Kids That Wanna Have Fun

By and

My educational philosophy was influenced by a conversation I once had with Hoonjin Jung, a friend of mine from Korea. He said that until recently, Korean schools were very strict. They have a saying: “A king, a teacher and a father are the same.” When he first came here he was terrified to comment in class, in part because he was still unsure of his English. But, also partly because in Korea he was never allowed to question a teacher.

He said the schools are changing in Korea to become more American. He thinks this is good. When Korean business leaders meet with those from other countries, they struggle because they aren’t used to questioning others or critical thinking. He said the strength of the American system is that people learn to think. At the same time, though, he thinks Americans would be better off if they learned to be a little more like Koreans in respecting authority. Some sort of balance is best.

As ASUU’s new day-care program begins this month, all interested parents should remember the strengths my friend saw in our American educational system. Having worked in day care and volunteered in various programs for children like Head Start and the Waterford Literacy Program, I feel the programs that work best are those that allow creativity and family involvement. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, there are so many laws and regulations in traditional day care that, while children may physically be protected, I worry that they may be getting emotionally scarred.

ASUU’s day-care center is an asset to student parents in many ways. The on-campus facility allows students to be close to their children and the programs welcome parent involvement. Costs are reasonable, and the center has an excellent teacher-child ratio of 1:4 for infants and toddlers and 1:8 for pre-school age. The center has a great educational philosophy. They say, “Our staff seeks to develop a sense of trust and wellness for each child while encouraging their natural curiosity and desire to learn.”

So, I’m not quick to criticize the advent of a new day care. But, I must put in a disclaimer that if I had kids and was looking for child care, I would try and have a relative or a neighbor provide care to my children. That’s because at a day care?no matter how good?spontaneity is limited. In fact, almost everything day cares do is influenced by laws and regulations.

Still, day cares are sometimes a good choice. They can be fun. When I worked at a day care as a sophomore in college, I wrote a short play version of “Alice in Wonderland” and we performed it for the elderly in a rest home. The children also put together a circus that they performed for their parents. We did art projects, played sports, planted a garden and read books.

Day care is an important option and enables some student parents to get an education, which is a great example to their children. But we need to remember the value of spontaneous unplanned time with children. That’s the time to learn and share values, hopes and dreams for individual children. Every child is a unique individual. It’s wonderful to be young. If given up, a child’s magical childhood can never be replaced. Dreams, hope, confidence, identity and trust are developed in early years.

Children’s magical childhoods are worthwhile and vitally important to their lives. Let’s remember that a sense of identity matters. We are not empty blobs of matter to be mass produced. Children need a chance to have memorable childhoods. Parents matter greatly to a child.

I once read a biography about the life of John Adams. It described how one day he took the time to go fishing with his son John Quincy Adams. Each of them recorded their thoughts in their individual journal that night. John Adams wrote, “One whole day wasted.” His son wrote, “Today was the most wonderful day in my whole life.”

With our schedules we hurry, hurry, hurry and spontaneous learning can be lost and forgotten. My own childhood included plenty of imagination. I dreamed of being a fairy princess who went around doing good. My best friend and I made shoes out of leaves, magic potions out of flowers and dress-up clothes out of cut up fabric. We experimented with cooking. We played cops and robbers, stuck-in-the-mud and red light-green light because we wanted to.

As a neighborhood we got together in our secret clubhouse made with a couple of boards and pretended. We were always in the process of digging secret underground passages nearby, though they never got very deep. We efficiently developed mud balls and mud cakes perfectly formed to be delivered to the doorsteps of enemies. We threw grass clippings across the neighbors’ fence in a fierce battle until the grownups got mad and made us pick it up. I played with the garter snake in the backyard, rode bikes and had time to lay on the grass and look up at the clouds.

Children are not just little walking, talking adults, but are going through age appropriate developmental stages. Too often there’s talk to the extent that children need longer school hours and earlier schooling in order to keep up with Asian math and science scores, but the Western civilization has produced some of the greatest scientists and mathematicians because at the level of discovery, creativity is vital.

Play is vital for the art and science of living.

Karen welcomes feedback at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]