Hey! Where Did Childhood go? My Kindergarten Freak Out…

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OH praise the heavens!!!  I am no longer freaking out about kindergarten options for my son. Partly because I am just numb with freaking out at this point, but also because we lucked out and got into a small ( just starting up) charter school close to work, that uses responsive classroom and will have curriculum written by folks from the RI Writing Project, a place I used to work at and love during my undergrad college years. But honestly, the best part of it for me is that 4 other kids that my son is already friends with are also going to attend.

old fashioned messy childhood...

old fashioned messy childhood…

Now, I know that being a teacher means that I might be super picky about schooling options for my children…  but I surprised myself  by what did and didn’t get included in the equation.

I didnt freak out :

-my kid generally attending a full school day, (he has been in full time childcare of a couple years now)

-Peers, making friends

-academic readiness ( kids get it when they get it…)

BUT, what  did freak out about was 2 things:

– No playtime ( 15 min of recess ALL day)

-Testing starting in November!

This hit me in my gut, this no play time thing, because what I assumed everyone knew was that children learn through play! Not to mention that everyone seems to be talking about the plague of childhood obesity, not enough time in the outdoors, too much screen time, ect… I just didn’t think our public schools would also be contributing to these national problems… I innocently assumed that attending elementary school today would be like when I attended elementary school in the early 1990s… oh silly me!

my dream treehouse…ahhh the '90's :)

my dream treehouse…ahhh the ’90’s 🙂

Even some of our much coveted alternative charter schools were only offering 15 min of recess ALL day.  Sheeesh! Most folks remember free play time as being the main tenant of their early school years.  All this led me to ask , ” Hey! Where didnt childhood go?”

Our neighborhood library if often packed with children and pre-teens gaming on computers, yet our parks, playgrounds, backyards and side streets are silent.  not that long ago, I remember the ways my friends and I basically ran the streets in the afternoon and evening hours.  we spent time climbing trees, exploring the woods around our homes, rode bikes, played basketball.. we spent so much time outside!

will playdough go out of business?

will playdough go out of business?

Although many of us had gaming systems at home, we prefered to roam outdoors.  Some parents raise the issue of safety especially in a city- but we had the same possible dangers of traffic, strangers and peer fights, back in the 1990’s but we still played outside.  These risks are always going to be there, but the opportunity to roam, freely and independently as a young person has a short window of time.

I feel like kids are more likely to get poison ivy than in serious trouble while playing outside, but fear seems to have grabbed a hold on the almighty parent imagination. It makes me very sad to think that the days of a “free range” childhood have come to an end.  I don’t want to raise my children in a world of fear and strict boundaries.  But, what does one do when your the only household that is okay with your child roaming freely, playing outside while other parents keep their kids in impossibly busy schedule or close to home?  All these would be easier to digest if it didnt also happen to coincide with restricted outside or free play time in schools.  I cringe to think of the long term  health and social effects on this generation in the years to come.

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Other writers exploring this issue:

Why is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?       http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Freedom-to-Learn+%28Freedom+to+Learn%29

Decision to Make?  Ask your Body:  http://lauragraceweldon.com/2014/01/16/decision-to-make-ask-your-body/

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Decline in play: From   http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html

Over the past several decades, we have witnessed a continuous and, overall, dramatic decline in children’s freedom and  opportunities to play with other children, undirected by adults.  In other essays I have linked this decline to the well-documented rise in depression and anxiety among children and adolescents (here) and to the recently documented decline in creativity(here). Free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their own lives, solve their own problems, and deal effectively with fear and anger—and thereby protect themselves from prolonged anxiety and depression.

                                       Play, by definition, is always voluntary, and that means that players are always free to quit.  If you can’t quit, it’s not play.  All normal children have a strong biological drive to play with other children.   In such play, every child knows that the others can quit at any time and will quit if they are not happy.  Therefore, to keep the fun going, each child is motivated to keep the other children happy.  To do that, children must listen to one another, read into what they are saying, and, in general, get into one another’s mind so as to know what the other wants and doesn’t want.  If a child fails at that and consistently bullies others or doesn’t take their views into account, the others will quit, leaving the offending child alone.  This is powerful punishment that leads the offender to try harder next time to see from others’ points of view.  Thus, in their social play, children continuously practice and build upon their abilities to empathize, negotiate, and cooperate.

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more on the cognitive benefits of play:     http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html

What do you think?

 

 

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