Monday, April 20, 2020

Follow Their Lead

Written a month ago (and sent to me a month ago by a colleague), this essay still resonates. And yes, even though we're only five weeks into this new normal, some of what Teacher Tom says might seem outdated by now. But the overall point he makes remains true: "Young children were built for this. Young children are the masters of learning from whatever life throws at them."

I've been thinking a lot lately about what we mean when we talk about education, and I've realized that we're all talking about different things. For some, education is strictly book learning: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. For others, it's about learning how to be an important part of a family, a community, and a society. For most, it's somewhere in the vast in-between.

It's very easy to feel stressed right now. As this crisis evolves, we're given new opportunities to feel anxious almost every day. But I believe what Teacher Tom believes, and that's that our young children will come through the other end of this just fine, especially if we follow their lead. Let them show you the way; let them show you what they're ready to learn.

Eventually, I promise, they will show you that they're ready to learn their letters. But right now, in this moment, they might need to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get a stuck toy out of a tree, and might literally throw everything they've got at it. Let them do it. Don't make them stop to do something else that you think is more important. Let them find their own solution to a real-life problem. Let them flex their problem solving muscles and practice those skills in a relevant and meaningful way.

And when they come to you later, a little lost and needing a little direction, know that so much of what we have at home and do at home can provide delightful and meaningful experiences for young children.

Wash the Dishes
  • Fill the sink with soapy water, a sponge, and non-breakables and ask your child to help you wash the dishes. (motor and social-emotional skills)
Do the Laundry
  • Ask your child to separate the lights from the darks, put the detergent into the machine and push the buttons, and match the socks and fold the dishtowels. (motor, language, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills)
Set the Table
  • Give your child the job of setting the table every day for every meal. Even if they're too young to carry plates, they can still put out the placemats, fold the napkins, and count the forks. (motor, numeracy, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills)


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