Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Play-Doh with the Playgroop

L, a wonderful peace activist I met this summer, put together a home-school "pre-school" for her twins, a play-group with a purpose if you will. Straight up home-schooling wouldn't fly for P and I, but this little group relishes child led learning and it is wonderful. Every Tuesday, a bus ride away, in a pretty backyard, great moms and kids, with art or science objects strewn about to ignite the kids imaginations. No pressure, no instructions, no rugs to sit on and sing cheesy songs...

I've realized over the past few months that had I not fallen for unschooling when P was a baby he very well would have led me to it anyway. Last spring we were walking past the school at the end of our block when P asked me what it was. A school. What a school? Kids go there to learn things. Downbeat. He notices no parents. Their mama's go too? No, P, its just for kids, the mamas don't go. P (he spoke in third person back then) no wanna go school. P no like it. That's fine P, I told him, you don't have to, there are lots of ways to learn.

I wondered if his tune would change as some of his peers went off to preschool. I make a point of not dissing school in front of him. God forbid I die and he has to go there after I demonize it! (E swears he'll figure out a way to keep him out! Yay E!!!) So he's never heard much about school from us, good or bad, and it doesn't seem to pique his interest. But he has an adamant opinion nonetheless. He was chatting up a guy in the park the other day (his second favorite form of socialization) and the man asked P if he was starting school. "No, I no go to school." The man asked why not. "I no like it." The man teased him that he was a bit young to have already come to that conclusion. I don't think P understood the tease, just that his answer hadn't proven his point and he looked worried as he said, much louder, "Mama said I no have to go to school. Mama said I no have to!"

And then came the usual worry. So he's, uh, just with you? Translation 1: You're turning him into a social freak when most kids have been in daycare since 6 months. Translation 2: Um, are you qualified to teach this kid Anything? Truthfully, the teaching part doesn't even register as a blip on my mommy-worry radar. I so totally believe in unschooling; nobody teaches anyone anything. Everyone learns best through living. But the social thing (while obviously not a Real concern, as he was out chatting with someone at that Very Moment) is a grey area because P is a bit of a social enigma to me.

He wants to constantly interact. Constantly. Yesterday's 30 minutes of mostly quiet was such an anomaly. I don't mind this trait (my need for solitude aside!), it just means he has input all of the time, he's always processing and producing and plotting and playing. Sounding boards are beneficial. But he has chosen a very small circle for his sounding board process. We've made many nice friends here. Respectful mamas and sweet kids. But he would almost always rather chill at home with E and I. Add in Uncle Seth or his grandparents and his circle is fairly complete. He loves undivided attention, and he doesn't get that with others kids mucking around and their mamas babbling at me. And E and I can be directed. "No, be robot. Or, Skunk! Skunk! I surprise you again, you say sorry but that I don't smell." Etc etc. When its him and other kids, the leader of the pack is up for grabs and the other 3 year olds aren't respectfully listening to his plot requests.

I know this is all normal development for an almost 3 year old. Parallel play rules for a while longer. But every time I see some sweet 2 year old sharing and caring on the playground I wince and briefly worry. So this Playgroop allays my fears. Granted, as you can see in the above picture, after his play-do marathon this weekend the art object wasn't novel enough to tempt him to the craft table. He stood at the periphery and then gravitated to the... cars. (In his defense, that bright red fire-truck was really fantastic. ) But that's why I love this group. Nobody cared that he didn't touch the play-do until everyone else was done and going home. He wasn't shamed back into some circle or shown how to make a predetermined dumb duck shape. He went at his own pace, played with me a lot, but also shared some moments with his friends.

1 comment:

Joanne Rendell said...

the playgroop rocks! we love it too. Jo and Benny