My dear friend came over yesterday and while our children played we were just talking. She mentioned some of her experiences whilst tutoring children in German, her native language, and commented that some of the brightest, most academic, most verbal boys were also “the most difficult to work with” within a tutoring situation. When I queried her further, she said she felt that these boys, while often very bright, were often VERY behind in other areas, including understanding of boundaries and personal space, manners, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. (Oh, but they can read! They have read since they were three!)
Donna Simmons just wrote this insanely good post about boundaries on her blog, have you all read it? Here is the link in case you haven’t yet:
This is an excellent reminder of what so many parents are doing with their children in our society (and not doing) and boundaries are there throughout all of our lives.
To me, this inability of children to deal with boundaries of which my friend was speaking, (which, by the way, I see more and more of), is directly tied into the lack of rhythm of the early years in children under 7 where no boundaries are set. The Early Years are the foundation for the rest of life. Bedtime is when the child is over- tired. Naptime may or may not happen. Meals and snacks are a different time each day. Caregivers may be different with the rotation of the small child from room to room in daycare as they mature and grow. Instead of being firmly entrenched at home, the small child is more and more likely to be going to the mall, the play area at the mall, out to lunch, and on every errand.
Instead of placing importance of the small child learning boundaries, becoming rhythmical, being rested and fed whole foods, living in their bodies and experiencing things through their senses, we place the emphasis on “Have they started preschool yet? Do they know their numbers and letters?” If this is so beneficial for the long run, why is the United States behind other countries in academic indicators as the grades progress? I had a dear Dutch neighbor who was amazed at the things her daughter learned here in the United States in the second and third grade and remarked that some of the things her child was learning was not taught until much later, sometimes in the SEVENTH grade, in the Netherlands. If our emphasis on academic prowess in the early years and the early grades is so wonderful, why do we have such a high rate of ADD/ADHD, why do we see so many school-aged children who are having health issues related to stress, why do we see so many teenagers who are battling that feeling of “I have already done it all, I know everything, I have seen it all”?
I feel the problems we are seeing in the areas of boundaries with small children who are oh –so -smart and who can chatter incessantly oh- so -well has to do with our direct inability as a society to set boundaries with our children.
We seem to have lost as a whole in our society the ability to distinguish the need to set boundaries that will keep the child a small child. Instead, a small child is enmeshed in an adult world, with adult ideas and explanations and adult hurrying.
Instead of letting the child be a small child, and realizing that a first, second, and third grader is still small and there is time to learn certain advanced concepts when the child is ready, there is this notion that if we start early and we just practice enough and repeat it enough, the child will get it! Yes, the child may memorize it –but does it feed the child’s soul? does it speak to the child and the level of experience the child has? Does it relate to what is in the child’s everyday life that they know? Oh, hang developmental and physiological maturation anyway, we must know better than Mother Nature and our Creator, right?
This is one of the absolute major hang-ups I have with The Well-Trained Mind for the Early Grades – and my problem with it is not the idea that the child won’t enjoy the stories of ancient history, because they probably will. They will probably enjoy spending time with you and listening to whatever you have to say! But they probably will enjoy fairy tales, legends, nature tales just as much and take these truths into their souls more than just the story of how someone said it was some time ago. Again, I think that learning some of these concepts early is just a symptom of the “expose the child early enough, drill it through several different times through the educational process and it will eventually stick” that we are seeing everywhere…….But does this lead to creativity and problem-solving that the technical nature of our society requires now and will require even more in the future? As a science person, these are the questions that keep me up at night.
I hear parents worry about the academic rigorousness of Waldorf. Waldorf education IS academically rigorous, at least in my household, but it is RESPECTFUL of where the child is. Who says first grade should be as academically rigorous as the tenth grade? This makes no common sense at all. The things that are laid out in the Waldorf curriculum will have more impact and more meaning on their lives than other methods, and yes, Virginia, you can still get in all your academic concepts through the wonderful stories and art and movement in the Waldorf curriculum. There are still matters of grammar, punctuation, writing, math, learning to play music, art, and all those other skills in the early grades in Waldorf. That perceived pink bubble of Waldorf kindergarten does not last forever! But that to me, is more where a small child SHOULD be!
And maybe, if we focus on the whole picture, the whole child, the idea of what a child needs outside of academics to function in our society, then we will be on to something.
Spend some time thinking about boundaries in your family. Are the boundaries of people respected in your house? What is done for the good of the whole family? If someone has a need for rest, is this respected? How about the ability to finish a sentence without interruption? Is your child learning manners, learning reverence, learning gratitude, experiencing things through their bodies and their senses? Boundaries are things children are learning over time, with GENTLE and LOVING guidance – they don’t happen overnight! But they are every bit as important, if not more so, than the whole notion of being able to decode a symbol on a page at an early age.
So much for my rant of the day,