Friday, June 10, 2011

Uh oh!

Well I hope no one was really waiting with baited breath for today's final post on the topic of Academics in Preschool.  It's written up and saved and ready to go... but it's been lost.  I use Window's Live Writer to draft posts on my laptop and my laptop is now, apparently, resting in peace.  

Ironically, today's post was all about technology and young children, and how addictive it can be and harmful to their health.  And here I sit, not knowing what to do next without my laptop.  Hehehe.  It's been quite a year - computer problems last December and January, then an unexpected break for most of March and April, and then this... I think this is just not my year for blogging.

I'm not sure when I'll be back, but hopefully I will be able to retrieve that final post and publish it.  What I am more concerned about is the 6+ months of photos on the laptop that were not backed up anywhere else.  I'm not sure what it says about me that my first thought was of my blogging stuff and printables that I'm in the middle of making... but when I remembered the photos I literally felt ill. 

If anyone can send me in the right direction for retrieving items on my hard drive, I'd sure appreciate it.  I'm not able to get into Windows at all, I simply keep getting the start up screen and occasionally a "blue screen of death."   Helpful ideas left in the comments are very appreciated! 

I will still have limited access to email, so feel free to stay in touch!

Have a (more) beautiful day (than I am)! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is Preschool Necessary? Academics (3)

{Continued from yesterday’s post}

The issue of attachment and how it affects a child’s ability to learn is something I’ve thought about a lot lately.  Dr. Gordon Neufeld makes a strong case for the importance of attachment in a child’s life in his book Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.  I could write a hundred posts about the wisdom in this book, but instead I’ll just highly recommend that you read it for yourself if this issue interests you at all.

The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life, by Michael Gurian also speaks a bit about the relationship between secure attachments and learning.  Here’s a bit of what the author says regarding this issue: 

“Children with secure attachments are more likely to make learning gains for a biological reason : the organic mechanisms in the brain by which the brain learns require secure attachment in order to grow fully.” (p. 71)

(I wrote more about this book here, here, and here.)

Attachment (love, affection, and a sense of security in relationship with another person) is necessary for learning in small children.  And there is evidence that making and then breaking attachments can actually hinder a preschool / kindergarten-aged child’s ability to learn.  Of course if the children have learned to attach to other children instead of the adult present then they have an easier time, at first, with focusing on learning, giving credence to the idea that socialization via being in groups of peers is a good and helpful thing in a child’s education.  Dr. Neufeld spells out how this “peer-orientation” as he calls it, is actually detrimental to a child’s future healthy maturation, and causes all sorts of problems in parent-child relationships later on. 

Dr. David Elkind predicted in the 1980’s what affect the then-current trends in early education, and the accompanying stresses, would have on the preschool children of the ‘80’s when they became adolescents.  It seems to me that he was right on the mark (just look at the violence and aggression that seemed to erupt with teenagers of the nineties!):

[Speaking of teenagers in the eighties, those who were preschooled in the late sixties, or early seventies] “Teenagers today are hurried children and show primarily stress symptoms, the symptoms of being pushed too hard too soon.  My guess is that the teenagers of the nineties will be more neurotic than teenagers today.  They will show more obsessions, more compulsions, more phobias, more psychosomatic symptoms than do teenagers today.

…If we refuse to recognize what miseducation is doing to our young children, we will put a significant proportion of the next generation at risk for personality problems and for occupational mediocrity.”

As far as the attachment issue goes, my main concern is two-fold.  The first is the risk that M will become more peer-oriented than parent-oriented.  The second is the idea of M becoming attached to a preschool teacher, than having that attachment broken, having to re-attach to a new teacher in kindergarten, and so on throughout the elementary years. Yes, I know this is just part of life in our current society, but I’m not sure it has to be, or is therefore healthy for small children to experience.  Many European schools have teachers follow “their children” from one grade to another for several years in a row because they know this is healthier for the children and better suited to the goal of educational success.  And of course, having Mama be the teacher eliminates this concern altogether. ;)

A thought that just popped into my head (or flew into my funnel as M, lover of trains, says):  Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder and how she taught children of all different ages, all in one room (socialization amongst different age groups?  Oh my!), and how she continued being their teacher throughout most of their schooling years?  That is how school used to be, and I’m pretty sure it was a great system.  How did we get from that to this current shuffling of children from one teacher to another, while losing many of them in the crowd; focusing more on teaching methods and classroom control, instead of children’s individual learning styles? Efficiency may not be worth the toll it takes on childhood and secure attachments.

