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Putting the Child Back into Childhood

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Putting the Child Back into Childhood

By Linda Dobson


When we value his hands and heart equally with his head, will he achieve symmetry. Then watch him fly!"

I know I’m dating myself, but here goes. I remember a time when preschool was almost unheard of and daycare wasn’t a noun. Most families participated in “early years” homeschooling (although they didn’t call it that) until somewhere around a child’s fifth or sixth birthday. Until then we, all the neighborhood children, got together to ride bikes, visit each other’s homes, and enjoy rainy day quiet time in our own rooms. Even after we began to go to school, we spent the summertime together chasing lightning bugs in our pajamas, creating impromptu ball games at the park, and enjoying cookies and Kool-Aid at a shaded picnic table in each other’s backyards.

Fast-forward to life for children today, and the picture changes. For safety reasons, many of us wouldn’t dream of sending our children out alone. Daycare is not just a noun but a necessity. Organized sports replace pickup teams. And because of an increasingly academic kindergarten, coupled with a multi-decades’ long push for preparedness, preschool has moved from a luxury to a prerequisite for school. Enter the availability of all those extracurricular activities, and the opportunity for a child to exercise her imagination disappears daily.

Many homeschooling families know the sting of criticism from loved ones and friends for what appears to be their relaxed attitude towards “school work,” especially with elementary-school-aged children. Media critics relay fears that, spared the rigors of intense school-type study, these children will be unable to cope with higher education or the workplace. Despite such criticism, the families persist, secure in another lesson homeschooling has taught them about academic excellence: Kids thrive when loving adults put the “child” back into childhood.

Balance In Childhood 

It all comes down to balance, really, the balance necessary for health and happiness. “When we place all the weight on one side of an airplane, it cannot soar smoothly,” I wrote in The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self. “When we place all importance on a child’s intellect, he cannot soar smoothly, either. We make his flight toward independence unnecessarily difficult and dangerous. Only when we pay equal attention to all aspects of a child, when we value his hands and heart equally with his head, will he achieve symmetry. Then watch him fly!”

See also information on all of Linda’s books about homeschooling and education

Many parents believe the route to academic excellence shouldn’t necessarily resemble an expressway. If we put a child on the expressway through childhood, we forget she isn’t just an intellectual tractor trailer roaming the earth. We provide messages, subconsciously or otherwise, that it’s okay to neglect her need for equal amounts of emotional and psychological support, without which all the “head” success in the world doesn’t matter.

Toward a Happy and Healthy Childhood

Melissa Conrad learned this lesson the hard way when, int he course of four years, her “gifted” oldest child skipped a grade at school not once, but twice. “The first time we watched his stress level soar and did everything we could to ease it, but the second time,” remembers Melissa, “all hell broke loose, I see now, because while he was more than ready for the academic part, he wasn’t nearly as advanced as his classmates socially and emotionally. We were in a real Catch-22: We couldn’t let the problem continue, and we couldn’t move him back a grade or two, either. You might say we had no choice but to begin homeschooling him to give him the time, space, and experiences he needed to stay in balance.”

The route to academic excellence looks a lot more like a country road than an expressway, replete with interesting turns and detours that befit a child’s natural curiosity and continuous need for new experiences. When we take this road, we guarantee that all necessary aspects of a child’s education, those of head, heart, and hands, receive the attention required for wholeness, for a happy and healthy life.

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