by Naomi Aldort
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
- Albert Einstein
Q: Our daughter is four and a very curious and social child. Even though we are planning to home school and I am at home with the baby (her brother), we signed her up for a wonderful small alternative pre-school so she can have social experience and learning opportunity. They are very respectful and provide free play and group activities.
After a short adjustment period in which she cried when I left, our daughter became comfortable and happy there. Yet, after Christmas break she refused to go back and it has become a struggle every morning. I know she enjoys herself once she is at school but she doesn’t want to leave me. I don’t want to deprive her of a learning and social opportunity, but, I also want to listen to her choice. What would you suggest?
A: What do you recall from age four? If you are like most, you remember close to nothing. What you recall are feelings, sensations, faces and fragments of visuals. Nothing you know today relies on what you learned in these early years in a class or a school. Instead, it relies on how you felt about yourself.
Your wish to respond to your child’s choice is worth trusting. What else can be more valuable for her than learning that the way she feels inside is right? In school, your daughter will not remember the learning or the play, but she will remember the pain of separation and of learning not to trust what she feels inside. Learning to follow external guides and ignore her own, she will later become susceptible to media influences, peer pressure and other external forces.
You also say you don’t want her to miss social and learning opportunities. How can socializing with family who love her the most be called “missing” something? When with mother she does not miss school. When at school, she misses mother.
Pre-school is socially unnatural. By taking young children away from their source of power, mother, and putting them together in a group of similar ages (unable to help each other,) we render them helpless. In this impossible and unnatural setting they fail to socialize on their own and depend on adult control to be able to function and stay safe. Such experience teaches the child to see herself as socially failing and dependent on authority.
The best group experience for a young child is the family. It is a group that is doing things together and in which each member is highly valued and loved. If you had to work, I would talk about empowering your daughter to find joy in her substitute care. However, since you are at home, there is no need to take your daughter away from what is best for her.
Likewise, your child does not miss any learning while at home. It is while in a pre-school that she has to suspend her own learning for the sake of an imposed program. Uninvited teaching thwarts learning; it often destroys the love of it and prevents the child from inventing her own methods. When inventing her own ways of figuring things out, the child brain develops by far more than through following someone’s else’s way of thinking, specially when the teaching is imposed. Even in more progressive pre-schools, the child is still thrown into someone else’s plan, and must abandon her own agenda. In contrast, at home she is free to follow the blueprint of her own mind for optimal timing, methods and subjects of learning.
Your child’s social and learning skills come from feeling secure in your love and in her own inner guide. Feeling rooted in herself, she will act and learn, not in order to compete or seek approval (painful dependency), but to pursue her own authentic passions. Unconditional love means having no projected future for your child. She must follow her own path.
A child who takes cues from inside is confident and clear. When my oldest son was six, he chose to take an art class in a summer kids’ program. After two sessions he said, “I don’t need to go to the class anymore. I can paint by myself at home without the teacher interrupting me.” As it turned out, the teacher had the idea of breaking the class into twenty minutes segments. My son, whose span of attention was unharmed by schooling, wanted to go on with one activity for the whole two hours or more.
The “Full term” child
If the baby is born prematurely, her life and well being is at risk. Prematurity is not desirable. Full term is. In the same way, the family is the “womb” of childhood. Children who remain in the family “womb,” always emerge at full term emotionally strong and ready to flourish in society. Your child must rely on parental power until she has her own; only then she has the strength to stay rooted in herself in the face of the barrage of influences and choices she is going to face.
Most developmental stages happen on their own quiet suddenly, like birth and like walking. Our attempt at gradually training wee ones to become adults causes them much harm as it goes against their nature. I often see youth who have been “stuffed” with education from a young age, become exhausted and burdened by the race of living up to expectations. They have lost themselves in the process of becoming someone else’s dream. In contrast, I see those who had autonomy over the same years, achieving their goals with joy and ease, often, all at once.
But she had such a good time at school:
It is easy to be fooled by a child’s ability to be present and have fun in the moment. Once your daughter is clear that she must stay in school (even her tears didn’t help her,) she is wise enough to immerses herself in the present. However, of her own free will, no young child would choose to be away from mom; this is nature’s way to ensure optimal intellectual and social development. Therefore, no matter how much a child enjoys herself in a school or a class, it is not worth the price of teaching her to go against herself. You didn’t train her to sleep in a crib against her will; this is no different.
Follow her lead.
In addition, when we coerce the child to act in spite of her clear request, she learns to do the same and ignore or refuse your requests too. Her social skills are learned by the way she is treated. If you want her to learn to honor other people (an important social skill,) honor her.
Some parents are sure that their child is totally happy in a school setting from day one. I am open. I cannot know each particular child or family situation. And yet, I suspect that given the choice, before getting used to a school, every child would rather be with her loving mom and family.
Providing nurturance and stimulation at home:
Our society is generally over stimulating and competitive, distracting children from their own inner guidance. Protect your daughter from such pressures. Keep in mind Einstein’s famous words, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Let your daughter play and day-dream so she can come up with her own interests, methods of learning and creative thinking.
She may need one friend to play with, preferably a much older child. As for intellectual and cultural exposure, include your daughter in what you love to do and join her emerging interests. She will pick up what excites her and take you on her path. That path will be the one that is best for her because it is the projection of her own mind. Genius is the result of harmony between the child’s inner and outer worlds. Her needs will naturally surface and you will respond with your skills or by finding other resources for her interests. At age four, home, play, music, dance, art, books and nature are all she needs; expose her to what you love and what she shows interest in, and don’t impose any teaching.
The longer your daughter is spared any indoctrination, the better her chances to optimize her own talents, social skills and learning. Why struggle when nature’s design is so incredibly perfect? When your child’s choice is honored she will learn the only lesson that counts: “My inner voice is the one to listen to.”
Naomi Aldort is the author of, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. Her advice columns are published in progressive parenting magazines worldwide. Aldort offers phone guidance and counseling by phone/Skype internationally regarding all ages, babies through teens: attachment parenting; natural learning; peaceful and powerful parent-child relationships. Products, counseling, and free newsletter: www.authenticparent.com