Monday, May 16, 2011


Play is powerful. I posted about play in January (here and here), but it just keeps coming back. And this week's NYT article's tales of Junior Kumon, "Fast Tracking to Kindergarten," is disturbing. Who on earth thinks 3 year-olds need to go to a tutoring center to fill in worksheets?

I am stunned by the power of play in my home. At 3, Claudia has elaborate scenes with her bunnies and her baby dolls and dress up. She was just at the beach today (well, really making a beach scene on the big chair). She has smeared hand sanitizer all over the carpet with a hand towel playing Annie. She can recognize her name on her birthday cake. She "reads" books to herself: familiar ones and new ones, sings and tells stories- especially ones with big, bad wolves. She plays with cups of water in the sink, matches socks, and counts the stairs when she climbs. I just don't see what Kumon could offer her. She is already so busy.

And Fran hurried home from soccer today to continue working on his hockey scene: Playmobil men vs. superheroes. He has repurposed several sets of toys and boxes to create this play scene. It is very involved and he is quite busy with it. He came home all upset that fish (instead of pizza) was for dinner- then went to play and bounced back so well. His sustained play may look like a mess, but it's highly organized and purposeful.

Play is so important. And rigor is important. But the play has to come first. Kids need solid skills from play: exploration, discovery, inquiry, elaboration, stamina, self-direction, and the ability to engage with their own minds to meet the demands of rigorous (and, of course, process-based) programs with joy and enthusiasm.

Alphabet Bingo at home?  Sounds fine. (Games, glorious games!)  Making cards or a book for Grandma?  Sounds great. Cooking? Folding laundry? Riding bikes? Gardening? Good, good, good, good.  Hours spent on worksheets and homework- at age 3? I don't think so. Perhaps some fact or handwriting practice in elementary school- but minutes, not hours, so there is still down time for play.

The work of play for preschoolers is simply too valuable to be replaced with rote learning.

Rants you may have missed this year: The Harry Potter Manifesto, posts about the Millage, and of course The Baby Flashcard Manifestodetailing my confusion and abhorrence with the "Your Baby Can Read" (quotes are intended to mock the program in addition to indicate the title) Videos and Flashcards Program and its subsequent lack of authentic activities and organic learning. 

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