in one gymnastic class per week, on Saturday mornings. We picked gymnastics because from our experience, if you can do gymnastics well, you can conquer the world. When comparing to the normal kids extracurricular activities, it is hard not to worry that your kid is going to be left behind, his/her athletic prowess diminished, socioeconomic success forever hampered.
Additionally, these activities need to be balanced with homework and an 8PM bedtime. In our house, by the time I wrap up work at 6-ish, help out with supper and clean-up, there is little time left over for play, let alone an extracurricular activity AND homework. We start the bedtime routine around 730-745, and spent time reading with the kids before they crash. It's a pretty small window of time to hang out as a fam.
In regards to homework, Ariel usually has some, and we usually ignore it (sorry Madame Karine!) Ariel is super smart, his reading and writing in English and French are developing at an astonishing pace, he loves math and social studies, and most importantly he is HOOKED on learning. He brings home books on ancient Egypt and Forest Life Cycles for us to read with him at bedtime, and recites the facts back to us around the dinner table. However . . . Ariel is also super distracted, and getting him to focus on a task to completion can make you want to punch someone in the throat. He is particular about his work, which makes him slow, and if someone sitting next to him in class wants to debate the supremacy of Sonic vs. Knuckles, that debate will win over his school work every time. This means he brings home uncompleted work, one night last week an hour of it that his poor teacher insisted he catch up on. I sat with him for that hour, keeping him on task amidst the readily-available distractions, and there was not a single activity that was a struggle for him, the questions asked did not require a second thought to answer correctly. I was sorry I made him do it, I don't think it was a valuable use of time considering that it kept him up till 9PM and made him sluggish and worn out the next day.
The homework issue has collided with this new article from Scientific American and I am feeling a need to "do something" about it. I'm not 100% sure what that will look like yet. Here are highlights put forward by the article, but I recommend you read it in entirety:
- Childhood play is crucial for social, emotional and cognitive development.
- Imaginative and rambunctious “free play,” as opposed to games or structured activities, is the most essential type.
- Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.
- Limiting free play in kids may result in a generation of anxious, unhappy and socially maladjusted adults. “The consequence of a life that is seriously play-deprived is serious stuff,” Brown says. But it is never too late to start: play also promotes the continued mental and physical well-being of adults.
- Children’s free-play time dropped by a quarter between 1981 and 1997. Concerned about getting their kids into the right colleges, parents are sacrificing playtime for more structured activities. As early as preschool, youngsters’ after-school hours are now being filled with music lessons and sports—reducing time for the type of imaginative and rambunctious cavorting that fosters creativity and cooperation.
- Most essential, the activity should not have an obvious function in the context in which it is observed—meaning that it has, essentially, no clear goal.
- Play fighting also improves problem solving. According to a paper published by Pellegrini in 1989, the more elementary school boys engaged in rough-housing, the better they scored on a test of social problem solving.
- Many parents today believe they are acting in their kids’ best interests when they swap free play for what they see as valuable learning activities.
- Some mothers and fathers may also hesitate to let their kids play outside unattended, and they may fret about the possibility of the scrapes and broken bones that sometimes arise during play fighting or rambunctious fantasy play, says Sergio M. Pellis, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. Although those instincts are natural, protecting kids “simply defrays those costs to later, when those same children will have difficulty in dealing with an unpredictable, complex world,” Pellis says. “A child who has had a rich exposure to social play experiences is more likely to become an adult who can manage unpredictable social situations.”
So, this is exciting confirmation for me, perhaps I am not ruining my children after all by keeping the schedule more open. It's also led me on a rabbit trail called "Waldorf", an education philosophy which at first glance lines up with this information.
"Waldorf educators believe strongly that the education of the future must have four dimensions: academic, practical, aesthetic and ethical. In particular they believe that ethical education is possible without transmitting ready-made values."
Without transmitting ready-made values? Scary stuff eh? :) Another stab made in the FAQ of the Edmonton Waldorf site states that "accelerated learning does come at a cost to the child." This is a can of worms thats just been opened for me, and I'll need to do some reading & digging. Turns out, Edmonton Public Schools recently approved the first Waldorf program at a school 10 minutes away . . . but I've got some more reading to do first, and I need to check in with my most trusted education resource, Mrs. Seck.
Every kid in the world should have this one memorized. I should have it memorized. It should be canonical.
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.
It's opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.
I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!
These were the words 6 year old Madi shouted over her shoulder as her mom ushered her out of the school. Horrified by her daughter's words, Madi's mom immediately apologized and proceeded to scold Madi all the way down the hallway until she was out of sight. I'm not sure what they thought of my reaction which was immediate giggling, but another mom obviously shared my sentiments. Once they were out of sight she said "that was too funny!"
When I am around Ariel's classmates, they will often come up and ask me (because I assume they don't believe Ariel when he tells them) "Does Ariel really not eat meat? Not even nuggets?!?"
None of this seems to bother Ariel. He still won't touch the head off the tofurkey. :)
I figure there is already enough mystery and magic in the universe without me making further fabrications.
I was asked to stay after school to talk to Judah's preschool teacher, again, on Friday (1st time: Judah would not go to the washroom with the TA because she was "too ugly"). This time, one of his classmates' "Montre et Racontre" (Show & Tell) was an item received from Santa, which was challenged by the skeptical Judah.
"There's no such thing as Santa Clause."
The teacher, not sure how to respond to the situation, chose the option most of us would - ignore it and hope it goes away. This does not work with our Judah who does not give up until receiving acknowledgement. Apparently he repeated his provocation an additional three times, accompanied with his cheeky grin, before his poor teacher addressed him, saying, "Some people do Christmas differently in their houses."
So after school, I am pulled into the classroom to have this serious matter addressed. I listened to his teacher's retelling of the story, and while I felt mildly bad for the awkwardness of my child's cheekiness, mostly I was amused and I wasn't quite sure why this was worth spending additional after school time on. She wasn't getting paid anymore, after all.
"I wasn't quite sure what to say, I thought maybe you come from a certain religious background. I thought it probably wouldn't be appropriate to tell him that he's lying . . . "
Now I was the one experiencing an awkward moment, and was not sure how to address it. Was she telling me that SHE subscribed to the Red Suit Theory? Which religion is it again, you'll have to remind me, that does?
I do not see any value in stringing my kids along to have them discover in a humiliating encounter with an older, enlightened playmate, that they've been punk'd. I also am not sure why anyone would be tempted to tell my child that they are lying, when it is my child is playing the role of the enlightened playmate.
Can anyone help me see the value in lying to my kids about santa's, toothfairies, and easter bunnies?
To me, these are the easy ones. Things get dicier when they get into questions about god, the afterlife, etc. For some parents, these issues are easy because they fall into the same categories as flying reindeer. In our house, things aren't as clear-cut, so we take the road of sharing our ideas, our doubts, and our hopes. I think the conversations will get even better as they get older, and I can't wait to find out what they will teach me.