Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The one where I babble on and on and don't really get to the point... if indeed there is one

Right. Having a major U-Turn here. I don't know if it's my hormones or what but I have decided to halt all "learning". I don't want to teach him to read yet. I don't think I'm going to start any maths yet. I am not going to get any workbooks. I couldn't care less if he finishes off the alphabet. WHAT WAS I ON?

In my (subconscious) quest to "prove" to people (and myself) that I *can* teach my son, and that he *can* learn, and that I am *not* useless (... still working on that ... hm... what exactly does one have to do qualify to be placed in the "useful" bracket given that I don't cook, my house is a mess and I scream at my kids all day??!) and life *has* a purpose I have been intent on getting him reading (WTM) and counting with a maths-readiness push-cum-shove type approach. As a result he knows the sounds of most letters nad is eagerly trying to blend words; he can count up to twenty - OK some times when he is tired we get "onety-one" or "five-teen" but he can count. He can count in Arabic and knows some Arabic letters too. We do rod work. Tangrams are impsy. But so what. What exactly is the point to all this? Has our life improved because of these great accomplishments? Is he happier?

It hit me after I read this article (thanks Khadijah):

In the Waldorf approach, reading and writing are introduced in first
grade, starting with the letters; then children learn to read at the
end of first grade, from what they have written. The letters are
introduced imaginatively, through a story and a drawing in which the
letter can be found in one of the figures that starts with that sound
(for example, the letter "k" might be illustrated by a King who is
standing sideways, with scepter raised, blessing his subjects.).

Sitting children down and teaching them to write the letters and to
read when they are four or five uses a kind of intellectual energy
that Steiner indicates is still needed in early childhood for the
healthy formation of the internal organs. The baby teeth are the last
to be "re-formed," and when they are pushed out by the adult teeth, it
is a sign that this process has reached a point where the energy is
now free for learning—although still imaginatively, not in a dull,
rote fashion. Neuropsychologists also recognize this same rapid
proliferation of brain cells around age 6-7 (as reported by Jane
Healy, Ph.D. in Your Child's Growing Mind).

In addition to potentially weakening a child's later health, early
academics also wake the him or her up prematurely. This awakening
comes naturally around age 7, but when it is rushed—as it can be with
bright children—they lose a couple of years of the imaginative,
creative realm of early childhood without gaining anything in terms of
being better readers at grade 5. And many children simply lack the
eye-hand coordination and the ability to sit still for lessons, so
they are labeled as having learning problems that wouldn't exist if
teachers waited until the children were developmentally ready for
reading and writing.

What about the bright child, who is eager to learn? My suggestion is
always to relate with enthusiasm and anticipation ("When you go to the
big school, you'll learn that," or "Next year we'll be studying all
the letters and their stories at home."). But I wouldn't sit down with
a five-year-old and start lessons just because she wanted to learn to
write. Many times teaching a child to write his or her name is enough
to satisfy their desire, before they are on to other interests. And
the really smart ones will learn to read from the STOP signs while
driving or through osmosis from being around an older sibling.

The guiding principle according to Steiner is not to address the
intellect directly in early childhood. Children up until the age of
six or seven need to be in movement, learning through movement games
and through play and expressing themselves through the arts, not
sitting at desks tracing letters and numbers, memorizing math sums, or
learning to read. This makes Waldorf out of step with the mainstream
push to teach reading and writing at ever younger ages, but the
results are fewer reading problems and children who love reading real
books, rather than becoming burnt out on years of simple readers.

that I'm getting it all wrong. He doesn't play with imagination and I don't encourage him to because I've been so programmed into thinking that something worthwhile is quantifiable, verifiable, solid and progressive that I've gone down the road I swore I'd protect him from - I've subconsciously inculcated school-at-home. Argh! It's consumerism at the learning level. Bits of plastic and paper to "learn" everything from. Why don't I just buy him a uniform and make him wear it everyday?

So we've done an abrupt stop. The plastic is going OUT. No more closed-ended toys which dictates the play. Going for natural products, obviously wood, and things which involve the imagination as the vital ingredient to bring it to life - replacing the battery. We have leaves and twigs, and stones and scarves. Yes it sounds poncey doesn't it. Well guess what. It doesn't matter. Yellow hexagons are bananas - and you don't need to buy him bananas to make the point. A twig can be a sail or a barrier or a gate or anything. A car can only ever be a car. He's using his imagination.

We are not bothering to "learn" anything. So what. He has his entire life to read but only a few years to enjoy being a child. I do not want to have a forty year old midget for a son - I want a four year old boy who does all the things four year olds are supposed to do, and up yours if you don't like it. One more dirty look from a Next-clad lip-glossed uberbabe in a John Lewis lift because Boss had the audacity to jump, make a noise or try to tickle your child with result in me speaking my mind. I am fed up of having to say "sorry" that my son isn't a middle-aged man; "sorry" he is four; "sorry" he thinks pulling hair is funny. Get over it. He is four - let him enjoy it.

