Home – the Best Growing Ground for Children
Last week, two of our state governments announced, that under a new plan four and five-year-old children will have an extra year of education. The classes will be five days per week and will be free.
“It will mean that, in the next 10 years, every child in Victoria and NSW will experience the benefits of a full year of play-based learning before their first year of school,” the premiers said in a joint statement.
The pre-kindergarten year is unlikely to be compulsory when it is first introduced, but what happens later on? Will young children be required to attend school whether or not their parents want them to?
The real driving force behind this new plan is economic:
“At the same time, it will benefit hundreds of thousands of working families.”
Childcare is too expensive for many families so this school plan solves the problem. But the underlying issue for many parents here is housing affordability, which forces both parents into working outside of the home.
The idea that early childhood education in an institution is the best environment for young children has become accepted and unquestioned. In some cases that might be true if the home environment isn’t good, or the child’s family is dysfunctional.
Years ago I had a conversation with a young mother who said that before her daughter was born, she didn’t question the fact that her child would go into day care at six weeks, just like all her friends had done with their children, even though she had at least six months of maternity leave after the birth. Then her little girl was born and she suddenly thought, “What am I doing?!” and completely changed her mind.
In For the Family’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay shares her own upbringing and argues, along with Charlotte Mason, that home is the best growing ground for children.
‘In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mothers first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air.’
Home Education, Pg 44
Although this government plan is for a year of ‘play-based learning,’ it is directed by adults. They are the initiators and directors; the children are the vessels to be filled. A ‘quiet growing time’ at home recognises that children are born persons and that parents have been given a Divine Trust and a deputed authority.
I’ve written more thoroughly about this here.
We live in a post-Christian culture. How we live each day is based on our beliefs. On pg. 29 Macaulay writes:
‘What will a culture be like when people believe that there is no truth, no purpose, no meaning – that there are no moral absolutes? This kind of thinking devalues life to such an extent that many younger people (and older ones too) now lack motivation and la joie de vivre (the joy of living). Holding this life-denying post-Christian view, many are ignorant of the value and joy of having an everyday life rooted in a home and a community. The ordinary for them becomes boring or like a prison. Is it any wonder such life-cheated persons (for so they are) cannot enjoy simple delights and satisfactions?’
When a child is removed from a school situation to be taught at home they often need a ‘detox’ from the institutional setting where learning is regimented by bells and other methods of keeping order. This de-schooling process helps both the child and the parents to settle into a different way of learning; one that weans the student from reliance on external motivation to that of an internal desire to learn for themselves. Children often have to learn how to enjoy the simple things again. They need to be bored sometimes. They won’t die, but should learn how to occupy themselves and get their creative juices flowing.
A quiet growing time…
I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of my time outside when I was a child. My Mum would send me and my sisters outside to play – it helped keep the house clean, but it gave us a wonderful freedom to explore. Adults knew where we were and we were easily seen because we lived in a totally flat scrubby area with one hill in the distance which we could climb and slide down on bits of tin. I never really appreciated those years until I looked back later on. Day care and after school care would have robbed us of this formative time – my Mum worked night shift so it would have been a good excuse to send us off, but she managed and I’m grateful.
I often read about how beneficial early and extra schooling is – all these wonderful professionals (some very good, well-intentioned educators) who know best what children need; much more than parents do. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay recognised that her childhood home was a very great and godly gift but she also points out that her legacy did not come from perfect parents.
‘…perfect parents could not prepare us for a life that is to be full of our own and other people’s failings.’
Pg 25 – ‘In such a diverse world, to be good growing places or living places homes must adapt to actual persons, places, and situations. There is no one model. But certain qualities will be found in all these good-enough homes…’
She touches on an important point in the last paragraph of this page where she notes that although she had a secure childhood, her life was not the scene of ease and plenty that people expect today.
Some young people often want what their parents took decades to have. I was sixteen when my parents bought their first home. My husband and I bought or were given second hand furniture for years. We rarely went out for meals unless we were doing a long road trip and then it was a short stop at MacDonalds because their food was affordable at that time and they had clean toilets. It’s only been in the past couple of years that the two of us have been going out for coffee. We rarely did anything like that for over 30 years.
Pg 33 ‘…it is in the family home that children can best be seen for what they are – persons.’
This reminded me of something my flatmate observed years ago, before we were both married. She’d been to the home of a largish family for dinner – kids that she had labelled as ‘feral’ in other settings – but in their own home she saw a different side to them. They were settled and secure and she actually enjoyed their company.
There’s much I haven’t touched on in this chapter, but these were the main thoughts I had. What stood out to you?
Some inspiring posts on home life:
Photo above – rocking my beautiful new granddaughter to sleep. We had our first family lunch in a while on Sunday with all four grandchildren, and their Great Grandma, who was visiting from interstate and got to meet the two youngest for the first time.