Saturday, July 31, 2010

Child Life Refuges

We have all heard of wildlife refuges and the good they bring to plants and animals. We need more refuges for wildlife.

We need more refuges for child life.

The time and spaces for childhood are disappearing as quickly as wildlife wetlands of the once-wild west.

Children, like wildlife, need refuges from our crazed, rushed, and harried world.

Television, the Internet, car-shattered communities, video games, cell phones, and fractured families have changed the world so much that childhood is going extinct.

We are "adulterating" children.

Educational reforms under the current and the previous administrations are transforming kindergartens across the country into mean, but efficient, little literacy/numeracy mills. Kids learn to read and do numbers earlier than ever before, but these achievements have taken a tragic toll: long lessons in reading and math have displaced the time and play and places it takes for children to learn how to care, how to share, how to create beauty, and how to show kindness.

We urgently need to create child-life refuges. We need places where children and all visitors feel completely safe and deeply happy.

We need places where children learn all about kindness and caring. About wonder and beauty and mystery. We need free time for our children in our free country. For we sadly misunderstand freedom if we think it only means the freedom to get rich.

We need places where children know how to honor their feelings. We need places where children are encouraged and guided to cultivate pro-social behaviors of kindness, generosity, compassion, and empathy. We need time to practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.  We need time to notice how happy they feel when we do kind and beautiful things.

For kindness and beauty are fertile wellsprings of happiness.

We need refuges from our stingy “free market” world. Children need many opportunities to learn deeply that sharing is more important and happier than owning. Too many adults grow up without knowing this. Our society is turning out a lot of "good" consumers as seen from the view of free marketeers, but we're a miserable and lonely bunch.

We need kindergarten refuges where clocks are absent and patience is present and abundant.

We need places where painting and singing and dancing and planting seeds and cleaning up after oneself are the first order of business, not subjects sneaked into the schedule on the sly between bully reading and math lessons.

I do not want to live in a world where only a privileged few are allowed to experience childhood.

We need, in other words, quality public kindergartens as they existed not too long ago. Real KINDERgartens where a a child's happiness and social development is firmly front and center.

A kindergarten like this is what I seek to create in my classroom for my students, for me, and for my community.

How I go about creating a KINDERgarten that honors safety, happiness, and kindness will be the focus of my next few posts.


HGrima said...

I couldn't agree more! I am thrilled that Sam's first teacher is so passionate about teaching our children... but more importantly... letting them remain children.

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you for leaving a comment! I'm glad to have parent support in allowing, no, supporting children to experience a full and unhurried childhood. Rushing people through childhood makes no sense to me at all.

Diane Henderson from said...

Bravo! For speaking out. and...
Wow! You have touched my heart. :-)
I agree with you 110%.

This is my 11th year teaching Y5's and I am so tired of the government handing down standards that are NOT age appropriate.

Childhood is a journey to be enjoyed not a destination to be accomplished at the speed of light, missing all the exquisite milestones along the way.

Whatever happened to enjoying nature walks and experiencing wonder and awe?

I teach my little ones the way you do.
My number one priority is building their self-esteem and turning them into "Can do kids" who have a love of learning.

Children need to explore the world around them with hands-on activities, where every day is an exciting "magical" adventure, showing them that learning is fun.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Diane, thanks for leaving this comment. I'll be posting soon more about safety as the first dimension of creating "Child Life Refuges."