Several parents had been asking about curriculum–do I do learning activities, how much structure is in the children's day, etc., so once the school year was begun in earnest I sifted through internet sites galore and came up with a preschool curriculum that seemed reasonably educational both scholastically and morally without being denomination-specific.
The first week, the kids were pretty stoked–this is fun to play school! Let's learn about the number two! God gave me two hands and two eyes and ears! Yay! God loves me and gave me a family that loves me! Yay!
I felt pretty good about the direction we were heading.
The second week, I introduced washing those two hands and other things that keep this body God gave us healthy and happy. Yay! And not only that but Clean starts with C and so does Cortni, Claire, Caylee and Caleb.
This week Hendrix asks, "What letter are we going to color today?
"H! For you, Hendrix!"
"I want X for Hendrix, cause I'm Jimmy Hendrix and I play the guitar." And spell your name backwards, too, I take it.
Okay, what do I care? I haven't actually printed the H's yet, right? And I try not to say no if there is any possibility of saying yes; I've always dealt my children this way. So I print out the first X coloring page. Yay! X for Hendrix; and there was much rejoicing.
Claire says, "I don't want X. I want T for Claire."
I look at her. Do I care if they color different letters? Not really. I print out a T, and I show her that she has two names and that the last one does start with T. Wow, you were so smart to know that Claire! Yay, Claire! She's a little stunned to realize she's so smart, but she's basking in the praise.
"Dog." Says Caylee. "Dog-Dog."
"You want to color a picture of a Dog?"
She beams. "Dog-dog."
D is for Dog. I find a paper that says so. I print it out. Now Claire wants a Dog-Dog. How many spots are on the dog? Yay! We can all count spots!
Never mind that Caleb thinks it's actually a cheetah. He doesn't want to color. He wants to make a spaceship out of tape, paper and a hunk of plastic from some packaging he found under the sink. He does; half a roll of tape, an entire stapler's worth of staples, and a glue stick later, he has the most amazing space ship since Vostok 1. It lasts about fifteen minutes before he's crashed it into the "ocean" and Moscow explains to him his next mission: clean up the mess.
"Kimber, are spaceships real?"
"Do they really fly?"
"Yup, you want to see some space ships taking off on the computer?" Yeah!
Caleb is spellbound. The girls couldn't care less. They dump the toys out and use the boxes to build a stage for their concert and they make up their own songs. I don't get to sing, just watch, cause their songs are better than mine. Double Yay!
I'm not saying that sometimes it isn't a cop-out to neglect lesson plans for spontaneity; I am remembering why I consistently abandon structured learning every time I try to implement it. Kids seem to learn best what they are interested in the subject–and they are all so unique and ever-changing that I don't know how public school teachers manage–from sheer necessity they have to use a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching for the most part.
In some respects, I operate the same way–at meal times, everyone gets the same things and you eat what I serve or you go hungry. Period. But wherever I can, I try to say yes, not no. I remember reading something, before I had kids: "Chaos breeds genius" and whenever my kids wanted to convert the entire kitchen/living room/dining area into a lego/fisher-price/lincoln log/Knex metropolis, or try to dig a hole to China in the back yard, I repeated that mantra.
I'm not saying my children all score in the upper 99th percentile primarily because of my shabby housekeeping or landscaping skills, but I think that the longer we can avoid cramming their intelligences and desires into a mold that is more convenient for our own agendas, the better.