I’ll finish up tomorrow… I know you wait with baited breath. ;)

Have a beautiful day! :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Is Preschool Necessary? Academics (2)

(Continued from yesterday’s post.)

Preschool today is very different from the nursery school many of us went to as a small child.  In his book, Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk, Dr. David Elkind writes about social changes in the past several decades that have led to the more formal education of preschool-age children. 

By all means, I do not think that many of these social changes in and of themselves were bad, but it seems that society doesn’t often think about the fact that the institutionalization of education in general, and preschools in particular, are relatively recent developments.

I could go on and on about this subject, but my main point is that what was once considered a necessity for mothers who had to work outside the home, has evolved into the norm and is now perceived by many as necessary preparation for kindergarten.

The idea that a normal, well-developed child needs special preparation in order to be ready for kindergarten strikes me as somewhat ridiculous.  It’s kindergarten!  If it is the case that a 5 or 6 year old child needs special preparation for kindergarten, then it seems to me (and I know this may not be a popular point of view) that something is terribly wrong with our education system.

I do believe preschool-aged children benefit from being exposed to all kinds of wonderful experiences, and encouraged to learn about what interests them (within parental guidelines of course).  However, I do have a few concerns about focusing too much on education during early childhood.

First, it seems to me that as we enrich our children’s lives with one wonderful experience after another, we sometimes forget to let them have down time.  Good chunks of “nothing to do” time is a stress-reliever, and a means of getting to know oneself.  Time to one’s self is also necessary in order to reflect on and process experiences, and eventually glean lessons from those experiences.

Secondly, doesn’t it seem like the more we provide interesting and stimulating things for our children, the more they seem to expect every moment to be fun and exciting? And if it is not, they look to us to provide them with some new stimulation.  In my childhood, an outing or special event, or a new activity, was an infrequent thing, and very special.  I sometimes think we fill our children’s lives with so many “special” things that in the end not one thing is truly special.  An eagerness to learn is one thing in our children, but a belief that the world revolves around them is quite another thing.  The current “busy-ness” of today’s children (which is becoming common even among very small children) just seems to promote this sense that they are the center of everything.

Before today’s institutional schools were common, middle class children had simple childhoods, were taught basics by a tutor or their mother, and then the burden of occupying and educating themselves was on their own shoulders, not the responsibility of anyone else.  I think education was more highly valued and more enthusiastically pursued then than currently, when a sense of entitlement has snuffed out the pleasure of working hard for, and achieving, an education. 

My third concern is regarding the issue of attachment, which I’ll save for tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Preschool Necessary? Part Four – Academics


I thought this would be the easiest post of this series to write.  After all, how much can a person have to say about preschool academics?  But as my thoughts delved into more areas than I expected, the post kept getting longer and longer (you know I have trouble keeping things short and sweet anyway!).  For that reason I’ve decided to split it into four {oh yes, I said four!} sections – one post each day all the way to Friday.  Get comfy and hold on! ;)

Academics in preschool
… this is actually where I began my journey toward understanding that there are alternatives to traditional school.  Now look at me – I feel like a completely different person than I was just a few short years ago. 

When M was very small (about the age in the photo above, not quite 2 years), I assumed we would put him in Kindergarten at 5 years old, which would be this fall.  His birthday is late August, and he would be one of the youngest children in his class, which was totally okay with me.  He was brilliant (hahaha, not that I was biased or anything), and I thought the sooner he started school the better – how else to develop all that latent genius?  And preschool, at 3 or 4, would only give him that much more of a head start.  Um, wouldn’t it?

