Protecting Childhood

Baby is 18 months now, so naturally it’s time to start planning and prepping for school right? As we begin to move closer to the two year old stage, people just expect we have full plans established on schooling, pre-schooling, saving for college, and getting our little genius ahead of all the other kids.

Does he know his colors? Does he know his shapes? Can he count at all yet? You know it’s never to early to start working on his letters and spelling his name.

Am I the only one that just wants everyone to chill the heck out?!

And before I get another lecture on how I’m not a planner, let me just get it out there.. I’m a huge planner.  I don’t take pride in it because there’s another thing you can call it…a control freak. I live my life trying to keep my planning in check. The reality is, God is in control, not me, and my planning typically robs God of credit, builds my anxiety, and prevents me from living humbly by faith in his perfect plan.  So I try to have ideas not plans.  We have established and idea of how we want to school, but ultimately our plan is God’s plan and we don’t know where he will take us.  Just because we may not have definitive plans like everyone else, we still  do care about our kids education. We have ideas. We aren’t flippant at all with it, but we’re definitely attacking it differently than the world.

As we are apparently rounding the curve to preschool, I find my protective mama bear arms wrapping tighter and tighter around Danny’s sweet little childhood, and everything in me is bucking and fighting anything that may rob him of those precious quiet early years.  Right now we’re in the early years where life is quiet.  Not quiet in the sense of the sound, I mean he’s a 18 month old boy, let’s not be delusional, but quiet in the simplicity of life. We’re in the stage where we don’t have to do anything.  No sports. No activities. No school. No have-to playdates.  And he’s fine with it.  He can be perfectly happy with a dryer ball and empty box, add in a roll of packing paper and you’ve made his day.

These days won’t last.  Someday he will need friends and we will have things going on.  Those days will come so I’m not going to rush them.  Someday I will look back and miss the days when all we have to do is build block towers on the rug or chase the chickens.  I can cut off these precious years at two, put him in school and start drilling him on his numbers, but why push it?  The gain of writing his name by three means we sacrificed something along the way.  Am I willing to sacrifice his childhood to be ahead in kindergarten?  Push him now so he can get more gold stars and smiley faces than little Johnny? Is it all really worth it in the long run?

A year ago I didn’t have much of an opinion on when to start school.  I figured we’d slowly ease into it as years went on, but as I am watching this overdrive in our culture to be “ahead,” to think you can’t be successful if you aren’t reading and speaking three languages by three, to push and push and push our kids until they are burnt out by five with no love of learning and shattered curiosity, I am fighting it all full force.

Right now, we plan to not start school until Danny is 6.  Gasp! Yeah, I know, we’ve gone completely insane.

The kid loves learning, exploring, tinkering, and can sit and read books for 45 minutes. He’s fine. He goes to BSF twice a week, which is run better than any preschool I’ve seen, is developmentally appropriate, AND teaching him God’s word.  That’s plenty.  We count eggs every day.  I draw and write with him and we read book after book after book.  We play, explore, discuss, and learn together every day as we just live life.  It is the joy of childhood.  We walk through the woods and I tell him the names of the birds and point our their different calls.  He loves mimicking the chickadees and woodpeckers. We dig in the dirt, plant flowers, and have our veggies already growing.  He picks the herbs and sniffs them and we talk about the types of flowers and colors, while he stuffs them into his pockets.  By fall he will know the different fruits and veggies, how to water them, how to pick them, and what they taste like.  He’s learning so much. We don’t need flashcards and worksheets, or classes, because this is his short precious time to just explore life.

He’s learning, always learning.  We forget to give kids credit for that.

In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air.

Charlotte Mason {Vol. 1, p. 44}

So yes, my chid will not start kindergarten at four knowing all his numbers and letters, but in the scheme of life does that really matter?  Yes he needs to learn to read and write, but there’s no research showing that kids who learn at 6 are at any great disadvantage over the kids who learned at 4.  Hopefully as we continue to encourage and build his curiosity he will naturally take an interest in learning his numbers and letters, but I’d rather wait and have a natural interest than burn him out.

Just because there isn’t a great way to measure his learning doesn’t mean it isn’t happening right now, and if I want measure and base my success as a mother/educator on his performance, then I should just put him in school.

The resourcefulness which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the length of a summer’s day is worth more in after life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes and hexagons, and this comes, not of continual intervention on the mother’s part, but of much masterly inactivity.

Charlotte Mason {Vol. 1, p. 193}

I know we’re the weird ones, but I’m sure there are other likeminded moms out there, wondering if they too are crazy.

It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.

Charlotte Mason {Vol. 1, p. 61}

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