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And Pre-K For All

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“Pre-K for all!” As rallying cries go it’s a bit sweet and conjures up some pretty adorable images: Tiny people with finger painted signs toddling their way to Capitol Hill. It’s an expensive proposition but one that is difficult to argue. “It’s for the children!” “Children are our future!” You know the rest. But beyond the sentimentality and cynicism is the truth. The world has changed tremendously and we need to catch the hell up.

It is no longer the norm that small children spend their days with a parent, and it hasn’t been for quite some time. Childcare can be expensive and uneven in quality. Some toddlers are deposited in front of a television set for 8-10 hours and some are learning Dvorak on miniature violins. Of course these childcare discrepancies always existed. But there was a time when 5 year olds from every background arrived at kindergarten to start from zero together. Kindergarten (often held for 1/2 days) was for cutting, pasting, coloring, letter learning and learning to stand in line and raise one’s hand. There was story time and maybe some music and snack. Today’s Kindergarten is a bit more serious and most likely an all-day affair. The academics start much earlier than years past.

The day is spent learning letters, numbers, science, social studies, and yes, standing in line and hand raising. What was once an entire year consisting of an easing away from the home and into the world is now much more like the real thing. It’s understandable, there’s an awful lot to learn after all. In the past Kindergarten might have been the first time little people spent their day with other little people. (Socialization is serious business.) It makes a great deal of sense to beef up this precious year of public education. We know that early education makes an impact on life long learning (the good people of Sesame Street ran with that ball 40 years ago.) We also know that children come from vastly different backgrounds and opportunities. Those who can afford it or are fortunate to live in states with it, are already sending their tykes to pre-Kindergarten. Public education, despite its ideals, is not equal. Some schools are far superior to others. Some parents are far savvier than others. Any moves we can make to democratize education and prepare children for life long learning should be supported and applauded. I join those little people carrying the finger painted placards in setting down my juice box, and putting my hands together for universal pre-K.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Childhood, Education

 

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Demons Are Prowling Everywhere*

Did you know you can childproof every single electrical outlet in your home for just $20 each?  And a $30 bracket will harness that lightweight (unsightly) lethal flat screen television?  There are also electric cord shorteners, doorknob covers, toilet seat locks and childproof window treatments.  Remember when everyone was up in arms over the (now quaint) childproofing of pill bottles?

It seems that while I was quietly mastering the push down twist of my vitamin bottle, the world has become a perilous, Raiders of the Lost Ark place for small children.  Evidently even baby monitors are lethal.  An aside; I never really understood the baby monitor.  How big is someone’s home that they can’t hear the ear piercing cry of a child?   Or are they used to quell paranoia?  What is that baby saying about you while it feigns a nap, huh?  While we’re on the subject of my limited understandings; what’s with the toilet seat lock?  Is it a drowning concern?  A flushing of valuable items concern?  I am in need of enlightenment.

The advent of those little plastic outlet covers have no doubt saved many little ones from electrocution.  (Reportedly, they are too difficult for today’s parent to use and hence the $20 per outlet solution.)  Kitchens and medicine cabinets will always demand rethinking.  Unless your little one has rappelling gear, moving everything on up should solve any problems.  When my brother was at his most dangerous and destructible, cleaning solutions went into the upper cabinets and foods went into the lower.  It went well until we awoke to find him happily playing in a pile of grains on the kitchen floor.  That night, hook and eye locks were installed on the kitchen doors.  Problem solved.

Like exposure to dirt and germs, children need minor controlled exposure to cause and effect.  A bump on the head, scraped knee, burned finger tip are the ways we learn our (and the world’s) limitations.  Might I suggest that parents who feel they are living in a house of horrors, introduce themselves to a playpen.

Wait for it.  There it is.  “THERE IS NO PRICE ON SAFETY!”  Look, I am safety girl.  I took Robin’s admonition to Batman to; “buckle up for safety” quite seriously.  But I also am a disciple of the principles of cost/benefit ratios.  Confiscating my room service pots of jam are not keeping the passengers on my commuter flight any safer.  That confiscation served to entertain a bored TSA elder in a one-horse town.  Turning one’s own home into Fort Knox also contributes to a false sense of security.  But even more detrimental is how it initiates an imbalance into the home.  (Brace yourself, there’s gonna be outrage)  Children don’t pay the rent/mortgage, adults do.  It is the adults’ home and the children live there.  If you’re still reading, why not set the tone when the little one first arrives?  The baby can be contained (infant seat, playpen) both for his/her safety and your sanity.  The world (particularly the corporate world) loves to make new parents feel insecure.  The unsolicited advice starts pouring in at almost the moment of conception.  May I please (perhaps be the first) to tell you that you are doing everything right.  People have been surviving childhood for a very long time.  Parenting is not a spectator sport.  Relax, go snuggle with your little one in your home filled with sharp edges, it will all be fine.

*Stephen Sondheim – Sweeney Todd (1979)

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Childhood

 

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