And then, crazy as it sounds, I realized my husband had his own ideas about all of this (the nerve!).  He was adamant that, with a late summer birthday, it would be better to wait until M was 6 years old before beginning Kindergarten.  What?!  I started Kindergarten when I was 4, and there is nothing wrong with me. 

Oh wait.  Except that I never really enjoyed school. 

The pressures – socially and academically – were really stressful for me.  I can see now, that with another year (or two) under my belt I would have been better prepared developmentally for what was expected of me throughout all of my elementary years.  As it was, I loved being sick and getting to stay home (sounds pathetic, doesn’t it?).  All I really wanted was home, Mama, and a little security.  To be completely honest, I had begged to go to school, and my parents had reluctantly agreed.

I was ready and very eager to learn…but I was only 4 years old! 

The basic emotional and psychological needs of my little 4 year old self weren’t being met by being in school, and so everything was a struggle

I wanted to be a big kid, but you can’t be a big kid until you’re all done being a little kid! 

So I want M to take his time with being a little kid – it’s an important time of his life, really his foundation for a happy life – and it’s not something I want to rush him through.

I was academically ready to learn what I was “supposed” to learn at 4, but the joy of learning, which was what prompted my strong desire to go to school in the first place, was completely snuffed out.  I struggled with being unhappy and yet at the same time having to put forth the effort to learn new things... things that someone else had decided I needed to learn, not the things I was interested in and naturally wanted to learn about. 

(Not that I think kids should never have to learn about something they aren’t interested in, just not basic academics at 4 years old, in my opinion.  Exposing them to new ideas and skills, and playing off of what naturally interests them, is different than requiring them to learn.)

In this country since that time (mid 1970’s) kindergarten has changed dramatically.  What once was reserved for first and second grade is now being formally taught in kindergarten, and kindergarten curriculum is being pushed down into preschools.  Yes, it’s presented in fun ways, and many children love it.  But the pressure to learn is still there – not necessarily from the preschool teacher, but from parents who want proof that their children are learning and thus getting a supposed leg up on the competition.   (Yes, I know this is not all parents, but I know myself and am concerned that I could turn into that kind of parent, given the chance.)

After many conversations with my husband, I began doing some research on this crazy “later is better than earlier” idea, and I have to say, I’ve been convinced.  We have time.  Time for M to grow up at his own pace.  Time to learn to read, time to explore science and develop math skills.  Time.  He does not have to go out and get a job tomorrow.  He just needs to be happy and secure and loved right now

More tomorrow…. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fun Father’s Day Crafts

Go check out my latest post over at The Homeschool Classroom, and see the sweet little gift my husband will be getting from M for Father’s Day. :)

Here’s a sneak peek:Father's Day Gift
Have a beautiful day! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mama’s craft time – A Silhouette for Father’s Day

 june 4 2011 036 

I’ve been meaning to do this project ever since M was a little guy.  Finally I’ve gotten around to it, and it is going to make a fabulous Father’s Day gift!

I remember my Kindergarten teacher doing this with all of her students (what a patient woman she must have been!).  She used an overhead projector, and had each child stand in front of it in order to cast their shadows on the wall. She had large pieces of black paper taped to the wall and she traced the shadows onto them.  My memory is a little fuzzy about how exactly she traced the shadows onto the paper, but I remember standing very still and how absolutely adorable the finished pieces were, and how much my parents ooh-ed and aah-ed over it. :)  I’d guess they were about 9" X 12”, finished.  I decided to make a much smaller version for my husband.

To do this with M, I first had him stand in front of a sunny window, showing his profile, and snapped a quick picture:silhouetteMuch, much more do-able for him than standing still for a long time!

Then I played around with it in my photo-editing software so I could see the details and have good contrast, and eventually printed it out at the size I wanted.  I had already bought little wooden plaques at Michael’s, the faces of which measure 3”x3”, so I cropped closely around M’s profile and printed the picture out at just under 3”x3”.   

