Ever since Pari stepped in school, she was burdened with home-work. Even as a 3-year-old she had at least 2 pages to write every day. This work load has been growing with every class.
There is often a talk about how the heavy bags and home-work load are something our children are better off without. However, there is no denying the existence of competitive parents who want their children to study hard right from the start and carve a niche, perhaps by making a place for themselves in Limca book of records if not the Guiness book.
The arguments, for and against the home-work debate often fail to outline; how differently could the children be taught than filling sheets of paper scribbling the same letter 100 times? Is learning all the poems written thus far the sole aim of a kindergarten student’s life? Aren’t these home-works building stress in young lives similar to the work stress we adults loathe about?
Better still, what more can be a part of kindergarten kid’s curriculum to enrich their lives rather than transforming them into parrots who simply mug up whatever they’re taught.
This was when I decided to learn about the practices in different parts of the world for kindergarten kids. And this was what I stumbled across on Facebook as being the regular practice in Germany and Switzerland:
On my first view, I felt the video was rather dangerous. I couldn’t imagine my kid running around with a sharp knife or climbing a tall tree or for that matter exploring the forest on her own, getting dirty and staying so all day and perhaps doing anything done in the wild kindergarten.
My first thoughts were, where is the discipline?
Let the truth be told, kids learn discipline from everything part of their lives. Play included.
Dismissing it all as practices from a ‘different part of the world‘ is rather easy. But somehow, this video stuck to my mind.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the possible good of letting young children learn and play in proximity of nature than being caged in classrooms in controlled environments. Eventually, I could get a feel of the possible good this approach could bestow on our children:
- Learning from preschools in the wild is about getting a taste of nature in its true form: The children today (and more so their parents) dread the very idea of playing in the dirt or more appropriately the soil. During my growing up years, playing in the soil, getting dirty looking for small bugs was all considered play and essential part of growing up. A liberal wash with soap and water afterwards was considered enough to get clean. However I can’t say the same for my child today. It isn’t just her but my own paranoia (I’m not too sure where did that come from) of contracting infections that drives me to prevent her from getting dirty and close to nature.
- Learning to be free, balancing themselves in the rhythm of nature: Trusting the young kids to take care of themselves, climbing trees fearlessly, playing in the sun, chasing the birds and bees has been a part of my growing up years. The dependence on TV or other modern era gadgets was never so much as it is today. I often feel the alarming rise in childhood obesity is not to be blamed on the junk food alone, it also has its roots in our children being inherently trapped indoors.
- Learning by experience: What we see as rather dangerous is actually a way of teaching children their personal gauge of awareness of their capabilities. My home has never seen safety scissors. Right from the days when I was a baby till today when I have a baby of my own, my family has practiced teaching the children right handling and use of sharps while also ensuring they’re generally out of reach of children when not being used. Though the use of sharp knives by kindergarten kids (in the video) did scare me, but on a deeper thought, I could actually find partial semblance to the childhood I have had. Startlingly, my parents (who were children in the pre-TV age) could relate to this video more without shock being writ large on their faces as was my initial reaction.
- Spending time in the lap of nature helps curb the distractions of the virtual world: Guided by their curiosity, kids learn to marvel at the life that breathes around us. It is such a wonderful way to be guided by our curiosities, develop problem solving skills, acquire social skills of making friends with children around, indulge in nature explorations and learn so much from tactile experiences and spatial awareness.They’re less stressed, concentrate better because wonder and beauty awaits them at every step. Fall ill less because their immune systems have a better exposure to antigens. They are more aware of their surroundings and are blessed with better development of motor skills.
- It challenges your adventurous side: I have to admit that the wild kindergarten isn’t for the faint-hearted. You really need to weigh in your priorities well, be up for some adventure before embarking on something so different from an academic kindergarten. Okay, playing Pokemon Go doesn’t count here. Learning to take on challenges, not being broken by failures, rising to climb again is so crucial in times when we see kids getting depressed and giving up on life so easily.
- Inspiring faith in their independence: Letting children be, of course supervised by the experts would spell out to be a huge message that they can go about, having faith in their independence. They’re not forever tied up to behave in a certain way in the name of discipline. They may dare to take the plunge, to scale heights, be up for a taste of exploration and adventure. This is in my view is an important lesson that can change one’s whole view of life.
- Self-reliance: A lesson learnt only by practice if learnt early on would definitely a gift for our children all their lives. Gradually as they involve in academic lessons, this virtue would go a long way in shaping their approach towards learning in general.
“Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.” ~ John Burroughs
The pressure early on kills the love for learning. It would be a great relief for kids going crazy sitting down in a classrooms all day long.
Can we completely eliminate academic curriculum for young kids?
Perhaps not, but we can definitely add on activities like gardening, planting and caring for saplings, going for nature walks and picnics (beyond the usual once a year), camps and so much more to the curriculum to raise a generation of nature lovers who care for the environment with all their heart and grow up to be stronger, confident, independent human beings.
“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.” ~ Zenobia Barlow