Play rather than memorize

Thanks to Elizabeth over at bleakonomy for linking to this article in the Washington Post about the importance of playtime over scheduled, formal instruction.

The quote Elizabeth pulled for her blog post is jaw-dropping:

Research has shown that by 23, people who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.

Of course academic preschool doesn’t make people felons. That isn’t the argument in the article or in my ramblings. The argument is that formal, didactic learning for young children is counter productive. They need imaginative play with other children, supervised to make sure play is a safe and rewarding experience, but not scheduled and formalized to the point that the play becomes work. Or quote-educational-unquote. (Especially major corporation educational-for-profit type play. That means you, LeapPressure, Baby Neurotic, and Fisher for Dollars.)

Because seriously? Eight times less likely to need therapy is pretty significant. Especially given the other things we’re doing to screw our kids up.

Preschool debut

Ah, Peanut had a classic, classic first day at the co-op. Major resistance getting out the door. Don’t want to eat, don’t want to dress, don’t want to go. But, little man, I know we’ve only been over this ten thousand times, so I’ll patiently explain as though it’s the first conversation we’ve ever had, that this is a school where you do self-directed play and I’ll be there the whole time if you want me. And you’ve been there three times already for tours and orientation and such and never wanted to leave. Remember? You like this place. And I’m not leaving you there alone.

Oh. Okay.

He was a bit shy when he was in the morning circle, but the very minute we broke into the huge indoor and outdoor play spaces for the daily two-hour free-for-all playtime, he made a bee line for the child who told everyone about his new top that glows when you spin it, and asked the boy if he could try it. Awesome guts, Peanut. I like that. I don’t have that, and I won’t praise it ‘cuz we’re into that whole “narrate it but don’t judge anything they do” parenting style, but I totally dig it.

He tolerated the hyper-whiny kid, he defended his territory when bigger kids wanted to play with his puzzle, he took it well when the older kids wouldn’t let him play in their fort, he successfully diapered three baby dolls by himself in the loft (from which he banned me because I’m too big), sewed four buttons on his quilt piece, ate his tuition’s worth of popcorn at the snack kitchen, read several books with me and then with his freshly nappied dolls, and build some awesome marble roller coasters.

I love watching him from a distance as though I don’t know him. He’s perfect in every way.

Especially compared to *that* kid. And *that other* kid. Thank you, E. and I. and the others of your size and approximate age who wanted to play with him and invited him into your reindeer games. You’re lovely humans.

At song time Peanut was the first to answer at each turn how many monkeys were left jumping on the bed after their ill-advised mother ignoring. And when we celebrated one five-year-old’s birthday, he told me with no hesitation that the donut hole he tried was yucky and I *had* to eat his. He pushed a little shopping cart full of basketballs for more than 30 minutes straight, running in circles until he was flush and exhausted. And five steps out of the gate after it was all done, he completely lost his ability to be a grownup.

So we went home and he threw tantrums and I offered food and he refused to wash his hands and I offered nap and he started to slam the door but collapsed into a heap at my feet and needed a long cuddle to regain any semblance of reason. And we ate and slept and he told me after nap that he would really like me to stay in my room for a while while he played quietly by himself.

“It’s all just too much, Mom. I just need my house back.”

Oh, little guy, I hear ya. Good thing I get to put you to bed soon, because I feel exactly the same.

He was brilliant, school is going to be brilliant, and being allowed to read Mill on the Floss for half an hour while my small creature plays with his dolls alone is totally worth parenting dozens of ne’er-do-wells every Friday, my day to participate at our supportive, respectful, non-authoritarian, play-based, hippie co-op.

Yay, little dude and yay mama.