Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's that Time of Year...

In Minnesota, our short spring is essentially the dawn of summer. As the long lazy days yawn before us, tantalizingly unscheduled, it's easy to get swept up in the activity frenzy.

The apple trees are in full bloom!

A fellow mom sent me into a tizzy, commiserating, "Now that Maya is in preschool, she'll want to be in a lot of activities to keep her from being bored this summer, won't she?"

What? A bored almost-four-year-old? Or a bored one-year-old? How can that be possible?

Maya insisted on making scarecrows to keep the birds from eating our newly planted seeds. Never one to throw a wet blanket on an out-of-season idea, I found some instructions online.... and by the time the head was finished, her scarecrow craving was satisfied. And they are a bit scary, I must admit.

I'm gearing up for adventure days in area parks, picnics in interesting places around the cities, and bug-catching in our own backyard. Today two hours slipped by in the park while Maya and Elliot toggled between chasing robins and playing "house" under two huge pine trees, serving me pine cone tea. Another hour or so was buried in the sandbox, along with three sets of feet and, according to Maya, a freshly caught worm (yuck! but I think she was teasing :).

I have now overheard at least four conversations in which stay-at-homers compare their scheduled events. Nearly all of them have included at least one 6 week long day camp that is more involved than their current preschool, in addition to swim lessons, a summer long sporting event, and some kind of art class. That makes summer busier than the school year!

Suddenly, I started wondering if one week of swim lessons and one week of day camp was enough to keep Maya... from getting bored.

Add to that a fresh batch of mommy guilt: I enrolled Maya in afternoon preschool next year so I could write during Elle's nap time. This means Elle won't get ECFE classes (offered only in the morning) unless I take them both... Meaning either Maya would have 3 afternoons and 1 morning totally booked OR Elliot may not be properly educated because she will miss out on critical pre-K curriculum.....

Can you tell I started to spiral, a bit? My love of unscheduled time warring with the pressure to give the girls every opportunity. Luckily I didn't spiral anywhere near the edge. Elle herself stopped me.

While pushing her and Maya in the park swings, Maya started counting each push: 1, 2, 3.... Elliot chimed right in... 4, 5, (six vanished), 7, 8.... all the way up to 14 give or take a number (like six).

At 19 months, she's counting. She's counting pretty well. To my knowledge, no one has actively taught her to count. I don't show her flash cards or sing counting songs. We do count chedder bunnies at snack time or geese in the sky, because Maya thinks that is fun. And Elliot has picked it up.

Forget ECFE. Forget the overscheduled summer. Random bits of exploration and free play will be more than enough to keep them from getting bored and falling behind.
The rides at Como Zoo have opened, and Maya will see to it that we revisit as often as possible.

Me too for that matter!


Bonnie said...

Add trips to South Dakota! To the farm, to the lake! Even bat watching in Wheaton! Summer is short, enjoy! MOM

Sarah said...

Absolutely... more field trips this summer than ever :)

Recessionista Genie said...

I'm a school psychology grad school dropout and have a completed degree in general psychology with a focus on child development. I can tell you with conviction that pre-K classes are ONLY beneficial to children who do not have enriching home lives (which, sadly, is most children in my city). But if you are a caring stay-at-home mom who encourages your kids to explore and play, count geese and read or listen to stories, your kids will actually develop faster and stronger at home. They will learn naturally and continue to love curiosity and discovery. That's what kids are designed for. They will not fall behind without a structured curriculum; actually, the opposite is true. The best "expert teacher" for each child is Mom (as long as she's not abusive or neglectful, of course), even if she is not actively "teaching." No guilt! Enjoy your little ones this summer.

Sarah said...

Good to hear... instincts and research line up for me a lot, lately! Besides, we have whole lifetimes of school and work to muck up our days... why not enjoy the freedom when you can, meaning under 5 years old. ;)


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