My School Is Cooler Than Yours!

We all do it. Repeating an action over and over even though the process or outcome isn’t what was desired, because it’s what we’ve always done and it takes a “duh” moment to shake you out of it. Mine (at least one of them) was our annual parent meeting.

Every fall we host an adult-only parent meeting. We review events and activities that will be happening throughout the year, fundraising opportunities, what we do and how we do it. We have a slide show that I recycle each year updating photos periodically that outlines my talking points. The parents spend time listening to me yammer on about play-based, child-led curriculum and how beneficial it is for their children. They spend time in their child’s classroom participating in an open discussion about developmental issues that they will be experiencing over the course of the next year, and they get a couple of minutes to socialize with one another.

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This year, our annual meeting was scheduled for a few weeks post flood. For those not from around Baton Rouge, we experienced a devastating rain event at the beginning of August that caused wide-spread flooding in our community. If you were not directly impacted with water inundating your home or business, someone in your family or one of your friends was. Needless to say, everyone was too busy to be able to make it to the meeting, so we decided to cancel. It was only the second time in 17 years that I have had to cancel the meeting. The first time was when a hurricane blew through. As I was thinking about rescheduling the meeting and maybe doing it a different way this year, I got to thinking about the purpose and the why; what were our goals and why do we do a fall parent meeting. That’s when the “duh” moment hit. We do this primarily for parents to meet one another and to be able to talk with our staff without the distraction of little people. So if that

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was our purpose, then why are we doing what we were doing in the way we were doing it? Sure, it’s nice to be able to spout on about play being important and THE only way children learn and retain new information and how children who are fortunate to attend programs like ours are better set for the rigors of “big school” all the way through college to a captive audience of believers. But that’s just it. Our families ARE believers and they already understand the importance of play, that’s why they chose our program over the academically based program down the road. See? Duh! Time to rethink how we facilitate our main goal. Out with the meeting and in with cocktail hour!

We met last Saturday at The Radio Bar. Everyone brought something yummy to share and because we met at happy hour, we practically had the place to ourselves. Parents came. Staff came.img_1673 We talked, laughed, and played darts. We talked about all kinds of things, kids, parenting book recommendations, camping, developmental milestones, movies, respectful discipline, where to go out after. It was fun! An
d most importantly, it far exceeded our goal! Parents met one another, they had the opportunity to learn more about our staff, and they got to spend a couple of hours talking with other adults who share some of the same values and
parenting styles they hold. We will definitely do that again! As for all the other stuff we usually cover at that meeting, isn’t that what email, Facebook, Instagram and blog posts are for? I do have to say, it was really hard to let that slide show go but I can always use it when I visit other centers and do their training, right?

So I have to say, my school is cooler than yours and if your school doesn’t have happy hour parent meetings, maybe you should look into mine!

Maybe One Day…

I read something last week issued by the Louisiana Department of Education that scared 11218857_10154244755635663_4421363728814798525_nme. It really scared me. The LDOE is pushing for “strong and coordinated curriculum and assessments” in child care and early education. They are even going to implement a program for centers to either get approved curriculum free or funds to help purchase and implement high quality, approved curriculum. WHAT?!?!

The push down of academics into early childhood education is nothing new. It’s not right, but it’s nothing new. I believe that the intention behind it is sincere. “They”, they being the policy makers of our state and federal government, want our children to succeed. Sure. Grand idea. Children are not entering kindergarten prepared to do what is expected of them, never mind that what is expected is not developmentally appropriate, so let’s push these academic principles down to our 4 year olds, our 3 year olds, our 2 year olds so that when they enter kindergarten, they will be better prepared. We must get them ready for school. IT’S NOT WORKING! The children are farther behind than ever! It must be the child care centers, the early learning centers, the preschools so let’s get stricter and push even more down on our youngest children so they can be ready to enter school. Well people, it’s still not working and it never will. You want to know why? Because it’s not. developmentally. appropriate. Those little brains are not made that way and no amount of drilling, flashcards, worksheets, computer games, teacher-directed instruction and no outside time because there is too much to learn is going to change that fact. It is a scientific fact that humans learn best through self-directed play. Scientific people. Look it up. Here, I’ll get you started with thisthis, this, this & this. There is no scientific research that proves academics introduced to children during their toddler, 10445964_10153141185005663_5980882347948440154_npreschool and pre-k years is successful. In fact, scientific research is proving the opposite. More harm is done in the long run. IF, and that’s a big if, a child who has been in an academic environment during their preschool years enters kindergarten slightly ahead in academic knowledge than their counterparts from a play-based, child-led program, they certainly do not enter kindergarten socially advanced and any academic difference disappears by 3rd grade. At this point, other difference begin to emerge. These differences have been present all along but the gap becomes exponentially larger. The child from the academic preschool environment falls dramatically behind socially, they have poor impulse control as they have had all along and a poor attitude about school which translates into poor performance in school, on assessments and a higher drop-out rate. The rise in childhood mental disorders is also directly linked to the decline of play and the rise of academics in early childhood.

Now, why does the LDOE helping child care centers purchase and implement high-quality curriculum scare me so much? Don’t I want children to begin their academic journey with as much of a head start as possible? Of course I do but high-quality curriculum does not come in a box. It does not carry with it pages and pages of assessments that are to be placed upon the child. High-quality early childhood curriculum comes from an enriching, engaging environment where the child is free to choose what they will work with, how they will work with it and how long they will work with it. High-quality early childhood curriculum comes from being outside for most of the day and working with loose parts in whatever way the child can dream of. High-quality early childhood curriculum provides the child plenty of opportunities for them to figure out how their bodies work and how powerful they can be. High-quality early childhood curriculum comes when the adults get out of the way and instead ask “what else do you need?” ensuring the child has everything they need to fulfill their goal and not the adult’s. High-quality early childhood curriculum focuses on social-emotional development and provides opportunities for children to figure out how social dynamics work. High-quality early childhood curriculum does not, and never will, come from a box. It cannot be purchased. It is up to each child to create their own curriculum. Children are only ready for kindergarten when they have had enough time to explore their world on their terms. Only then will they be ready to allow someone else to tell them about their world.

For those of you who know us (The Co-op), you know that we don’t subscribe to the canned curriculum. We allow our children the opportunity to explore the environment on their terms. They drive the curriculum. Our children are competent and eager seekers of knowledge. Our center is one of a kind in our community. I wish it wasn’t. The children in our community, in our state and in our country deserve a high quality early childhood and they are not getting it. My wish is that one day, “they” will wake up and think, “This isn’t working, maybe we should look at all that scientific research.” Maybe one day those centers that are using TV and flash cards and worksheets with their littles will read the evidence that they are helping to perpetuate the po1425581_10154358086185663_925725690316525098_nverty cycle. Maybe one day families in our community will stop putting their children into inappropriate environments because they fear their child won’t be ready. Maybe one day publishers won’t print that canned curriculum. Maybe one day I won’t have to defend what we do. Maybe one day…