Sunday, May 17, 2015

Academic teaching in kindergarten backfires.

Play is the work of childhood and is how children learn many of the skills, both academic and social; they need to be successful in and out of school. The push for early academics, sadly, has replaced the emphasis and importance of play. The reasoning is that without an early start on academics, children risk falling behind and might never catch up.

Parents, wanting the best for their children, are prey to such thinking but research indicates there is little evidence that early academics improve long-term achievement.

Parents who want to stimulate their children’s brain development often focus on things like early reading, flashcards and language tapes. But a growing body of research suggests that playing certain kinds of childhood games may be the best way to increase a child’s ability to do well in school.” Play is one of the most cognitively stimulating things a child can do,” says Megan McClelland, an early-childhood-development researcher.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother love along with storytelling is fundamental to evolution

May 9, 2015
Make Way Ducklings
Mother’s Day celebrates the love between mothers and their children. I recently read a bold statement that put mother love in the context it deserves, Mother love, along with storytelling is fundamental to evolution. Attachment, the core of a mother’s love for their child, nurtures a child’s development of self and allows them to thrive and eventually go out into the world and be their best self.

Mother Nature, in her wisdom, knows to imbue Mothers with an enormous amount of generosity. I believe an infinite spirit of generosity drives how mothers love their children and is behind what we refer to as mother’s intuition. We love our children and at the same time we raise them to become independent and leave the nest. On its own, this calls for an enormous amount of generosity.

Kahil Gibran, the Lebanese-American poet captures this sentiment in his poem On Children
I quote here a few passages.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday…

No truer words were ever written and mothers the world over know the challenges inherent in this type of mother love.

The challenge for parents, want the best for your child, but not for your child to be the best.

Push, Don’t Crush (NYT Sunday Review 4.24.15) speaks to the disturbing phenomena of suicide clusters existing in high achieving communities. Although such clusters are rare, their existence gives pause and urges parents to do some soul searching. The pressure to succeed does not in itself cause suicide but the language we use to communicate our hopes and expectations for children begs our attention.

Parents say, ‘All I care about is that you’re happy,’ and then the kid walks in the door and the first question is, ‘How did you do on the math test?’ ” Ms. Levine said. “The giveaways are so unbelievably clear.”

Denise Pope, an education expert at Stanford, calls this gulf between what people say and what they mean “the hidden message of parenting.” Ms. Pope said that children are picking through the static to hear the overriding message that only the best will do — in grades, test scores, sports, art, college. “In everything,”

One solution, said Ms. Pope of Stanford, is “downtime, playtime, family time.” For parents, too. In other words: Take a leap of faith (well supported by science) that downtime will lead to a healthier perspective.

I believe the challenge for parents is to want the best for your child, but not for your child to be the best. Reading for pleasure could be one of the most rewarding activities to put into “downtime” and just might be an antidote to the exorbitant expectation to succeed that children suffer from. Reading fiction builds empathy and compassion for the self and others. The best of stories introduce us to the one character we might recognize, but are not always eager to know better, ourselves.

Reading fiction gives a person the opportunity to know who they are and discover what is of importance. This is what will help children be their best selves become free from the thankless and unattainable goal of being the best.