In my dark moments (usually when lying awake, unable to sleep, in the middle of the night), I’ve questioned our decision to keep the kids at home instead of sending them to preschool. Can I, I wondered, really compete with trained teachers, playground equipment, and tons of art supplies, manipulatives and educational toys? Then I read this in Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane Healy and felt better about raising the kids in the “wild” so to speak, instead of an enriched school environment:
Neuroanatomist Marian Diamond, a pioneer in studying the effects of environmental enrichment on brains, is a living example of lifelong creativity. In her career analyzing the brains of laboratory rats, she realized that seeking out and pursuing interesting challenges is the brain’s natural mechanism to keep neural connections exercised–and growing. For rats, “enrichment” consisted of interesting “toys” and exercise equipment that was changed often enough to provide ongoing challenges. The more active and curious the rats, the larger their brains grew. Nonetheless, rats in laboratory cages never reached the level of those raised among the natural challenges of their unartificial wild environments.
Now, of course we aren’t rats, and we certainly won’t be dropping the kids off in the middle of the woods and leaving them to fend for themselves (tempted though we may be sometimes, heh). However, there is something to be said about parents and children living and learning along side each other, of integrating kids into lives of purpose, instead of sequestering them away with others of their age, doing meaningless busywork. I’m not at all saying that free-form painting and building with legos are bad; in fact play is work at their ages, and developmentally appropriate. But I do want my kids to be involved in the small but important processes of life; cooking with mom, holding the hammer for dad, sowing seeds and picking green beans, folding and putting away laundry, learning to play with their baby brother. Early school, to me, seems more about training for more school, and less about training for real life.