Thursday, March 19, 2020

There Are Plenty of Things to Worry About Right Now: Your Preschooler's Education is Not One of Them

Increasingly it's looking like our children aren't going back to their schools until, at best, May, but quite possibly not until the fall. The world is in crisis, but let me assure you, it's not an educational crisis. We are confronting a health crisis, an economic crisis, a mental health crisis, and even a child care crisis, all of which will leave holes in our society that will take years to refill. But when it comes to the education of our preschoolers, we can and should relax.

Young children were built for this. Young children are the masters of learning from whatever life throws at them. Indeed, from the perspective of a typical preschooler, getting to stay home with the family might be the best thing that's ever happened. Oh sure, right now it might be hard. Right now the kids might be going a bit bonkers, but give it another week or so. Give your family a chance to find a rhythm. Soon the novelty of not having to separate from mom and dad each morning will begin to wear off and you'll get a better sense of your new normal. 

For many parents it's not possible, but those who can, I invite you to step away from your computer, hang up the phone, and just let your child climb all over you. Talk to them for as long as they want to talk. Snuggle as much as they want to snuggle. Play Candyland or read that favorite book, or listen to that special song over and over. Let your child know that for the foreseeable future they don't have to be anxious about you going anywhere. This is a time to connect deeply as families. This is important both children and adults.

It will be different for every family, but I imagine that in a week's time, most of us will find our tanks are full, that we feel satisfied, that we are, perhaps for the first time since our children headed off to their first day of preschool, able to simply relax into our relationships with one another without the nagging anxiousness about it coming to an end.

Every preschool teacher is a researcher. Now is a time for parents to become researchers as well. Instead of feeling like you need to fill their days with "enrichment," I urge you to instead simply observe them at play: no "good jobs," no unsolicited advice, no using the moment to answer email or check social media. Ask yourself, what are they teaching themselves right now? What theories stand behind their play? What are the driving questions they are trying to answer? I like to think of it as listening with all of my senses, with my full self. What will you do with the data you collect? Nothing. Be satisfied that you now know it. Better understanding our loved ones is an end unto itself.

If you do this, you will be doing what play-based educators do. You will doing what is best for both you and your child.

We're in a crisis, but it is not an educational one. There is no need for rigid schedules, desk time, drilling, or worksheets. Don't turn your home into school. Don't turn yourself into a taskmaster or games master or crafts master or whatever. Your children are already fully equipped to teach themselves and the first thing most of them will be driven to learn is how to live in this new normal. Since none of us know the answer to that question, we're in this together, learning side-by-side, with, and for one another. This is as it should be. There are plenty of things to worry about right now: your preschooler's education is not one of them.

I hate to do this, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've just had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the next 6 months. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the donation button below. Or even better, sign up for Partnering With Parents a 7-part e-course designed to help you make allies of the parents of the children you teach. Thank you!

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