Gee, What a Fun Park!

Woo-hoo! Lots of fun!

Woo-hoo! Lots of fun!

Outrage of the Week: Pre-Schoolers In, Geezers Out

Hi Readers — What’s the story today? Simply this: After four years of gathering every week  at the local library for a morning of coffee, tea and friendship, a group of retirees is being chased out. Why? A nursery school started bringing its kids there at the same time and the old folks COULD SPILL THEIR HOT DRINKS  ON THEM. Here you go, from The Daily Mail:

Council officials have now axed the meetings claiming that toddlers from a nearby nursery who use the library at the same time could be injured if hot coffee spilt on them….

[Said one of the pensioners:] ‘It is very disappointing, we all thoroughly enjoy the weekly meeting, it is a chance for us all to catch up and have a chat.’  …

A chat is all well and good, sir, but don’t you see? CHILDREN’S LIVES ARE AT STAKE:

Peterborough City Council, who run the library, said there were ‘concerns’ about hot drinks being served when children were close by.

A spokesman said: ‘In recent months a group from the local nursery has started to visit Eye library every Tuesday, between 11am to 11.30am. Unfortunately, their visit also overlaps with the regular meeting of the Over 50s coffee morning. However, we do not want to spoil anyone’s fun, and will be speaking to both groups to see if we can be more flexible about the timings so that the nursery group are not in the library at the time the coffee morning is meeting.’

It certainly sounds like a scheduling nightmare — two whole groups to keep track of, one of them consisting of  seven people!

Meantime, I very much hope that the City Council will be paying visits to the children’s homes to make sure no hot beverages are being served there, either. Can’t be too careful! — Lenore

Pre-School Prep: The Inside Scoop

Hi Readers!  This wisdom for pre-school parents comes to us from Jen Singer, who is NOT just a personal friend, NOT just the blogger behind mommasaid.net, NOT just the gal who penned, You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either), but is ALSO the author of the brand-new Stop Second Guessing Yourself –The Preschool Years. That book inspired this post:

FLASHCARDS vs FUN

by Jen Singer

Wait a minute: Are those flashcards in that mom’s hands? At a baseball game? Yes. Yes, they are. She’s holding them up to test her preschooler on her letters and numbers – on a Friday night at Little League.

Meanwhile, your kids are playing under the bleachers. Something about a princess and a fire truck and magical cookies…you have no idea what they’re saying. All you know for sure is that your kids are having fun, while the little girl with the flashcards is working on mom-imposed homework and a nervous breakdown before she’s 12.

And yet you resist the culture pushing homework and studying for younger and younger children because you believe that kids learn through play — something your mom’s generation seemed to take for granted, while yours acts like it’s nothing short of heresy. Preschool, it seems, has become what first grade used to be – all about the three R’s: Readin’, Ritin’ and an awful lot of Responsibility for a bunch of four-year-olds.

Now, however, it appears that a fourth R has brought some common sense into today’s parents: Recession. All of a sudden it’s okay to put off the expensive piano lessons for kids who aren’t even old enough to read and to skip the personal soccer goalie trainer altogether. It’s okay if you let the kids just play instead of gearing them up for Yale right now. Isn’t it?

Frankly, you don’t care. Your Free-Range Kids are happy, healthy and plenty ready for preschool. How do you know? Because even though they can’t conjugate French verbs (well, not many, anyway), they know the four most important things they need to succeed in preschool:

  1. They can put on their own coats. (Ever watch a preschool teacher help 22 kids put on coats at recess? By the time she’s done, it’s spring.)
  2. They know how to share. (Not everything, every time, but they get the concept.)
  3. They can use the potty.
  4. They can sit (reasonably) still.

That’s it. That is the basis of what they need for preschool. Everything else, you suspect, they’ll learn thanks to a princess, a fire truck and some magical cookies…or whatever. They’ll learn through play, just like you did long before there were ever flashcards at a baseball game on a Friday night.

