Maybe education is overrated. I’m not talking about education for school-aged children. I’m talking about education for the under five set. Preschool. Baby school. Perhaps this is a somewhat hypocritical stance for me to take given that I received a number of extra (unnecessary?) years of formal education myself. But I’m thinking that a fair amount of this ‘learning’ is a wash. And, in some cases, does more harm than good. Just a few examples . . .
I went to pick up my one-year-old, Emma, from daycare last week, and found her sitting in the lap of one of her teachers. She was getting some individual tutoring. Emma looked quite content.
Teacher (excitedly): She knows where her eyes and her nose are! I asked her and she pointed right to them. Okay, one time she almost stuck her little finger in her eye. But, then she pointed to mine. She knows what “eyes” and “nose” are!
Emma turned to me calmly and smiled. (Read: “Hi, Mommy. I’m sitting on Miss Anna’s lap. I’m comfy. OH! And we’re playing a game that I think is called ‘Point to Random Stuff’. Whatever. Miss Anna is nice. And comfy.”)
Later that afternoon, at home, I quizzed Emma.
Me: Emma, point to your nose! Where’s your nose?
Emma looked at me blankly.
Me: Emma, where’s Mommy’s nose??
Emma remained silent. But the look on her face spoke volumes. (“Figure it out yourself, woman. I’ve got twenty minutes to play with Jacob’s toys until we have to pick him up from preschool.)
SCIENCE & NATURE
I took Jacob, my four-year-old, to the zoo a few months ago. Jacob loves animals. Lives and breathes animals. Regularly announces at the beginning of the day what animal (shark, rabbit, hermit crab, seal, camel) he will be channeling that day. And has been asking for a puppy roughly since he emerged from the womb. Suffice to say, he is always up for a trip to the zoo. On this particular trip, we made sure to hit all of his favorites. This included visiting the giraffe enclosure and then (right next door) stopping in to see the zoo keepers bathe the elephants. But while we were waiting for bath time, we noticed that they had a new ‘educational’ display: a television set showing a looping video of a mother giraffe birthing a baby giraffe. Standing. Up.
Okay, a few issues. First of all: STANDING UP?? (Overachiever.) Secondly, this is a ZOO. There are CHILDREN here. Impressionable children. Impressionable children whose mothers gave birth to a younger sibling a year ago. Impressionable children who were just young enough at the time not to ask HOW THAT YOUNGER SIBLING GOT OUT. And, more importantly, impressionable children who were just young enough at the time not to ask HOW THAT YOUNGER SIBLING GOT IN. Don’t screw this up for me, zoo. I’m warning you. Jacob stood in front of the TV screen transfixed. Watching the birth. For a few minutes. And then suddenly screamed, “MOMMY! There is a giraffe pooping another giraffe . . . OUT OF ITS BUTT.” Awesome. Thank you, zoo. I can’t wait until Jacob puts two-and-two together and starts asking questions.
In case you’re wondering, here is how I plan to respond to any birth-related inquiries: “Jacob, that is a GREAT question. How did that work? Hmm. It was a while ago. Let’s see if Mommy can remember . . . Gosh, how did I do that? You know what? Let’s ask Daddy. He probably remembers. DAN . . . !?!” I’m not saying I’m proud of that solution. But it is a solution. And I’m sticking with it.**
I picked Jacob up from preschool on Friday and, once he was installed in his car seat, we had this conversation.
Me: How was your day?
Jacob (unusually upbeat): Great!
Me: Really? What was great about it?
Jacob: I got to READ BOOKS.
That’s right, folks. My child is thrilled that he got to “read books”. Feel free to fill out your ballots for MOTHER-OF-THE-YEAR now. (Try not to misspell my name. Thanks much.)
Me: Fantastic! When did you get to read books?
Jacob: While the other kids who were not following the rules SLEPT.
WOAH, BROTHER. What??
Me: You mean you read books during nap time??
Jacob: Yes! Because I followed the rules.
Me: So . . . did you also nap?
Jacob: NOPE! Cuz I followed the rules. I got to read books.
So, to recap: my child has now learned to “follow the rules” so that he can have the privilege of reading books. During nap time. Instead of sleeping. FABULOUS.
MORE SCIENCE & NATURE
A few weeks ago, I arrived to pick up Jacob from preschool during meeting time. His class was sitting in a circle. And having an animated discussion about the exceptionally large beetle larvae that someone had found on the playground. It had been captured and was in a cup. Perhaps as a reaction to its captivity, the larvae had . . . well, why give it away? The teacher walked around the circle showing each child the cup. Here was the response from Jacob and his classmates to this science lesson.
Child 1 (peering into the cup): EEEEEEWWWWW. It stinks.
Child 2 (holding nose): Stinky.
Child 3: LOOK. AT. THE. POOP.
Child 4 (refuses to look in the cup).
Teacher: That’s okay [Child 4], you don’t have to look at the larvae if you don’t want to.
YOU’LL JUST NEVER WIN THE NOBEL IN BIOLOGY, BUT THAT’S FINE. I’m sure you can find another way to make a living.
Child 5: That smells.
Jacob (wistfully): I wish I could have one of those as a pet.
In summary: maybe there’s a reason that formal education isn’t required by law until a child is at least five. I’m just sayin’.
**Editor’s note: Hi, this is Dan, Carolyn’s husband. Let me say right now, that I’m totally up to the challenge of explaining conception and childbirth to a four year old. It will involve lots of complicated vocabulary and an incredibly tedious amount of detail. Guarantee Jacob will lose interest long before I even get to deoxyribonucleic acid.