I (oh, so carefully) cut out the profile, then taped it, photo-side down, to a piece of heavy weight black construction paper, and used a sharp pencil to trace around his profile, adding in eyelashes for definition of his eye area.june 4 2011 021I placed it face down, by the way, so when it was finished the opposite side would show him facing the same way as the original photo.  That’s not necessary, I guess, but somehow felt “right” to this OCD mama. ;)

I ended up (after several that weren’t turning out just right) using a craft knife for the detailed areas.june 4 2011 023

I carefully cut out his sweet little silhouette, decoupaged some patterned paper to my wood pieces, then decoupaged on the silhouette.  I finished it all off with 3 coats of clear varnish.

june 4 2011 031 

june 4 2011 036 

june 4 2011 026 They are a little shiny because the sealer hadn’t dried yet. 
I just couldn’t wait to take pictures!

Sweet, no?  I made one for myself while I was at it because I know the one for Daddy will be going to his office.  And then I made one for my parents.  I’m on a roll, anyone else want one?  Heehee. ;) 

If I do this again in the future, I will probably go with a larger size as the detail areas were really hard to get right.  Overall though, I really enjoyed this mama-craft! 

Have a beautiful day! :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Books of the Week – June 4, 2011

The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper:
I remember loving this story as a child, and was a bit disappointed when M picked a version with newer illustrations.  However, after reading this a couple of times the new illustrations grew on me, and M definitely loves them.  He also fell in love with the story, and I hear him occasionally saying “I think I can, I think I can” as he rides his bike. :)

Shark Vs. Train, by Chris Barton:I first learned of this book when reading this excellent post over at Little Sprout Books.  It sounded like one M would like, so we picked it up at a recent trip to the library.  This book has really sparked his imagination, he loves to look through it on his own and think about the outcomes of a variety of situations.   

The Turtle and the Hippopotamus, by Kate Banks:This is a cute rebus story, something M has not had a lot of exposure too.  He enjoyed this, but I think having to remember what he was supposed to say for each symbol as we went along kept him from really enjoying the story.  The story is super-cute, so if you get this one, I’d suggest reading the story in the normal way the first time through, then trying it rebus-style.

Shrinking Mouse, by Pat Hutchins:We adore almost all of Pat Hutchins’ books.  The illustrations appeal to me, and I think to M too.  This book is all about perspective – how objects farther away look small, and nearby objects look large.  This has led to some great conversations and games in our family. :)

Read about more children’s books at these link-ups:

Have a beautiful day! :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Craft Time – Ascension of the Lord

Today is the 40th day of Easter (which is a 50 day season), and marks the end of the 40 days that Jesus spent on Earth after His resurrection.  This is the day He ascended into heaven! 
This morning M and I read the Bible story about the ascension and then did a quick craft to make it more memorable.  The craft was inspired by this post at Catholic Icing – I just changed it up a little bit.
 june 2011 006Look at the supplies, not the messy art table!
Paper or styrofoam cup, yarn, needle, hole punch, markers, cotton balls, glue, cardstock sun shape, and a small picture of Jesus.  You could use a magazine cutting of Jesus glued to cardstock or find a picture online.  We shrunk a coloring book picture on our scanner and printed it out on cardstock.  You want your Jesus picture to be small enough to “hide” inside the cup.
1. Color your cup blue, and color your sun and picture of Jesus.june 2011 010
2. Glue cotton balls around the top and bottom of your cup.june 2011 012 
3. Punch a hole at the top and bottom of your sun, and a hole above Jesus’ head (we glued on an extra strip of cardstock to the back of Jesus so there was room for a hole above his head).
4. Thread your yarn through the holes in the sun, down through the bottom of the cup (we used an embroidery needle to thread the yarn through the cup), and through the hole above Jesus’ head.   
5. Tie a loop above the sun, large enough to hand on a door knob, if you wish.june 2011 016
6. Tie a knot where the yarn goes through the cup, so it rests on the outside of the cup.june 2011 017
7. Tie a knot through the hole above Jesus.june 2011 015
There you go!  You can pull the sun to make Jesus “rise” into the sky and be hidden behind the clouds:june 2011 021
june 2011 022 
Cute, simple, and fun to play with! :)
First Friday Link Up
Have a beautiful day! :)


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