Preface: This is Alex’s journey and the skills he has learned in an environment where he was allowed to be a “Free and Equal Human Being”. All children at The Nest are on their journey, and free to practice the skills that make them who They Are. I believe with all my heart that this is how we are meant to evolve as humans and it’s incredible seeing how children grow in this environment.
This week my Big Boy Alex started school. He was excited and nervous, but more excited than nervous. As I sat in the classroom with his new classmates and their parents waiting for the bell to ring I started to think about how amazing it was that he was starting school as a six-year-old. That morning I checked in with him to see if he thought he had enough lunch, I suggested he pack his togs and towel for swimming because even though it was the first day he may get to go for a swim that day. The night before he organised his uniform and had it laid out by the fireplace ready for the morning. I know that a year ago it wouldn’t have been so easy or stress-free.
He kept close until the bell rang, we had discussed that I would stay until his teacher had called the morning roll, which seems to be fairly standard routine for a few students in her class. It’s nice to see other mums staying with their children and the calm and nurturing feeling it brings, this is one of the reasons why we chose this school.
As I drove away from school that morning, a thought came to me about starting school, the question that all parents ask, and it led me to think, it’s not about school readiness, it’s about life readiness.
For the past year, I have often pondered the whole school readiness phrase that is thrown around so widely. What exactly is school readiness? Often parents will say to me, well my child is very much ready for school because they know their A, B, C’s and they can count to 20, 30 or 100, or that they are bored or outgrown Kindy, (that is another blog on its own). But if we judge school readiness by reciting letters and numbers I could say that Frankie who recites numbers and letters is ‘school ready’, and don’t laugh because I have heard parents say just that. But Frankie is only three and definitely not ready emotionally or physically for school.
But what if we referred to ‘School Ready’ as ‘Life Ready’, would it make us think about the attributes that are needed to head into school and life rather than a bunch of skill that will be learned at school anyway, because at the end of the day what does it matter if you can ace your A, B, C’s at four years of age, if you can’t make friends or communicate that you need to use the bathroom, knowing how to count backward from 100 isn’t hugely important.
Skip back to when Alex was five, he was shy, he didn’t talk much to teachers or other adults especially in large social settings. He would’ve been just like the majority of most five-year-olds starting school, a small fish in a very big fish pond. But by staying on in Kindergarten he has been supported in ways where he was able to grow authentically for another year. He didn’t have pressures of learning reading, writing, and maths in a form that plenty of studies show is best left till later. He also didn’t have the pressures of the other extracurricular activities that get crammed into a school year. Alex was Free to Play. He was still able to navigate his own world in a time and manner that is child led, calm and slow.
When I read through Alex’s special Kindy book there were many references to leadership, communicating, teaching his fellow friends new skills, that naturally happen when children play. These skills aren’t tested via tests, they are also not skills that someone can teach you, they are skills learned by practicing and working with others in an unstructured play environment.
Alex may well be a natural leader, but now that he has been given a chance to practice leadership in a nurturing environment, he has been able to test out ways of communicating ideas and working with other children and adults. He was able to learn how to delegate tasks when the children worked in teams. He has an amazing ability where he sees what skills other children are good at and will delegate jobs to their strengths. He had time to demonstrate and encourage children how to climb the Cherry Tree, explaining the correct places to put your feet so you scale the trunk. He has taught children to play team games and led teams to complete projects. He has been able to practice all these skills in a safe place where if he didn’t quite get it right, he would be able to try again without getting bullied, sacked or losing $100,000.00 of profit. These skills are truly best learned in Kindergarten where there is time to make those mistakes and learn from them.
The past few years I have met so many people that have chosen to let their children stay on in Kindergarten, from my experience and collectively these children have gone on to do great things. The term “holding them back” is often used but from collective experience, I think that is a very incorrect term, in reality, you are setting them up for life and giving them an advantage like no other. Life skills are needed before school skills, school skills are learned naturally through practicing life skills. We just need to look at it from a different perspective.
Alex attended The Nest Kindergarten in Clive. The Nest is a heart-centered Kindergarten that is guided by the principals of Emmi Pikler. Because children are able to unfold in their own time they really develop a sense of who they are as they grow into themselves. I also believe this flows through to parents and families and they to grow with their children gaining knowledge of this way of living and learning. At The Nest, you really do see and feel the practice ‘ from the head, heart, and hands’.
As Brene Brown would say “Embrace the Rumble” because more and more parents are choosing the path to start their childs schooling at six!
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