Years ago when our oldest son was not quite two I remember having a conversation while eating lunch. It went about like this:
Mom: “…so Daddy is a boy and Mommy is a girl.”
R: “Auntie M a girl?”
Mom: “Yep, and uncle A is a boy. Grandpa’s a boy, and Uncle J too. What do you think Grandma is?”
R: Gramma a girl. Auntie K a girl.”
Mom: “That’s right. What about you? Are you a girl?”
Mom: “A boy?”
Mom: “Hmm. What are you then?”
R: “Mommy, I a monkey!”
Well, now that we have three kids it has been confirmed that either my husband or I does in fact carry the primate gene. ALL THREE of our boys have inherited it. For better or for worse, our youngest got a double dose of it. Here’s some evidence in case you’re skeptical…
So let’s be honest. A fair share of moms reading this are probably saying, “Who is this lady thinking she has the corner on the crazy-climber market?? MY kids could out-monkey hers any day!” And they just might be right. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much ALL kids have a bit of crazy in them. And it’s my opinion that its totally fine to allow a bit of the monkey to come out when appropriate. Like PE. Or recess. Or for a few hours in the back yard. In fact I’d argue a little imagination and pretend (even during class), a little climbing and running, even a few bruised knees are part of a healthy childhood. I feel so sad to see kids over-scheduled with no time to imagine and monkey around. Aren’t they kids?? Isn’t that how they learn and grow?
What really breaks my heart is seeing kids tested in school to DEATH. No time to learn through play. Even in kindergarten when that’s critical to their development. No time for recess, no time for an “imagination station,” no time for monkeys because we are too busy trying to make them into robots. Where they all learn the same thing at the same rate and can regurgitate the same facts on testing day. I hate that. I hated it as a kid, I hated it while studying elementary ed in college, and I hate it now as a mom. I want my kids to LOVE learning, but all they are learning is to think school is stressful, demanding, and no fun. You can’t really blame the teachers. They are so pressed to get results. Having student-taught and observed many teachers during college I know it isn’t the teachers. I’m convinced 99.9% of them are saints. Don’t get me wrong, not everything should be fun. And learning is not always games and running around. But kindergarten? Really?? I also don’t believe that learning is just about testing. Kids learn differently and at different speeds. But that deserves a post all to itself for another time.
I want to tell you about someone who I feel gets it. He knows that kids have a bit of monkey in them and it’s vital to their development for them to let that out. He’s a PE teacher at a local school who every few months does a ropes and climbing unit for the kids. Best of all, he opens it up to the public so that children all over town get the opportunity to experience his “Rope World.” My kids might as well be going to Disneyland when they get to go. Ropes everywhere, swings, bridges, a zip line, mats, bars, tubes to climb through… it’s heaven to little monkeys like my boys. What lucky kids that go to that school. Their PE teacher gets it. He understands that there’s more to learning than the tests. He’s even willing to give up his evenings for two weeks straight to give all kids in our area a chance to experience it. He’s a hero in my kids’ books, and I’m sure many others’. Boys and girls need that opportunity. To swing from some ropes. To get a little nervous being ten feet above the ground crossing a single-rope bridge. To climb to the top of the gym and ring a cow bell and hear everyone cheer. I really believe that is as much a part of learning as memorizing math facts or studying for spelling.
In this day and age where teachers are desperate for students to fill in those bubbles correctly it’s refreshing to know that there’s still people out there that believe there’s more to learning. In this changing educational world those people are critical to our children’s future. There’s so much more to education and development than tests, tests, and more tests. There’s imagination and play. There’s climbing on ropes, getting a little dirty, and exploring. Our kids are boys and girls that can do hard things. Boys and girls who can conquer fears, learn for themselves, and discover. They aren’t robots. And if on occasion they forget they’re boys and girls and think that they’re monkeys, I hope we can remember that it’s all part of learning, developing, and becoming the amazing people they will grow up to be.
Disclaimer: I LOVE my sons’ school, his teacher, and all the staff. They are wonderful, amazing people who do incredible things (as are all the teachers I know). I think all educators are limited and I just wish they could do what THEY felt was best for the kids. I believe that teachers are some of the most influential people and could better shape our future generations if they weren’t so pressed to teach to the tests.