For those of you who don't know Beansprouts, it's a preschool program that I run from my home. We have twelve children per day and we are a full-day program.
My husband, who is so supportive of having a business that makes such an ginormous impact on our home, commented to me the other day, "The kids at Beansprouts act like little adults."
Wow. I was stunned. Stunned that the difference in these children is that noticeable to the layman. All I could say was, "We treat them with respect. If we treat them like babies, they'll act like babies." We cited several of our family members that fall into the latter category.
When I think of the preschools that actually want kids to act like adults, say, certain highly academic-focused preschools where children wear uniforms and their thirty minute recess is their only playtime, I think of kid prison. In fact, I've heard that the recess time at those preschools is like the wild kingdom--dog eat dog, kids gone wild. Those kids need to play, too, despite their parents' agendas. Yet they are stuck inside doing worksheets and lessons!
The children at Beansprouts, as with any high quality environment that values children and their play, have created their own community with a sense of respect for one another. Even the most self-centered or self-willed of the children have deep connections with their peers. The teachers model respect for each other and respect for the children, valuing most what children bring to the table. Children are active participants in their preschool experience and learning.
When teachers treat children's play as a priority, play truly becomes the work of the child. Children take their work very seriously. It is during play that the child opens up the most to learning experiences.
These children were trying to figure out what creature lived in the bottom of the hole. Was it a crab or a spider? As they conversed, they had a very interesting dialogue about the attributes of both creatures as a way to deduce which creature was biting their hands.
The mud pie kitchen is a place where children come together and create meals or movie snacks or, more often than not, dessert. These children had to work out some disagreements about what they were making (and for whom), but they did so with no teacher intervention necessary. That takes a LOT of practice!
PVC pipes are one of our favorite loose parts. Children practice fine and large motor and also must plan and figure out sizes and angles and geometric properties of objects that are sometimes much longer than their own bodies.
This guy had the all-important, self-appointed job of sucking up unwanted debris in the yard. He asked the teachers and his classmates what they didn't need any more, and sucked it up. Complete with sound effects and motor controllers, he got the job done.
This five gallon jug is our sandbox self-serve water supply. It serves two purposes: to provide water, and to allow the children to see the water level going down, promoting concepts of conservation and waste. When children don't have to ask the teacher for water, it makes for a more fluid (pun intended), autonomous, uninterrupted cycle of play.
These three are painting. Everything about this activity feels like a big job for the children. For one, climbing up that slanted dirt is no small task for those little legs, and second, using actual paint brushes elicits the feeling of a very important job.
For me, the bottom line is respect. If I work at a job where I'm not taken too seriously, I will treat my job as such--not too seriously. But when I am acknowledged, considered a valuable part of the team, and treated with authentic interest, I rise to the occasion. That's what we offer here. And we take their work as seriously as they do.
Little adults? Maybe.
Valuable community members? Yes!