Sunday, August 02, 2009

Why my child can never go to school

or why my son isn't preschool material

Danny and I are enrolled in a UNC study researching the effects of a program on health and parenting practices. Saturday morning we went to a "measurement" event where we were weighed and measured, I took surveys and he joined the other kids in petting furry creatures at the museum, among other activities.

Danny watched me get weighed and measured and was happy to comply when it was his turn, especially since he got to jump off the scale. But getting him to sit at a table and color with other sweet, domesticated children was not so easy. As the kids gathered around the nice, bubble-blowing lady, our son was running circles around the tables and throwing himself into walls while 20-something social work students tried to corral him. They've never seen a 2-year-old in the wild, I guess. Anytime one of them suggested he do something, he (rightly) sensed it wasn't a suggestion and balked.

"Do you want to do bubbles?"

"No, NO, NO! Run 'round in circles!" He takes off for another lap.

"Do you want another sticker?"

He runs away and buries his head in my lap.

Yep, I'd say that's a pretty good indication that our son is not preschool material, at least not now: unmoved and actually repulsed by busywork, bribes and group "fun."

It's not that he's a particularly contrary 2 year old. He listens well when he understands the reason for doing so. He's easy to manage when he feels that his worldview is respected; that is, he respects authority when it respects him. He decides what he wants to play with, when and for how long. He will tell you what he knows when it's part of a conversation, not an attempt at formal measurement. He will listen and learn if I offer the information at exactly the right moment; that is, when he's interested in something, not when I'm interested in teaching him.

Unfortunately, these are all things that do not happen in most school settings. Individual teachers may value showing students respect as human beings or even know in their heart of hearts that children learn best with as little intervention as possible, but much of that sentiment gets lost in the daily constraints of time and crowd control.

That is why we want to homeschool. It honors the two values we hold dear: time and space. We want him to have space to learn in an unhurried manner. And this afternoon provided an excellent example of this.

Danny was drawing with crayons at his easel this afternoon while I nursed the baby. He held up one of those fat crayons and said "Big." I told him it was a thick crayon. He held up a thin one and I said, "That's a thin crayon." I prodded further (and only because searching and finding are a favorite activity of his of late), "Can you find another thick crayon?" He then held up a different color thick crayon that he found. I also asked him to find a thin crayon and he did. Satisfied with his finds, he went back to drawing for about 30 seconds.

This exchange would not have stood out, except last night I flipped through a Montessori book called "Teach Me to Do It Myself." Danny has now reached the absorbent mind period that Maria Montessori talks about which starts at around 2.5 years and lasts until about 6 years. An entry talked about how to introduce the concept of opposites to a child. It involved finding objects that were opposites and formally sitting down and talking with the child about those objects.

Even though I very much admire the Montessori method, all that sounds rather complex to me. And, besides, my son doesn't often sit down. All it took this afternoon to teach him about an opposite was being present for a spontaneous moment. And I trust that we have plenty of time for more of those moments.

1 comment:

nana judith said...

I am very proud of YOU and DANNY! Take another lap around that table, Kid, and hug the mommy that cherishes your independent spirit and your priceless sense of curiosity...