Monthly Archives: February 2013

Math & Music

Science education can happen by attraction; it doesn’t always have to be instruction. On Monday, some lucky preschoolers will find these on the table.

Mason jars, water, food-coloring … Light, color, sound, music.

math_music

The colors of the rainbow are both pretty and a pattern. The varying quantities of liquid are a pattern and produce different sounds.

math_music2

Play/Work

A beautiful picture of a community of adults, playfully passing skills to a child: she participates in the building of a critical piece of beach infrastructure near her home in France. At home the child replays the exercise on a smaller scale.

Though on the surface this looks like simple fun, we see that play is how children learn, and that play is a child’s work — through play, children internalize skills, find success, and learn confidence.

When patient and playful parents enter into a child’s world, they give the gift of affirmation to a child, along with all the benefits of play listed above. The lucky child is in this way encouraged and emboldened to risk more excursions into the adult world with all its challenges.

To put it another way, when we adults are willing to get down on the floor to play with children, those children will be better able to rise up and work with us.

Attachment 101

Attachment Parenting

When we set out on the parenting journey in the early 90’s, Anghelika was studying early childhood education at Pasadena City College, and we read books like William Sears’ excellent Nighttime Parenting. We learned about “attachment parenting”, though we did not have nearly the understanding of it that we do now. We might have summed up this approach by describing our family bed. … We knew that it had to do with allowing our child to decide when she needed to be near us, and then responding according to her needs (young children are selfish, and appropriately so). Allowing our child to come to us on her schedule would ultimately encourage her to explore ‘separateness’ with more confidence and courage.

In subsequent years, we’ve seen lots of parents raise lots of kids, and while attachment parenting is now widely practiced, we have at times seen a kind of reduced version of attachment at work: as practiced it can look more like ‘possession’ or ‘unfailing provision”. The mother that thinks attachment means ‘keeping their child close’, or that they must ‘meet all their child’s needs’, even before the child asks, is misunderstanding how attachment really works, and risks short-circuiting a child’s healthy development.

We have a lot to say about this subject and will cover the topic in subsequent posts, but today we want to say one important thing about attachment: attachment and separateness go together.

Good attachment doesn’t just lead to good separation, it requires it. How a parent allows their child to be apart from them is a critical part of healthy attachment. A child has periods of drawing close and seeking attention, and also has periods of drawing apart and …seeking nothing. These quiet times, or empty times, are necessary for a child to learn the boundaries of their own experience as an individual. When a parent interrupts such quiet times, it’s often to meet their own needs, not the child’s.

When children are ready to walk, it would be disastrous to carry them everywhere. In the same way, when a child is ready to explore alone, or simply to be alone, it would be a disaster to never let them exercise that muscle … to develop inner responses to the world as themselves. A parent’s intrusion on this process, imposing our meaning instead of letting a child find meaning themselves, can short circuit a child’s development.

… stay tuned for more on attachment.

Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep, by William Sears, MD

Admissions Anxiety

It’s that time of year—when students anxiously await word from the prestigious schools they’ve applied to ….

This week, a mother came into the preschool in tears. Her child had just been interviewed for admission into kindergarten. She sat with an administrator who listed all of the ways that her son failed to measure up to the standards of this great school. Standards that included writing his name, knowing the alphabet, knowing his home phone number. This is half-way through his first year of preschool. “It takes a lot to make me cry,” she tells us.

Of course, from the school’s perspective, this is all easily explained, and a parent would be foolish not to see the writing on the wall. If my child is not prepared for kindergarten, they will be behind from the beginning. Other children, ahead of the curve, will get more attention and affirmation from teachers and my child will be slowly left behind. The downward spiral starts now: my child is doomed. Might as well get used to being at the bottom of the heap.

This mother (who is not given to these kinds of extremes, thankfully) said they never asked what her child’s interests are. They might have learned that he’s been to sixteen of California’s missions, and could give a history lesson. They didn’t learn how well he does sitting attentively in circle-time, and if they had asked they might have realized that while he does not have certain facts in hand, he is ready and eager to learn.

It gives us hope to hear that mom was asked by an administrator at another school (she has applied to seven) to share three things that make her son special. That’s more like it.

Perspective

 a rare perspectiveYes it’s a rare moment, and no, these two did not always sit in quiet, reverent meditation. But we like the picture of two children looking out and having their own moment. We have a kind of reverence for the attention that children give to anything. And, we think that such a moment should not be interrupted except for a really good reason.

Academic Anxiety

We parents want the best for our kids, right? When we put them in school we want the experience to be positive, and we want our child to excel. The good news is that the simple experience of moving through the school year almost always prepares a child for what comes next: they get smarter and find social situations easier.

The bad news is that our anxiety about our children’s success always defaults to academics. We worry about giving them an advantage for future academic challenges, and that leads to our desire to have more academics now. This is a erosive trend. If we always press to get our children ahead of the curve in anticipation of next year’s challenges, we will have to do more and more academic prep earlier and earlier. The logical conclusion of this trend is flash cards for infants, or beaming lessons into the womb with strap-on speakers, or maybe a little something at the genetic level. Junior should have every advantage.

What’s the rush? How about instead of worrying so much about getting our children ahead before the lessons even start, we simply help them to arrive ready?

What Preschool Is For

We love preschools. We love all they give to children, and all the ways children bring their own awesome energy to new experiences. The reason to put a child in preschool is so that they can begin to learn how to be with people and understand the rhythms of group life. It is a preparation for school.

There is a common misconception that from the very beginning preschool is about sitting at the table and learning academics. It is almost never about that. In a good preschool we prepare the child for the moment when they are ready to sit down and write or count or read.