Thursday, September 11, 2008

They Won’t Be 20 and Not Know Their ABCs

I’ve been in play group circles where the discussion among the moms was nothing more than a “one-up” feast for ravenous egomaniacs. Where the talk was all about what their little one had accomplished since the last time we had all been together. Only a week ago. First crawler. First walker. First babbler. First to be potty-trained. First to solve Cantor’s Theorem. Let me be clear about something. I hated this. I have since emancipated myself from this circle where the moms placed a tremendous burden on their children to accomplish sooner, quicker, better so that their own identity as a “successful” mother can be stroked. Hell, I’m surprised I hadn’t been expelled for being an under-achiever.

One of the burning topics among this group of women was preschool education. After all, getting that notch of early reader on their child’s forehead FIRST would be a monumental mark of (their own) achievement. So, their search was on for the BEST preschool with the MOST QUALIFIED teachers and the HIGHEST academic reputation. No one but a person with graduate school level teaching credentials would qualify to indoctrinate their little poop buckets.

Don’t throw a book at me. I’m not anti-education. Far from it. I’m all for education. Education that’s appropriate for your child, not your ego. When educational choices are made based on the child, and not anyone’s self-aggrandizing motives, I think the sky is the limit. Pushing your child to achieve, achieve, achieve at such an early age is not about marking your child’s success, but your own.

Braedyn will be an “old 5” going into Kindergarten, meaning he’s just missed the birthday cutoff to start this Fall. Emily will be the same way. And to that I say, “HOORAY!” I’m in no hurry to push them into academia. They have their whole lives to hit the books. Right now it’s about being a kid. To me my children’s appropriate education consists of:

  • Learning to listen.
  • Figuring out which bugs to stay away from and those that are ok to chase down and put in a bug cage.
  • Deciding who is cooler, Spiderman or Batman.
  • Learning to be kind to others.Including each other.
  • Figuring out JUST how much dirt a diaper will hold before it’s time to evacuate the sand box.
  • Learning to say please and thank you.
  • Realizing that sprinklers are not scary and are actually FUN to run through.
  • Figuring out which markers come off of the skin in the bathtub and those that don’t. OK, this one is for MY education!
  • Learning to take turns.
  • Learning to be quiet in the library, or at least MOSTLY quiet.
  • Learning to blow their own noses. And wipe their own bums.
  • Learning to Stop. Look. Listen. before crossing the street.
  • Learning that a little vinegar in a load of wash will help eradicate the smell of pee. Oops, again, that one’s for me.
  • Learning to steer clear of the big gaping holes in park play structures so mom doesn’t have a coronary.
  • Learning that rock trumps scissors.

Greg and I read to Emily and Braedyn every day. At least twice a day. It’s part of our routine, and it’s fun. They love it, and for us it is usually a marker that they are going to bed soon and we’re going to get some eagerly anticipated adult time. They are picking up things at their own pace. If they ask about something, we talk about it. If they want to sing the ABCs, then we sing them.

My point? My children will not be in their twenties and not know their ABCs. They may however be in their twenties and forget how fun it is to run through a sprinkler. And that’s a lesson I think some people need to learn.


  1. here here! I'll lift my juice box to that. . . I mean glass of wine.

  2. you go girl. My mom had the same philosophy and I'm so glad! My earliest memories are of playing on the farm where I grew up and being a kid. I plan to raise my kids the same exact way.

  3. Your argument is good, but my worry stems from my own personal experience as a "bookworm" kid. I was a total mid-range 5 when I started Kindergarten, and from K-5 I was bored, bored, BORED. My teacher usually had to think of something for me to do on my own. Oftentimes this came in the form of tutoring other students in my class, which only made me bored AND frustrated. I am determined to get M. (a September child) into Kindergarten at 4 not because I want to deny her happy moments of childhood but because I don't want her to be bored at school, which she will be if it isn't a challenge. And it WON'T be a challenge if she is nearly 6 when she enters Kindergarten! Husband and I are both adamant on this point, but we are constantly being told by people that we would be better off holding M. back...SO frustrating!