Monday, June 27, 2016

You are a Marvel

Preschool years are a gift. There will never be another time like it. Where your children want every minute of your attention, so full of curiosity where they learn in mountain loads a day. When the preschool search began I knew it had to be special. A place that provided a loving, nurturing, no pressure environment. A school that treated these precious years with gentleness, kindness and lots and lots of play. Play. Somewhere in past few years that word has been taken from these children and from their learning environment. It has been replaced with expectations. So when the search for school began I had a hard time finding such a place I wanted to provide Jman with a gentle learning experience. A place that didn't expect them to learn a certain set of things. A place that didn't "prepare" them for kindergarten. A place that knew if you provided kids an environment that met their needs, they would excel, and learn and be ready for the future. A place that provided what was right developmentally so that each kid got where they needed to be naturally. No pressure. No expectations. I believed with all my heart this is what is best for my kid, and all kids. The search was hard and it was long. Nothing felt right for us. Sure there are lots of wonderful schools, and there is no right or wrong in what you choose for your family. We all are doing what we see is best for our kids.  But for mine there was a certain way I wanted to provide my son and I was on the search to find it.

One day I was driving our wonderful babysitter home. Like the best ever. She lives on the outside of the loop, a way I never drive. Never have a reason to. While driving her home I noticed a pumpkin patch. Cool I thought, note to self to take the boys. Then I saw the sign "Marvelously Made School" Another note to self, look up school. Continued on my way. Then looked up the website when I got home. There I read about this school that for the first time on my preschool hunt, made me excited. I contacted to go to the Open House. As soon as I walked in I felt it. Peace. There I heard the director and creator of the school, share all my teaching philosophies, all the ways child development should be taught, how children should explore and not be told what to do, how they are not expected to do anything that isn't appropriate for them, how children should be respected in every aspect of their lives. I heard how these kids were allowed to be kids. These kids were given the opportunity to learn through play. And I swear my heart sang. I couldn't wait to sign Jman up. And I'm pretty sure I asked for a job that night. Haha. For the first time in a VERY, VERY long time I saw that education was being treated right. I left the public school system so hard, and jaded because they do so many things wrong. It was so refreshing to see somewhere treating children right. Jman just finished his year at preschool, where we both cried about it ending.

I've been asked many times about this school. Why I love it, why I share so much about it. I think people realize its different and they're curious. So I decided to write some of my favorite things about Marvelously Made School For Young Children. A few, because I could go on and on.

1. Children are respected - They are treated as a person who is just as important as an adult. Their ideas, their needs are acknowledged and respected. They are given the time to say all they need to say or ask or work. They are not rushed. They are not rushed! The teachers know they are working and that is important. They don't have to stop what they are doing because you want them to do something else. When someone needs to talk they are fully listened to, children and adults wait until those speaking are finished before they can share what they need to say. Yes even the adults because a child needs to know they are important too. Children learn in this environment that they are important and they matter. They matter! Through being respected they learn to respect themselves, teachers, other children and property. They are not told how to be respectful, they are shown it and it shines through them. During gathering time, they learn to sit and listen to their teachers. Then they are given the opportunity to all speak whatever they need to share. All of them. And its amazing that these 30+ kids all sit and wait their turn. Through this they learn to respect their peers and that what they have to say matters and they will be equally respected. Jman has really shined with his confidence to speak up because of this. Before he wouldn't have spoke up, but since he was given the chance to feel safe and respected, he will speak up and talk to someone if he wants to.

2. Outdoor Classroom- First of all there's an OUTDOOR CLASSROOM. That is used as long as they want to stay out there. No 15 minute recess time. They can stay outside and work until their heart is content or its gathering time. Yes its as wonderful as it sounds. Outside is where so much learning happens without any effort. We love outside. It gives my boys the chance to use that energy, they contain so much of. One of my biggest worries of public school is that my children are stuck inside for too many hours, without the proper use of their energy they deserve. This outdoor classroom is huge. There's swings, a garden, a hill of mulch, a HUGE sand pit  (where J lived and brought most home in his shoes), a play kitchen where I've made mudpies, blocks, babies, art, science experiments, books, reading nooks, animals, a glue table, a tree log to hammer, screw, nail things into and much more. And its there inviting the kids to play, to learn, to create, to explore, to touch, to feel, to do.

Here's sand that he brought home in one day.

 This leads to my  next favorite thing is...

3. Freedom of choice - What the kids don't realize (this goes for inside and outside) that each station,  each object,  everything was chosen with a purpose. A purpose to engage and teach. What the children then have is the choice, where they work, what they do, for however long they would like, however they would like (safely of course:) )They work where they want for as long as they feel necessary. It is here where the teachers become observers. They watch and engage with the kids, asking questions, helping where needed but not forced. They do not tell the kids what to do, they don't show them what they do, they watch and engage when needed. This kind of environment goes against what society has created as the "normal" role of a teacher. However this is the environment kids will thrive in. Where their natural desire to learn will succeed and flourish! Believe me these teachers are teaching and they are encouraging learning. I've watched how far J has come this year. How this gentle, loving approach has really made him take off. They are learning through play. Which children should be allowed to do. Play. It is their right to play. I loved hearing all the science terms Jman would talk about and I would ask how they learned it and it was always some cool project. Like they learned how gravity works by letting paint drop down a canvas.
Here is one of their action paintings, where they learned how gravity works.

