School Days, School Days

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I have no idea where the time goes but, somehow, my first granddaughter has started kindergarten. Or grade kindergarten, as she calls it. It seems only a moment ago that she was born and now she tells her mom she is ready to go to school because she knows everything. After her first day she said, “I want to go back tomorrow and the next day and the next day.” Obviously, knowing everything, she has caught onto an essential aspect of school – it is day after day.

I have watched the pictures appear on Facebook of children who are about to begin preschool, kindergarten, and grade one. Every one of them decked out in brightly coloured back packs with big smiles on their little faces. What will their experience of school be? Will the smiles remain as the years go by?

I started a draft of this post early in September. I’ve come back to it today and realize that the message is more apt now. School has been in session for almost six weeks, routines have become somewhat established and everyone’s had a chance to realize this school thing is for real.

I worked in an elementary school setting for years and that time taught me more than a few things. Based on that learning, I want to send out a message to all parents who are seeing little ones off into that great big system we call education. School is exhausting. Learning the routines and getting a handle on the social skills necessary to make it through the day is work enough. When you add to that, the actual reading, writing and arithmetic component, you have a fairly intense day. Make allowances for the fact that your child needs time and space to process the events of such a day.

Some afternoons, I listen to Emma up in her room, all by herself, talking her dolls and stuffed animals through the daily Kindergarten routines. They sit in circle time and she instructs them on how to do calendar and appoints someone to take the attendance to the office. She consoles a doll who is upset because she wasn’t chosen. As she plays, she solidifies her learning.

The world of children in 2013 is fast-paced. Activities pile on top of activities – strong start, preschool, school, hockey, swimming, and gymnastics, to say nothing of before and after school daycare. In every case kids are stimulated by other kids, teachers, caregivers, instructions, routines, and rules. Their resources are taxed to the limit as they work to conform.

I am a big advocate of down time. Give your child the opportunity to go off by themselves and play on their own for even a short period of time every day. This down time represents an important component of consolidating things learned.

And one more tip, especially if your child is going into Kindergarten. As a parent, you are going to be suddenly faced with the reality of walking back into a ‘school’ – maybe for the first time in years. Figure out how you feel about that. Own your stuff and don’t burden your child with the hang-ups you have left over from your school years. Allow your child the freedom to have his or her unique experience.

I’ll end this post with my all-time favourite parenting quote.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday

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14 comments on “School Days, School Days

  1. How amazingly astute to include the upset child in her playing! That’s something I think sounds quite advanced in terms of PSHE and she clearly empathises with her fellow pupils. I hope she continues to get as much joy from her school day.

    • Thanks! And on that part about continuing to be enthusiastic about school and joyful – I, too, hope that goes on and on. I would love for her to develop the life-long joy of learning that I have had. It has opened so many doors and led to places I had no idea I was heading towards. Fingers crossed.

  2. oldmainer says:

    An excellent post. Thoroughly enjoyed.

  3. As an educator of elementary children, I could not have said it better. Thank you and I love the poem by Kahil Gibran!

  4. Ginger Dawn says:

    Excellent Post! I agree on the downtime and I will use this a bit more with my 10 year old home schooled son! Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Your granddaughter is a cutie and those dimples…adorable! I couldn’t agree with you more, Francis. I don’t have children, but I’m amazed by the amount of homework my friend’s children have. Children need downtime to just be kids.

    • Definitely – maybe we need something like the slow food movement, but for kids – the down time movement for kids. So much of all learning is layering the new onto what has already been established – but if you never get a chance to really integrate that learning how will you layer the new stuff on? Emma is pretty adorable 🙂

  6. P. C. Zick says:

    Lovely post along with the bonus of the poem. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and intelligent granddaughter.

  7. Gwen Stephens says:

    Down time, yes! I completely agree. It’s something I see too little of in my affluent suburban community. Kids here epitomize the overscheduled millennium generation. Over the years as a teacher, I’ve had parents complain now and then that I didn’t assign enough homework for their 5th graders. My aim was on average, to keep it under an hour per night, which includes reading time. I’ll never forget the one mother who encouraged me to “pile it on.” I never understood that logic. How does “piling on” the homework make me a better teacher, or their child a more capable learner? Ten-year-olds need time to get outside, ride bikes, build a snowman, play four square, hide and seek, video games, whatever! They have the rest of their lives to bury themselves in work. I’m a big believer in letting kids be kids.

    • I was mentioning in another comment that we might need something like a slow food movement but for kids. Let’s call it the letting a kid be a kid movement. We’ll let kids have time to play and run around and when they melt down with emotion we’ll recognize that kids are all in and still learning how to regulate those emotions – good grief, how many adults go through emotional melt downs? We won’t expect too much but we won’t dumb down our expectations either. My kids use to cringe when I would say – I have a theory about that. They would shoot back at me – you have a theory about everything – enough already. What can I say? No wonder I blog. LOL

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