Leila has gone back to school for her SK year. My life is back to partially being defined by the school year. I refer to partially defined because when you reach my age, life is daily defined by the one whose life it is or it better be. However, I started Kindergarten at age 4, and if I were to be a child of this generation, I would be starting school at age 3.
So from age 4 until age 56 the school calendar – elementary, secondary, university, some college, and educator within the formal setting instrumentally defined my life. If one was to be clear even the job where I presently work is pretty much aligned with the school year. Initially, children are placed in the educational system as defined by the province, unless home schooled. Post-secondary choices become optional be it directly into the world of work, the trades, college or university. Some may not use the word choice, but we will go with people guide their own path and stick with choice. Learning is life long. No learning no life.
When I hear at age 3 a child can begin formal education I have mixed feelings knowing what I know now about play and the importance of play for a child’s development. For someone like me who loved school and from my perspective believe school can be a place for building on hopes and dreams; I am happy I began at the age of 4. My father was happy about my engagement in school because I was involved in as many extra-curricular activities as I could fit in my schedule. He often told me, “I knew where you were and what you were doing”. School was probably my safe haven, one of the influential guideposts for my future after my mom’s death in 1962. Upon reflection, I was the one who chose to participate, get involved, step up – the school offers the opportunities, however the student chooses the school experience. I can say this with confidence after spending over 50 years in education in some way and now reentering as an advocate for a significant child in my life. Parents, guardians, teachers, family, and friends can influence, model, support, advocate, and encourage participation and let’s hope each child has a number of such people along the way. All students are entitled to an education and all students live their own experience during those years. How do we best prepare them? Play, play, and more play. Value play, unstructured play.
I must tell you Leila has reintroduced free play back into my life. Sometimes I find myself in strange situations. Last week we were at a birthday party and the kids were jumping into the foam. After one of the other moms jumped in. Leila looked at me. Ok, not the smartest move. Have you ever tried to get out foam when you’re physically limited, less than graceful? Not pretty.
More times I find myself blessed. The parents of Leila’s friends are of the age of people who could actually be my children and yet here they are in my life – open, inviting, fun. Leila is not the only one who has me forgetting how old I am; the parents have me believing I am younger. Crazy as this may sound, between Leila’s social group and working at Greater Sudbury Police Service I am beginning my life all over again. What a hoot!!
Life is an adventure to be embraced.