Anyone who has seen the amount of homework and stress our children are under these days would have to admit that our children are losing their childhood earlier and earlier.
The pressure is on for children to get the best early education so they can get the best SAT grades so they can get into the best colleges and universities so they can get the best and highest paying job so they can live a wonderful carefree life. WHAT THE HECK!
Someone please architect a better way to educate our children so that they flourish educationally, but still enjoy those treasured years.
The Wall Street Journal, 14 April 2008, reports that “While schools and parents push young children to read, write, and surf the internet earlier in order to prepare for an increasingly cutthroat global economy, some little Germans are taking a less traveled path—deep into the woods.”
“Germany has about 700 Waldkindergarten or “forest kindergartens,” in which children spend their days outdoor year-round. Blackboards surrender to the Black Forest.” The children, ages 3 to 6, spend the day in the forest singing songs, playing in the mud, climbing trees, examining worms, lizards and frogs, and building campfires. This is a natural way for children to spend their time and it aligns well with “environmentally-conscious and consumption-wary” attitudes.
Similar programs have opened in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, and in the U.S. (in Portland, Oregon last fall).
A mixed bag of results:
“Waldkindergarten kids exercise their imaginations more than their brick-and-mortar peers do and are better at concentrating and communication…the children appear to get sick less often in these fresh-air settings. Studies also suggest their writing skills are less developed, though, and that they are less adept than other children at distinguishing colors, forms, and sizes.”
Is the tradeoff worth it?
In the U.S., the notion is generally, we have “to push academics earlier and earlier.” However, the back-to-basics approach of Waldkindergarten is challenging this thinking. One teacher summarized the benefits by simply stating, “It’s peaceful here, not like inside a room.” Another said that this natural education is a way to combat “early academic fatigue syndrome…we have 5 year-olds that are tired of going to school.”
I believe that if we teach children a love of learning and life, then they will thrive more than force-feeding them reading, writing, and arithmetic at age 3, 4, or 5.
We can architect a better education for our children. It starts with letting them be children.
From an EA perspective, we need to acknowledge that there is a baseline, target and transition plan for our children’s education, and we do NOT need to get to the target state of advanced learning by putting undue pressure on children so early in their lives. In fact, if we understand that transition plans are just that—a transition from one state to another, in a phased approach of evolution—then we can indeed let children explore the world more freely and creatively at a young age, and evolve that incrementally with the skills they need as time goes on.