Just a little rant….

I got my first hate mail comment today on this blog!  I must admit it wasn’t the nicest way to start the day!  I wanted to respond to it, though, because…. well, frankly because it annoyed me and it’s my blog so I will! 🙂

The comment was about my article "What Should a 4 Year Old Know?," which isn’t even posted here.  It’s on my web site and this person was so annoyed she surfed over here to rant at me.

She wrote (ironically enough on my happy post!):

(Anonymous) (72.79.77.46) wrote:

Mar. 13th, 2009 08:19 am (local)
what 4yr olds should know
I happen to be part of one of those "fancy preschools" you are mentioning. Did you evrer consider doing any research before bashing all schools into one? Our school takes the approach of using imaginationa nd learning through play and experience – in fact any quality early childhood setting would not and should not be teaching children by rote memorization! Early Childhood Educators know this to be true – It is amazing to me how many people think they are experts on childhood because they have children!

Hmmm…

Yes, us pesky parents thinking we’re experts on childhood because we have children.  The nerve!

First off, I’d like to mention that this article has gotten me more positive letters than all the rest of my writing combined.  I wrote it over 5 years ago and still get letters at least once a week from mothers, grandmothers and others who say they were stressed about their little ones behind "behind" and feel reassured about what matters to them.  I’ve also received quite a few letters from educators who wholeheartedly approved of it, including many kindergarten teachers who have written to say they wish more of their students’ parents could read it.  Schools, Head Start programs and day care providers have all requested permission to reprint it for parents.  It was featured on a family TV show and has been included in various newsletters.  I even had a school principal write me saying she agreed and was heartbroken because her granddaughter was in an "elite" preschool and was already developing stress and anxiety at age four.  So apparently some "experts" happen to agree with me.

Anonymous assumed I have no training in early childhood education because I’m a mother.  This is actually not true.  I studied Early Elementary Education at the University of Kentucky and had classes on subjects like teaching elementary math, children’s literature and child development.  I was a teacher’s aide in a first and second grade classroom and volunteered at a crisis nursery.  I ultimately changed my major to creative writing so my degree is not in Elementary Education, but I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and got a lot out of them. 

I was also an active volunteer in our area Head Start program and led special events with children on subjects like dinosaurs and St. Patrick’s Day, and served as the Chairperson of the area Parent Council for 2 years.  I helped interview potential preschool teachers and attended professional seminars on subjects like Sensory Integration.

My family is full of educators.  My grandmother was a teacher, then principal, then dean of education of a university and finally started an educational resource center that provides services like test preparation and tutoring.  She is in her 90’s and still manages the store full time.  My mother was a teacher and a psychologist, at times working exclusively with children.  I grew up steeped in theories of education and child development.

I also attended one of those fancy preschools.  From ages three to five I attended a Montessori preschool.  It was an excellent preschool and I still have a construction paper map of South America that I made as a student.

As a homeschooling parent, I have spent hundreds of hours researching education, from Waldorf to Montessori to unschooling to classical education.  I have read works by educators from John Taylor Gatto to Charlotte Mason.  I have subscriptions to educational publications like Edutopia and keep current on educational studies and trends because it is a subject I have remained thoroughly interested in all of my life.

So yeah, I actually have done research.

In the end, none of that qualifies me to call myself an "expert" on childhood though (not that I ever said I was one to begin with).  Anonymous is quite wrong if she thinks that classes or degrees or seminars qualify anybody to be an expert on childhood. 

Parents ARE experts on childhood.  We live this.  There is an old saying something along the lines of "the instant a child is born, so is a mother."  The instant we become mothers, we possess a kind of knowledge about our children that no book or class can teach.  We can tell by looking at our babies when something is wrong.  We know by their cries if they are hungry or in pain.  We can be in a separate room and feel our milk let down just as baby wakes to nurse. 

Society works very hard to convince us that we are "just" mothers and don’t know what’s best for our own children.  Doctors give us advice that goes against our instincts.  Outsiders warn us of dire consequences if we hold our babies too much.  Again and again, the message is that you should not listen to your heart and you should instead leave the raising of your child to the experts.

Pah.

My terribly inflammatory article dared to say that children need free play and nature and time with their parents.  It said that small children have a far greater need for love, play and one-on-one time than academics.  I recommended reading and taking walks and making messes and spending time together.  This is outrageous?

Here’s a news flash, Anonymous.  I’m "just" a mother, but I have 4 pretty amazing kids who didn’t just survive a lack of fancy preschools but are thriving at home.  They are really smart, creative, good little people and they are joyful.  They are loved and they are flourishing.  How could anybody have a problem with that?

I actually never said anything against children attending preschools, anyway.  I just said that other things were ultimately far more important.

I’m glad you are so passionate about your preschool.  I hope you are just as passionate about the children and that you help them feel special and brilliant and silly and strong.  And I hope when they’re not at your preschool that someone is snuggling with them and making mud pies and loving them to the moon and back.  Because I stand by my article.  To a four year-old, that’s the stuff that matters most.


12 Comments

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12 responses to “Just a little rant….

  1. Anonymous

    You go!
    Brava. I agree completely, and having read the article I know what you’re talking about and what you meant. Good response.

