Beret writes: One of the things I love most about the LifeWays approach to early childhood is the respect given to a child’s pace. Children are given ample time to get through any given activity. They are not rushed or told to hurry. Adults do not do things for them even though it may be easier and faster in the moment. Once they are old enough, they are given the time and support needed to complete their own tasks, such as hanging up their coats, getting dressed, etc. Mealtimes and snack times are sit down events, allowing for good digestion, appreciation of the food that has been prepared and each other’s company. Lots of time is spent in free play, both inside and outdoors. Adult led academic learning is delayed until grade school. This allows time for the child to grow a healthy physical body, which is the main task of the first seven years. The imagination is developed and the child is allowed to remain childlike.
When my boys were little, I had thankfully encountered these concepts. We had a rhythm that went pretty much like this: breakfast, free play, snack, free play, lunch, story, nap time, snack, free play, dinner, bath time, (maybe more free play), story, bed time. Sometimes bath time had to come before nap time because of the game “Mud Monsters.” Sometimes we went to the park or on a walk. Sometimes they helped me chop vegetables. They always participated in some way in clean up time. Unless we were engaged in one of these activities, they could usually be found in the back yard up in a tree that was their “truck” or digging an enormous “pond” or doing any number of things only known to them. If we were inside they were busy with their tree blocks and silks and play stands. They were always very busy. During these years I didn’t teach them much except for how to tie their shoes and how to wash their hands; how to set a table and chop a carrot; and so on.
This is much of what we do in KinderHouse. We have our daily story and our songs. I think most of what we are learning is how to enjoy each other’s company, to be part of a group, and how to go along with a healthy daily rhythm. Once out in the woods, which to me is the ideal place for free play, the children are climbing trees, digging snow homes and sliding down ice hills. We are so lucky at LifeWays to be situated on the Milwaukee River, where we can all slow down and let children be children.
Beret Isaacson is a parent, a LifeWays graduate and a caregiver at LifeWays of Milwaukee.