Raising children in a society like ours can be really stressful. I remember when Faith was in the womb, I was advised to register her in schools so that she could be on the waiting list. It’s the year of the dragon, mind you! Lots of babies! I soon forgot about this issue and did … nothing of that sort.
Now that she is at an age when she can be admitted into playgroups, the stress-level is on high again for me. Mothers whom I know, both acquaintances and friends, were placing their kids in schools and my FB page was filled with how happy or tearful the first day of school was. I look at Faith, “No playgroup for you okay?”
I’m penning my thoughts on this page because I need to remind myself of why we (both the hubs’ and I) decided against school for Faith at this current point in time. She’s still young. She’s supposed to play, to be curious about things around her and be given the time and opportunity to explore. And because I am a SAHM, I can do more with her both at home and in the outdoors.
At the Fisher-price workshops that I had attended, I was reminded of my own parenting goals (for these early years) – that Faith will grow up to be an independent child, know God and respect others. These are important to me. I’m not very concerned that she has to know her numerals or alphabets now. For goodness’ sake, she is barely two years old! These will come later, for sure, and I’m not really interested in flashing cards at her. I want her to be out in the open, to appreciate nature, to have a sense of wonder of the environment she is placed in and eventually know Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. I don’t like the idea of her being in school so soon, to be honest. Abhor the idea that she has to learn within the four walls. She has many years of that in time to come. For now, she is good learning at her own pace with me at home or during our regular playdates. More importantly, I want her to learn the values that our family believes in because once she is grounded in them, she can make sound decisions (hopefully) while she is growing up.
But I’m not always this resolute. During the June holidays, I signed up for a week of language enrichment for Faith. The one week of lessons centred around Dr Seuss’ stories and each lesson comprises storytelling, art and craft and singing. I had to attend each 2-hour lesson with Faith and I am thankful for that because I realised how Faith is not ready for such a structured lesson.
She listened to the stories all right but many times, she wanted to explore the new classroom she was in, to interact with her new friends. She got restless easily too but thankfully, the teacher understood that young kids have very short attention span and introduced many short physical activities in-between.
At the end of each lesson, I was tired. Tired from having to get her to sit down to listen and to perform the tasks that she was asked to. My throat ran dry from words of encouragement to her. In the end, I decided that such a class may not be suitable for her, for now.
I have to be fair. She did enjoy her time playing with bubbles and surprised us with the word one fine day (we don’t use the word at all). Perhaps I have high expectations for the school and perhaps, this school does not have the right kind of curriculum for her. It’s after all, a one-size-fits-all programme for children ages 18 to 36 months. What do I expect?
I have to remind myself to chill, that sometimes not doing much for her can be good. By that, I mean not crowding her daily life with activities. Boredom can be good for her because creativity can bloom in such situations. I also need to remind myself that it is not ‘how much more earlier’ that is the solution but it is ‘how different earlier’ that is the answer.
I like what I’m doing with her now. We had moments when we learn at home but many times, we go out and have fun.We have our regular playdates and I remember vividly the enthusiasm that she displayed when we went on a excursion to the National Museum with her playmates, the sparkle in her eyes when she was playing with water at Jacob Ballas, the concentration she had when she was observing people in the park and the emotions she shared when she saw a crying child, just to name a few examples. Through all these, I got to understand Faith more and hopefully will realise what her talents are and help her thrive in them.
There are many moms who are homeschooling their kids and I particularly love those who advocate play as learning opportunities for young children. And the more I read about early childhood, the more excited I become.
These are three Internet resources that I like:
And I love this excellent yet simple read about the Waldorf approach to early childhood education.
Here is an example of a day in the Waldorf kindergarten. For my own reference in planning my own homeschooling activities for Faith.
The following are some notes that I have taken from the recent PlayIQ workshop organised by FisherPrice.
Some food-for-thought for me:
- “Play is not trivial. When children play, they’re doing important work.” ~ Fred Rogers
- “Children learn best when they have opportunities to have hands on experiences” ~Dr Jerlan Daniel
- Between the ages of 0 to 4, unstructured play is better than adult-led structured play. During the process, they would need to learn about boundaries and rules would need to be in place.
How toddlers play:
- Natural born explorers –> driven by intense curiosity
- Need safe, toddler proof environment
- Free time to investigate and experiment with toys and play items
- Get down on the floor!
- With others, solitary to parallel play
- Be enthusiastic and positive about your toddler’s curiosity and accomplishments (and minimise defeats)
- Play alongside you as you do chores –> provide life-like items for play
- Have conversations and encourage communication
- Learning through repetition (e.g. same story read over and over!)
- Read daily!