My husband and I are going for school visits currently for our eldest daughter. She turns five next year and although I would prefer to home school, she is really interested in school, so we are seeing how it all goes.
All the schools we have visited have welcomed parents into the classroom during the school terms. As a family we have been very involved in Playcentre and accustomed to spending time with our daughter in witnessing and guiding her learning through play, so I am naturally wanting to be in the classroom to help at regular intervals. This input has been encouraged by all of the schools, apart from the Steiner school, which we’ve also visited, and which has a different approach to play.
They understand how children’s play can be changed and interrupted by a parents/adult’s presence, so they have set times for visiting the school and parents are only encouraged to become involved during the school day when the school has festivals etc. Now I thought this was all a bit strange for a start, after all how could I interrupt my child’s play? I have learnt to encourage, be curious, and set aside any preconceived notions of how things may turn out before we start in an area of play. At least I thought I had….
The other day my daughters and I got ready to make some bath fizzers. They both love bath fizzers and I managed to find this recipe thinking it would be fun if we all made some together. I also thought that if they turned out ok we could all make some to give away as Christmas gifts…..
I certainly had a vested interest in making these bath fizzers.
It was all going so smoothly! We were taking turns at measuring, tipping and stirring; then it came to the moulding part. The girls had chosen these beautiful lollipop moulds they use for their playdough, but they proved a bit technical to use with this medium. Soon there was bath fizzer mixture everywhere and two frustrated little girls. But they handled it well. Instead of getting angry with it and giving up, they decided to experiment with the mixture – they each had a bowl and started pouring water into it and playing with it with their hands etc… so much fun.
Except I didn’t see this as fun straight away. Remember I had a vested interest in the bath fizzers turning out well, us being able to make them for Christmas presents and the girls actually wanting to do them again, so, in my premonition of us not being able to do this again – I proceeded to tell them to stop. After all they were meant to be making bath fizzers with that mixture….. right?!
Thankfully I noticed what was going on, both within myself and with the girls (doesn’t happen every time) and remedied the situation by apologising and getting interested in the science display that they were creating before my very eyes and encouraging them to think of what else we could add to the mixture. It ended up being a fun experiment for us all and I’m glad I put aside my agenda to allow the fun to unfold.
But really if I think about it, this can happen a lot, depending on perceived pressures from others, my own internal agendas and goals and my perception of what I should achieve throughout the day as a parent. Really when it comes down to it, having my children learning through their play is the only thing I want to achieve, and the rest is just clutter that I can let go of….
So my questions to you are:
- Do you take control of the play or is the child in control?
- Do you come to play with an agenda? If so, what do you notice? Does the play stop quickly? How does it change?
- Do you just play, getting lost in it, really allowing yourself to enjoy it?
- In what way can you step back and let go of any agendas of the ‘right’ way to play…?
So, as it turns out I agree with Steiner in not allowing parents/outside adults into the classroom to try and protect the innocence of child’s play.