Baby's First Education
My daughter Ellie is now ten months old, and due to the fact that her mother and I both work full time, we recently enrolled her in a local day care program. It wasn't the easiest decision to make, as we'd both love to be able to stay home and take care of her ourselves; however, the experience has not been without its own unique joys. To help myself remember, I thought I'd share a few.
It's silly, but one of the things I've been looking forward to most as a dad is the day when I get to put my child's art up on the fridge. Regrettably, our stainless steel fridge doesn't really satisfy that use case …so, I figured I'd post some of Ellie's first artwork here instead:
It may seem sort of silly to have kids do these kinds of projects this young; it's messy and the end result is far from profound. For the kids, however, it's a fascinating new experience. It's a beautiful thing, really; at this age, kids haven't yet learned to be competitive about creativity —they get to learn to enjoy it first. I hope Ellie will carry that lesson with her as she gets older and pursues other creative outlets.
Ellie's mother and I are both somewhat introverted; Ellie, on the other hand, makes friends without trying wherever she goes. At restaurants she always picks someone out from one of the surrounding tables and gets their attention with a little smile and a wave; invariably they smile back, and you can tell they enjoy the evening more because of it.
She's the same way at day care —she not only enjoys playing with the other kids, but she sometimes even spends time trying to make their day better. Her teacher sent home the following note a week or two ago:
[Ellie] was such a sweetheart to her friend who was crying on the carpet. Ellie went over and laid her head on her screaming friend and patted her. So cute! :)
This is not to say that she's always going around comforting her fellow babies; later on in the same note her teacher wrote:
Ellie also had fun mimicking another friend's cry.
Not quite as friendly, but still valuable socialization!
I suspect that the social skills she's learning are going to be a great asset to her later in life. I'm also very proud of her for caring about other kids, even without knowing them very well; that's a rare gift even among adults.
One of the nice things about Ellie's day care is that they provide much more for the kids than just basic supervision —they have a curriculum, and are constantly teaching the kids new skills and experiences.
In fact, she's learning a few things at day care that Jamie and I wouldn't even know how to teach her at home. For example, her teachers are already exposing her to common words in sign language and Spanish: please, thank you, water, stars, and so forth. I'll be interested to see if she makes use of these new vocabularies as she starts to speak in the coming months.
One other interesting tidbit: they're apparently teaching her a few simple yoga poses, though I doubt she's going to be doing them on her own anytime soon!
I'm a very firm believer in the importance of education for every child, even regardless of the possible economic benefits. To tell you the truth, I think our society has gone a little nuts if we all think that the only reason to educate children is to prepare them for the job market. It's worth so much more than that —education enriches the lives of our children by showing them that there is always more to discover about the world around us and the condition in which we find ourselves as humans. (It also prepares them to be more responsible citizens at the voting booth and elsewhere, which is why I believe it is the government's duty and best interest to fund it properly …but that's another discussion for another post.)
Perhaps most importantly, formal education inspires informal self-education, at least when done correctly. The mark of a properly-educated man or woman is that he or she does not believe that one's education ends with a ceremony or a certificate; it continues, self-directed and self-disciplined, until one meets the final Teacher and sees face to face the Subject which we all study "as in a mirror dimly". I'm not sure it even ends then.
Here's hoping Ellie never loses the curiosity that drives her now, and that her educators remain ever committed to its encouragement.