And wood - do you know, I noticed yesterday that even when our wooden toys are all over the floor it just makes the floor look so beautiful. Which cannot be said of the plastic crap currently discolouring on the shelves.

Didn't really have a point all that did it?


At 8:19 pm, Blogger milkmumma said...

oh lovely!
i'm vibing right there with you sister.
lol in joy.

btw, my verification for this comment is
osnuczfg - perhaps we can use this word - i like it a lot.

At 8:45 pm, Blogger merry said...

Mine is lewbju.

I went through this; part of what i liked about the montessori approach was the natural stuff that included learning. Eventually i figured out my girls didn't want that either and went more for the Charlotte Mason "nothing much before age 7" approach. Like that better.

Mind you, they all have fabulously inventive imaginations with Barbies and ponies and goodness knows what. None of them go much on natural ;)

At 1:39 am, Blogger Hannah said...

Mine don't do the wooden toy bit either, but that's the perfect thing. All children are different. There's no one way to raise a child and no need to feel defensive or even persuasive about your own choices and opinions. What works between you and yours is most important.

I love homeschooling.

Sub'HanAllah my word ver is 'azllh'

At 9:23 am, Blogger Qalballah said...

what do you mean yours dont "do" natural?? What would they have done 100 years ago - refused to play with anything until plastic was invented??

Boss doesnt play with anythng natural either but I suspect that is more to do with the fact that I cave in and buy plastic crap all too often. Plastic is just ugly. It makes the house look ugly. And I dont need help in that department.

I have seen an improvement in his play now I have given him open-ended props and reduced the debris of non-essential rubbish. I think one thing I am going to insist on is that no matter what a toy is made from it has to be beautiful - and so much of it isnt.

At 9:34 am, Blogger milkmumma said...

it took mine about 6 months to a year to detox properly. they still have plastic construction, but i do not like it lying around. i have *clothes* to do that job!
am having the same issue now with neef's dolls.i'd rather spend more on a beautiful thing than tacky placky. time and a place for everything. i am trying to make the place not my house.
insha'Allah, slowly, slowly as the aunties always say.!

At 12:38 pm, Blogger Hannah said...

If they lived 100 years ago I'd have them slaving away in the kitchen with me LOL.

Of course they play with what's avaliable. I just don't want to spend a small fortune on wooden toys, however wistfully I look at them, because they are not drawn to play with them at all. And I don't think it says much about a toy when you have to get rid of everything else before they will play with it. I think I do have open ended toys, some wooden, blocks train and road set. Plastic lego and duplo and K'nex. I don't do Barbie or anything of the like. They do have a 'baby' each which was bought for them but as they only give them a small portion of time I really don't worry about that. Mainly they love their drawing, colouring, creating with paper spirograph and crimping. and they have a load of fabric in the dressing up box so that they can use it however they please. I don't have anything that they don't play with a LOT, I would just chuck it. And I don't have any concerns about their play...they do it naturally.

At 2:38 pm, Blogger Qalballah said...

Its not that I am getting rid of the plastic toys so he will play with the wooden, I am getting rid of the plastic because most of it is ugly. And yes children *are* drawn to blinking lights and sirens and spinning wheels in pretty much the same fashion as they are drawn to chocolate over cabbage. That may say a lot for cabbage or it may say a lot of humanity who prefer junk food over good food and easy entertainment over thinking outside the box for themselves. Most humans choose the easy path and that's not always the best thing. So just as I don't let Boss choose his own meals I'm not going to be letting him pick his own toys all that often either. Duplo is staying. He *gets* that now, but I am going to be firm with family in that 'please don't bring just ANYTHING for the sake of buying him something - make sure its beautiful at least'.

And pricing. I used to agree with you on that but I now see it this way: over the last three-nearly-four years we, as a family on whole, have spent a small fortune on plastic toys. Some was cheap and some was quite expensive. It was bought bit by bit and largely we didn't see any gaping hole in our pockets. But added up altogether it's a lot. Most of it lies broken. A *large* chunk of it I had to give away as I didn't have the room anymore. It would have been wiser had I have thought it through to have bought a choice number of wooden toys which will last and last rather than the gross weight of plastic which has been discarded. THe price would have been comparable. A little but good quality is better than a lot but disrespected. And you can fix wood - you can't really with plastic :)

At 6:54 pm, Blogger Jax said...

I like wood :)

I do like baby dolls though - and both my children, boy and girl play with them pretty much endlessly. And duplo, and over the last two days, a large cardboard box. Imagination rules supreme!

My younger one picked up a play shoe the other day (nasty tacky thing that I hate, Big was given a couple of years ago on her birthday) and used it as a phone. Some kids will bend the rules however they can, others are more literal.

Must remember to read your blog more often.

tbrnnw as we're sharing.

At 8:06 pm, Blogger Qalballah said...

Read my blog - it makes me feel like someone is listening to my babble. Cardboard boxes work here a lot too. If I had the room I'd have more!


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