It All Comes Down to Choices

In their own world

Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here life comes.

~Maya Angelou

I read this quote a few days ago, and I have not been able to get it out of my head since. It’s haunting me, as only something stunningly beautiful can. It’s sent me into reflection mode, which TGSG readers will instantly recognize. Gone are the lists and activity suggestions. In their place, comments and questions that I hope all caring adults will entertain.

As I have written before, childhood does not last forever, but fades quickly into the breakneck pace of adulthood. Ready or not, it will catch-up with them, and we need to make sure that kids are getting the tools to arrive at that destination with the best chance at success. And I am not talking about Suzuki violin lessons, reading by age three, or mastering HTML code by age seven. There is this popular notion today of the Super Kid. A child that is short-listed for Harvard by Kindergarten, has a black belt in Karate, wins every science fair, and is multi-lingual by age six. Seriously? That sounds like training camp to me, not childhood.

Now, let it be said that I am an advocate for a good education for every child. I just happen to believe that a good education is developmentally appropriate, includes plenty of unstructured play time, also focuses on character development, and teaching children how to think and ask questions, versus hammering home what to think. This education — this childhood – is really rooted in giving kids time to be kids. Not miniature adults, nor vessels for the unrealized goals of others, or accessories to highlight status and accomplishments. Sound harsh? Perhaps. But there is a real harshness that has crept into today’s childhood, and for unnecessary, although often well-intended reasons.

If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you read, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. Whether you are a parent, educator, or simply a caring adult, you will find much in the book that resonates with today’s society, and perhaps even within your circle of family and friends. Regardless of where you fall on the economic spectrum, there are many lessons to be learned from its pages.

Another good read related to the topic is, Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students. The changes that need to be made to restore today’s childhood start at home, but education reform is also key. Without thoughtful changes to curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy we will continue to lag behind not only in what so many officials and administrators are obsessed with — the international comparison of test scores — but far more importantly, in educating healthy children with a life-long love of learning who are ready to be the stewards of a stable and thriving society.

Now, this is not to say that everything about today’s childhood is bad. Obviously, there is a lot of good in the world, and there are some amazing young folks out there, and parents and educators who should have their skills applauded and emulated.  That said, I think we can all agree that there is much room for improvement, and that taking care of our youngest citizens is the best investment we can make as a society.

My challenge to TGSG community is this: Come up with a list of the 10 essential skills and/or character traits you think a child needs to possess to grow into a happy, healthy adult. Post them in the comments section, and let’s get a conversation going. In the next few weeks, I will publish our collective Top 10 List and we can look at best practices for helping to foster these in today’s society. Ten too much — how about five? Just think about it.

Regular readers of my blog probably know at least half my list already, and know a few of my favorite strategies to help foster these traits. Now, let’s hear yours!

I’m heading outside to mull things over. Join me? There’s a beautiful Dogwood tree out front, just perfect for sitting underneath and pondering important questions.

See ya outside! – The Grass Satin Guru

photo credit: {just jennifer}

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