Have you ever really stopped to listen to children at play? So much of the language used in early childhood is mimicked from what children hear in their everyday lives. For instance, the young child may be taking your order at a restaurant, asking, “How can I help you?” or “What would you like to drink?” Playing house may lead to a comment such as, “You can’t go outside until you clean up your toys!” or the humming of a lullaby as a baby doll is rocked gently to sleep. For those of us in early childhood and lower level elementary classes, play and imagination go hand in hand. Children learn from their experiences and the stories they hear each and every day. Different situations and scenarios begin to develop in a child’s mind and, in turn, lead to creativity and the formation of their own unique personalities.
Jim Davies, Ph.D., wrote “Imagination is quite possibly a uniquely human ability. In essence, it allows us to explore ideas of things that are not in our present environment, or perhaps not even real 1.” But what is real in the mind of the child? Even if something is not physically seen or heard, but lives in one’s mind, how can we as parents and teachers say it isn’t “real?” Pictures and images are created in the mind and it is an exciting place to explore. The beauty of the imagination of the young child is shown when the child creatively expresses him or herself, whether it is through art, storytelling or play.
Brooke Pernice, who works at our school and parish as an Associate Minister of Music and Faith Formation, recently posted a video on “Imagination through the Ear 2.” Although Brooke was unable to see the illustrated pictures, she would pretend she could climb into the book or tape and experience the story through her other senses. This is a testament to how critical books are to growing and developing the imaginations at the earliest of ages.
Parents and teachers play an important role in cultivating a child’s imagination. Introducing books and stories that are beautifully written, such as Bible stories, fables and nursery rhymes, assists children in building virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and justice. Children begin to understand how persistence pays off, that the prince can save the
princess from the dragon, and that good can conquer evil. This gives us as parents and teachers the perfect opportunity to foster creativity and play.
As digital learning presses on and the summer months approach, it is important to encourage children to use their creativity to interact with the world around them. Saying, “I’m bored!” is really not a bad phrase to hear. Reading to a child or having books readily available for them to interact with can spark curiosity, which may lead to a new adventure.
Across the country, students are learning at home. Here in Gladstone, SCBA teachers are supporting scholars by phone and video conference. We hear reports of students delighting in regular, on-line connections with teachers and classmates. More importantly, we hear reports of parents making the most of this opportunity, connecting with their students over great texts and worthy work, rediscovering the delights of a mind-to-mind, student-parent-text, relational engagement. A crisis is an opportunity, and this crisis is an opportunity to kindle afresh a shared, family delight in learning and working together.
I am a learner and during this unprecedented time, I find comfort in learning more about the classical model, in particular, the Charlotte Mason philosophy. I enjoy reading and listening to Dr. Bill St. Cyr and his wife Maryellen, founders of Ambleside Schools International. In a recent newsletter, Dr. St. Cyr posted suggestions for parents educating at home. He suggests keeping three things in mind during this stay-at-home period.
Keeping it simple.
Keeping it delightful.
Keeping it simple.
Often, less is more. A few things, done carefully and well, will foster more growth than a multitude of tasks done with compliant tedium. In most cases, even with teacher support, parents may not be able to sustain the full pace and richness of classroom instruction. Thus, SCBA teachers are sending home a workload that is sufficient to keep scholars actively engaged and growing but not overwhelmed. There will also be bonus hours for nature walks and sidewalk painting; for silent reading and composing; for knitting, paper cutting, and Legos; for card games and board games; for family Bible reading and family read-a-loud.
Keeping it delightful.
We are creatures made to delight, delight in God’s creation and God Himself, delight in family and friends, delight in good books and good things, delight in good work and good play. Of course, every person’s life has its share of distressing events, but life is meant to be a series of delights punctuated by adversity, not a series of adversities punctuated by the occasional delight. The greater the maturity of a man or woman, the more he or she can sustain delight in the good, despite distressing current events. In preserving an atmosphere of delight, it is important to remember that stress is the great delight suppressor. Conversely, relational joy (the pleasure of sharing a moment or a task, even a difficult task, together with someone who values me and connects with me) is the great delight multiplier.
Our children will be watching us, taking their emotional cues from us. When we face adversity with peaceful confidence, they learn to face adversity with peaceful confidence. When we fret, they learn to fret. But how shall we avoid our own fretting? Let us remember that we may not be in control, but God most certainly is. Let us keep our hearts stayed on Him and meditate upon these words: