It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post, and I’ve been meaning to write this one for quite awhile because it is very near and dear to my heart. However, it’s been a very busy time at our house and this is the first chance I’ve had to actually sit down and do it. One of the things that has kept us so busy is preparation for kindergarten. Yes, it’s spring not fall – but we’ve had a few orientation events looking ahead to when our little one heads to school. I expected these events to be very bittersweet. On one hand, as a teacher I love school. On the other hand, as a mommy I hate to send our little one out into the world. I know that kindergarten these days is often not allowed to be what it used to be, or frankly what it should be. Even in kindergarten, the focus is more and more on worksheets and academic skills instead of learning how to learn and love school.
However, after attending the preliminary orientation meetings, I must say that the sweet has totally overtaken the bitter. The staff at the school addressed every one of my concerns with what are, in my opinion, the “right” answers. The teachers explained that they would start the year working on routines and getting along with others and how to be good citizens, and I began to smile.
The teachers said the children would be doing a lot of coloring and explained the importance of coloring for writing development and building hand and finger strength, and I began to grin. (I was also reminded of one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. A few years ago, one of my friends told me about how her daughters’ first grade class had earned a party. They could choose any activity they wanted as a special reward… watch a movie, play a game, have a treat, anything. With all those choices, the class voted to… wait for it… color. The six and seven year old children in the class felt that they didn’t get any time to color and thought it would be the most special activity they could imagine. Heartbreaking.)
The teachers explained that they would have discovery time each day for science experiments and social studies activities, and I found myself drawing little hearts and smiley faces all over the presentation handouts.
And then – be still my heart – the teachers said that they would do many seasonal crafts, and I almost started crying happy tears. It was all I could do not to jump to my feet and cheer. Clearly, as the title of this blog indicates, I do love seasonal crafts. However, it wasn’t just my love of all things seasonal that made me so happy to hear this. I was under the impression that seasonal crafts were no longer allowed in any elementary school anywhere. Think back to your days in elementary school – I’m willing to bet that several of your happiest memorable activities revolve around various holiday projects and parties. At least mine do. Of course being able to make a hand turkey or a bouquet of spring flowers out of tissue paper won’t ever be tested on a standardized test, but I believe the benefits of doing seasonal crafts are much more far reaching than any skill and drill worksheet could ever be. They help children follow multiple step directions. They help develop hand-eye coordination. They help children learn to take pride in the way their work looks and always do their best. They help children express their creativity by putting individual touches on each project. And most important of all, they are fun. They make children happy, and they help them realize that school is a fun place to be. No real learning can take place until children feel happy to be at school.
Thanks to the wonderful fist experiences at our daughter’s new school, we can tell she already does feel happy about it. A few days after our first orientation visit, she wrote a book about how to get ready for kindergarten. She drew smiling children riding on the school bus, and she drew rooms in a school full of more smiling children and bustling activity – just the way school should be.
I’m so grateful to know that schools like this one still exist.