RC was fascinated with this, and it was one of two places I drug him away from every time I dropped J off. The other place was the sand pit.

4. Risks - If you know me, you know I'm a "let you try it" parent. That means I feel I know my boys, I trust their instincts and I let them try the scary, take those moments and be brave. I have one child who is very cautious and needs encouragement, he gets gentle pushes when needed, and he knows I am there to catch him if he should fall.  The other needs no encouragement, he was climbing stairs before crawling, climbing ladders before walking, mastering 15 foot rockwalls before age 2, and recently riding bikes twice his size. I have gotten my share of gasps at the park, and watched others jump to help my children. But I believe in risk taking. I feel they are going to learn what they can or can't do taking those risks. Obviously this is with supervision, and I would never let them do something that would be truly harmful. I'm not negligent. MM is a risk taking school. They are allowed to try that new thing, they are trusted and being watched closely too. They are allowed to take those risks to see what happens, what is the effect, is it a good idea or not. How else are you going to discover something new if you don't try something new? Take those risks, they are learning opportunities.

5. Problem Solving - The kids are trusted to work out their problems with friends. They are talked to and everyone is listened to. They are not told what they should do, but respected and guided as they figure it out together. They are not placed in time out and told to think about what they did wrong. They are given the opportunity to work it out together and move on. Which provides a life long skill of problem solving and learning to work with others.

6. There is no pressure or expectations - This seems to be what drives most schools now. People are in a panic that their kid won't be prepared for what's to come. So they push and expect more than what is developmentally appropriate. This is one of the reasons I waited until Jman was 4 to put him in school. I didn't feel I needed to prepare him for school. I want school to be a place he wants to go and learns because he is ready. If you wait and do things as developmentally appropriate, something amazing happens, they learn as they should. I have not wanted my kid to spout off all his letters at the age of  2, I have not expected him to do things just to "check" that box. I let him lead, and learn as he is ready. MM nurtures that. They learn what they are ready to learn. They are ready for the next step because they are developmentally ready. They are not "prepared" to be ready. They are ready  because they were given the chance to just develop. Its a magical process. They are spending their time focusing on self care, social skills and motor skills,  that are often skipped because we are pushing our kids to "know" so much information.

7. Its cozy - Seriously I can't describe this,  you need to go see it. It is such a welcoming environment that anyone can learn here and wants to. Its not overwhelming or over stimulating. Its beautiful.

8. Animals- There are animals everywhere. Rabbits, bearded dragon, chickens, tortoise, lots of animals. From which they learn how God created each one and we are to take care of and not harm God's creations. They are allowed to explore and catch other animals, to observe and gently release. Jman caught frogs, and I heard once it was kept in his pocket, thankfully it was returned before coming home. I saw a rhino beetle for the first time in my life. What an amazing experience to see so many different kinds of animals, how to care for them and feed them, to be able to observe and touch.

9. Mud Day- We love mud! Its not uncommon for us to be digging and making our own mud days at home. What a joy it was to watch mud day on a large scale. Kids sliding and throwing, smushing and digging. Certainly a day to remember  It was a joy to be apart of this day and watch all the fun take place. I certainly love mud days from college.

10. No Parties- Ok I'm not against class parties. However I enjoyed this year, not having to participate in this. There are many things you say before you're a parent of what you will do with your  kids. Usually once you have kids, that goes out the window! I have one however that I stuck to. No Santa or Easter bunny. Now I'm not judging anyone who does this, everyone is entitled to do what is best for their family. In our house we focus on Jesus. So I was beyond ecstatic when Christmas came at school and I hear they are having a birthday party for Jesus! More heart singing. This is what its about. The kids made gifts for Jesus. The day was about Jesus. I know that soon that will not be the case at school. The world is going to tell my kids so many things that are not Jesus, so I am going to fill them up with Jesus as much as I can so they can fight that. To see a school put their focus on Jesus is amazing.
Making his present for Jesus

Birthdays are honored and they get to decorate this for their birthday.

11. LOVED - Every single kid. Every single sibling. Every single parent. Are loved. Each child is treated as the unique person God created them to be. They are marvelously made, each and every one. They are encouraged to be who they are and let their unique gifts shine. They are loved! My favorite part had to be at the end of year program where I heard the teachers bless the kids with their unique gifts. Lifting them up and filling their little hearts up. I may have cried, which is an impossible task!

This school has become such a part of us. Its a place full of joy and safety. When I dropped J off everyday I knew he was going to come home joyful and wanting to go back. I wish this environment for every kid. I wish that schools like this became the norm and people would get back to the root of childhood. Let them be little, and enjoy every minute of it.

MM provides that environment. You should check it out for yourself :)

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