Friday, October 14, 2011

Let there be ART!

I am seriously slacking in the recipe department these days. I'm just not feeling the food. This week, we had some tasty chicken and rice soup with sweet potato fries, grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches with leftover chicken and rice soup, dinner at a friend's house, and dinner-on-the-deck that consisted of PB&Js, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and a tangy tangelo. We are by no means starving (or eating poorly). I just haven't done anything blog-able.

What I have been doing is spending numerous moments each day in awe of the girls. Most of you know that the majority of my college and all of my career focus on early childhood development, specifically the 3-5 year old range. Abby and Elise are smack dab in that range. I have counseled more parents than I can count on why their child isn't talking, how to stop a tantrum before it starts, what to do when their child bites another, how to stop their child from running away, how to teach counting, letters, and colors, ways to provide positive reinforcement with the hope of eliminating a negative behavior, how to get their child to play with other children... and on... and on... and on. And the longer I'm in public education, the more discouraged I become because all of these parents look to me and my colleagues for the answers. I value school and education. I think teachers play an invaluable role in society. But I think the experiences, interactions, opportunities, situations, reactions, and expectations in the home are the make-it or break-it factor for countless children. 

The girls and I were at the Merc last week and ran into a woman who I used to work with at KU. She said "Are the girls in preschool this year?", to which I replied "Yes. And today they learned about mulch." They had spent the morning in Gran and Grandpa's backyard, taking pretend trips in the truck to Kalamazoo or California or Minnesota, while Grandpa unloaded mulch out of the back. They practiced taking turns driving. They worked on their social skills, conversing about the pretend drive and the scenery. They refined their awareness of distance. They relied on former experiences to guide and shape their thoughts and ideas for that day. Math skills were embedded, as they saw wheelbarrows "full" and "empty" and watched as the mulch in the bed of the truck lessened. And when I got home and said "how was your morning?", rather than reply with "I don't know" - as many parents in the past have reported their child stating about a day at school - the girls talked... and talked... and talked.

I'm getting asked frequently these days about whether or not I'll send them to preschool next year. If I had to decide today, I'd say no. We have read-aloud time at home. We have free play at home. We have outdoor time at home. We do math and science and dramatic play. We do art. Lots and lots of art. That's actually what I initially intended to share... somehow I got sidetracked. 
I think a great number of the children I've encountered professionally have struggles due to a simple lack of exposure. That's where I was heading with this. Give them markers - just be present to teach them to color on paper instead of on clothes or walls. Give them scissors - just be present to teach them to cut paper instead of fingers or hair. I feel sad for the children who don't have a parent or grandparent or uncle there to just. be. present.

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