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Exploring all the playful possibilities.

There is a movement on the horizon: a slow, beautiful metamorphosis a’comin’. It’s filled with richness and space, and rhythm and CHILDREN! It’s filled with less. And more.

Once upon a time I went to kindergarten. The ladies who taught me there were smile-filled and well intentioned. They wanted to help me find my way through sharing and turn taking, counting and letter knowing. The tools handed them from the teachers before were the right ones, the only ones, to get the job done.

When I chose to sing my ABCs instead of speaking each one in order without musical intonation they smiled and sighed, and sent me for testing. I didn’t fit the right way. Instead of meeting me with more music and harmony, they sent me to remedial classes. Instead of creating space for me to ruminate over (in English and Hebrew) my already drama-filled 5-year-old life, they tried to fix me with the latest theories and programming. They wanted to help by offering more.

My Mom and Dad had divorced. In a matter of months Mom and I went from living a very comfortable existence in Israel to dumpster diving for home furnishings in Washington, DC. My little mind was rife with sounds of angry voices and active artillery. I had no siblings to turn to and a Momma who suddenly worked 8-hour days to support our survival. My life was complex and overloaded, and there was no respite in sight.

Botanical Beach, Port Renfrew, BC

Natural Play at Botanical Beach, BC

But for my daughters, it will not be the same. Space, time and empathy will be part and parcel of their school experience. Like I said: there is a movement on the horizon…

Over the summer Bridgitte and I attended BC’s Full Day Kindergarten Conference in Coquitlam. The focus, as its title suggested, was on all the Playful Possibilities of what Province-wide full day kindergartens could look like; indeed how the creation of space for imaginative play is critical to the cumulative health of our beautiful children.

As a mother, critical thinker, active participant I have been touched deeply at the signs of shifting educational tides. To hear the new mantras of the new ways brought me close to tears many times over during the conference: self-regulation, community, less is more. Wow.

Bridgitte, Natural Pod’s owner and passionate proponent of simplicity parenting, led four offerings of her workshop on Natural Play, encouraging attendees to rethink, de-clutter and tone down their teaching environments. She facilitated their hands-on experience of collecting and creating with nature’s found objects: illustrating to them the freedom and teaching potential inherent in non-prescriptive items. They remembered how a stick is a flute, a magic wand, a snake, a telescope, a ruler, a baguette, a cane…………

Once upon a time a Kindergarten Teacher started September with bright carpets, endless repetitions of upper and lower case letters above a chalkboard, 24 individual little desks and plastic chairs, pre-formed parent-pleaser colouring pages and markers that smell like Hubba Bubba. The under- or over-stimulation of her students’ home lives was the bane of her existence. She wasn’t told that it’s ok to let a newly emigrated child sit quietly and “read”. She wasn’t told that in kindergarten self-regulation within a framework of classroom community trumps literacy any day. She wasn’t allotted time in her day to just sit and listen to the quiet needs and expressions of her little children.

As humans beings we all rise to the place we are met. When we are met with all the answers, we rise less with our wonder. When we are met with over stimulation, we rise less with alertness. When we are met with too much stuff, we start bringing less to the table.

“There is a movement on the horizon. There are kindergarten teachers, lots of us, who are ready to rethink the system, ready to rise to where the children must be met. They are out collecting rocks and seashells, secondhand fabrics and random bird feathers.”*

…In September they’ll remove all the “extra stuff” from years past and create a neutral zone fluid to receive all the magic coming through their doors.

* Quote from Natural Play workshop participant, Coquitlam, BC