Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Outwardly Simple and Inwardly Rich by Director Mary O'Connell

For those of you who are new to LifeWays this fall, welcome! And welcome to our newsletter, produced seasonally in Fall, Winter and Spring by our LifeWays staff. Each newsletter centers around a theme, and this issue’s theme is Simplicity, in part inspired by the popular new book, Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross (now available in paperback).

We’ve heard a lot about simplicity over the last few years. In these difficult economic times consumed with corporate bailouts, debates over health care, a widening gap between the rich and poor, extensive unemployment and soaring debt, just about everyone is yearning for ways to live more simply. However, as much as our society pays lip service to a newfound simplicity, this trend doesn’t necessarily trickle down to the way many folks are raising and educating children.

We continue to “race to the top” in our schools by putting supreme importance on standardized tests ahead of characteristics such as kindness, hard work, and imagination. We as parents feel pressured to give our children every possible experience, so we drag them from one enriching activity to another, feeling guilty that if we leave anything out we are falling down on the job. As a result of these trends, our children have less time than ever just to “be.”

Remember when you were a child? I remember hours spent playing outdoors with the neighbor children, making “potions” out of our moms’ old perfumes, arguing over the rules of large group games and ultimately coming to some sort of resolution that worked for everyone. So much was learned from these experiences and negotiations. When do children get the opportunity to do these things today if their lives are so scheduled with “edu-tainment” they don’t have the time to simply be bored?

Our world is an increasingly complex place. Everyone has theories on how education can meet the needs of children in the 21st century. After spending the last eight years watching what children learn from playing with their friends at LifeWays, I have become an outspoken advocate for the right of every child to have several hours each day devoted to free, unstructured play. Indeed, it is the only type of education that I feel will help children develop thinking and problem-solving skills that are elastic enough to imaginatively envision solutions to all of the challenges they will face as adults.

Thank you for choosing this type of education for your children. And thank you for being part of our LifeWays community. Your children will thank you someday, as well, for giving them the opportunity to learn in a way that is outwardly simple, yet inwardly rich.

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