  2. Anonymous

    Pah, is right.
    I often cry or tear up when I read your posts. I know it’s not your intention, it’s just that I relate at a deep level to your way of expression. Take for example this comment:
    We live this. There is an old saying something along the lines of “the instant a child is born, so is a mother.” The instant we become mothers, we possess a kind of knowledge about our children that no book or class can teach. We can tell by looking at our babies when something is wrong. We know by their cries if they are hungry or in pain. We can be in a separate room and feel our milk let down just as baby wakes to nurse.
    Society works very hard to convince us that we are “just” mothers and don’t know what’s best for our own children. Doctors give us advice that goes against our instincts. Outsiders warn us of dire consequences if we hold our babies too much. Again and again, the message is that you should not listen to your heart and you should instead leave the raising of your child to the experts.
    Pah.
    ~
    I was always taught you should have values that are based on intent and deliberation. If my values come to be at war with one another, it is only me who can make peace. Anonymous works in a preschool, she loves their program believes it to be good, probably loves kids too and must have read the what a four year old needs to know article and somehow felt less needed. If parents can provide what a preschooler needs what about me? There’s room, there is room for preschool teachers and parents. Keep up the good work Alicia, you are a shinning light, leading the way.
    Love,
    Susan

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t understand how or why anyone would criticize your beautifully written, inspiring article about what four year olds should REALLY know. It has been a inspiration and comfort to many, many moms. I hope you won’t take the criticism to heart b/c it obviously came from someone who didn’t know what they were talking about!
    Jennifer
    http://www.windowintoourworld.blogspot.com

  4. Anonymous

    Great article!
    I can’t imagine anyone objecting to your well-written, heartfelt article. If this person is an Early Childhood expert, he or she must be aware that quality preschools that encourage plenty of imaginative play are rare, unfortunately. Many parents feel like they are “getting their money’s worth” only if they can see “results” like counting or singing the alphabet. A happy, well-adjusted child with a creative mind is harder to quantify.
    I’m not aware of any educators who find reading to children, spending time outdoors, and encouraging creativity controversial!
    Sparklee

  5. Anonymous

    The article is wonderful, and is what made me bookmark your site years ago. I only just discovered your blog since I’d not been by in quite some time. Funny to find this post, when just days ago I posted a rant on my own blog about the nurses in my pediatrician’s office, many of whom seem to have no respect at all for a mother’s instinct!
    Your response is spot on, I think. It’s so heartening to see someone taking a stand in support of moms and their experience- we just might know a thing or two. I just want to thank you for the article which is so important, and for the things you have to say here. They are important.
    Kit
    http://kitmama.blogspot.com

  6. Thank you, mamas!
    Thanks for all your sweet words. How nice to discover some new blogs too. 🙂

  7. Anonymous

    i could have been her
    sadly, i can say that i probably could have said something similar to the anonymous preschool teacher…back in the day, before i had my own kids. i distinctly remember thinking that my aunt and uncle didn’t know half as much about kids as *I* did, with my degree in child development…despite the fact that they were raising their own child! *sigh* oh how naive i was.
    i always figured i had a head start on parenting, with my degree and my experience in day care centers and preschool teaching. i was mostly wrong. oh sure, i suppose i was comfortable with my children initially because of all my experience with babies, and changing diapers and such…but i quickly learned that i really knew NOTHING about children, truly, until i became a mom.
    so i totally agree with you, alicia, that you do truly know children when you have them. it was quite an awakening for me! LOL!
    unbelievable that she would say that to you…and scary that i actually could have been her, back in the day! yikes! thank heavens i’ve evolved!🙂

  8. Anonymous

    Just wanted to point out
    Not to get nit-picky, but I do think there is a significant difference… Birth to 5 education is totally different from Elementary Education. It starts to blend around age 5 but B-5 Education has some fundamental and significant differences from elementary education.

  9. Deanna

    I absolutely loved your post about “what should a 4 year old know” and the your absolutely perfect response to the above anonymous individual. Your insight and knowledge was just what this momma needed and knew in her heart🙂. Thank you for sharing and taking the time relay your motherly expert opinion. It was greatly appreciated. All the best.

  10. Jo

    I felt great when i read your post “what should a 4 year old know”, tearful but in a good way.It has inspired me to spend more time doing fun things with my daughter instead of worrying too much about what she can and cant do.Im glad i read this as its a little reminder of what i am missing out on.

  11. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I recently decided to be a full-time mother and I can say that it’s the best decision I made.
    I’m especially touched by these lines:
    “…We live this. There is an old saying something along the lines of “the instant a child is born, so is a mother.” The instant we become mothers, we possess a kind of knowledge about our children that no book or class can teach. We can tell by looking at our babies when something is wrong. “

  12. Jayne

    I read your original article a long while ago… I copied and pasted it into a word document to give out to parents (and other teachers) who were concerned that their children didn’t tick all the boxes. When our Ministry of Education started pushing to tell parents of 5 year olds that they were not good enough. within a couple of weeks of starting school. I left Primary School teaching and moved into early childhood. After yet more years of working in “preparation for school, the real goal” environments I took a job with a home based education provider which means I now support adults to educate and care for children who are being taught at home. I have always advocated for letting children be children for as long as they can and your article sums up what I believe to be the best of everything. Thank you for your article. Keep doing what you do so beautifully. I know your children will love you for it forever and there are many parents out there that will love you for it too.

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