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One Feisty Dame Can Defeat a Dumb Idea

Dear Readers — Sometimes, one person standing up for sanity can make a difference. Here’s a cool lady:

Before retirement, I was a volunteer coordinator. My job was to find volunteers for all non-profit and government agencies in the county. We had a PenPal program which entailed matching about 35 senior citizens with an equal number of 5th grade students in a specific class. We worked with the same teacher for years. Letter-writing was one of the skills children were to learn, and our only personal contact was a school party at the end of the year, where the kids put on a play for their senior pen pals. During the year, they knew only each other’s first names. It was a great program on many levels. Many kids have no elder in their lives, no one to tell them the stories. Many seniors lack purpose, and their monthly letter from the kids was a huge emotional boost.

And then the laws changed.

Each of our pen pals was required to have a background check and a TB test. The background check alone cost $70, and many of our seniors simply couldn’t afford it. I went to our superintendent of schools, who will remain nameless for her protection, and showed her exactly how the program worked. On the spot she called board members for a conference call and we were given permission to continue our program. Action! Sanity!

When I was “room mother” in my children’s classrooms, I made a thousand cupcakes for various reasons. Now, the volunteers are required to bring only purchased snacks in containers sealed at the store. I didn’t poison anybody’s kid, and I know mine weren’t poisoned. How did we let this happen?!

More to the point: How did  they let you retire?! — Lenore

Mini Free-Range Outrage Involving a Kitchen Utensil

Hi Folks — This just in from a town outside of Georgia. (That’s the American Georgia, for all our international readers!) A “Webelo Scout” is a youngster on the cusp between Cub and Boy Scout.

My son is Webelo scout and earned his whittling chit last year.  This year I volunteered at the district day camp and led the Bear den.  When it came time for the boys to earn their whittling chit, the instructor showed them all the proper ways to handle the knife and then — he handed them each a potato peeler! 

It was pathetic.  So all of the boys who were there earned the whittling chit without ever once touching a pocket knife.  I am so glad my son earned his the old fashioned way!  We are also lucky to belong to a pack that believes in Free-Range scouts!  If you can find a pack or troop like this, then scouting can be a great experience!

Agreed. And I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to whittle with a potato peeler. It’s like knitting with a fork. — Lenore

Free-Range AND Obsessive-Compulsive?

 Hi Readers! Here’s a little note I got that I thought you might like, too.

Dear Free-Range Kids: As the pseudo-aunt of a 2.5 year old nephew and 4 day (yes, DAY!) old niece, and as someone who wants children of her own, it is so refreshing to hear your point of view. My sister  and I have arguments about her toddler’s safety : Do we REALLY need to religiously apply sunblock on him for the twenty minutes he’s going to spend in the sun on the deck? Do we really have to use bug repellent on the off chance a mosquito traveled all the way from Africa surviving, against all odds, on the blood of jumping fish, and now might  bite him, giving him malaria and causing him to die? And don’t even get me started on “if we give him sugar, it’s ALL HE’LL EVER EAT!” (Because sugar, apparently, is the new crack. And we’re all addicted.)

I’m all for safety. Don’t play with matches. Don’t run with scissors. I certainly don’t leave him alone with my loaded gun. No need to COURT danger. But sunlight? Sugar? Killer mosquitoes?

And, by the way, I have a clinical diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I’m big on what-ifs. There’s a reason I wash my hands thirty times a day and quadruple check my door locks. Of course I worry. I’m better than anyone at finding things that could potentially be harmful. But I also know how miserable living a life afraid of “what might happen” can be. And if OCD me can let the child watch a movie (might harm his eyesight, you know, if he sits too close), or play with my Labrador (the puppy might suddenly, without provocation, attack him then turn on me and rip out my throat, leaving us in a bloody mess), or help me cook by adding pre-cut ingredients into a soup pot (I might lose my grip, drop him head first into the pot, causing him to sustain large burns and eventually drown in vegetable beef soup) — if I can do this, with a disorder that’s colloquially called ‘the doubting disease,’ then by God, there’s no excuse for the rest of us. — Signed Auntie OCD

Trust No One — Especially Not a Parent Volunteering at School

Hi Readers — Here’s a round-up of Providence, Rhode Island-area schools that are making their parent volunteers get background checks, sent in by a gal named Rema. I know a lot of folks will say, “This makes sense! Can’t hurt — can only help!” but let’s consider whether that’s true.

*First of all, if there are any studies that show kids are getting molested right and left by parents who volunteer at recess duty or on field trips, I haven’t seen them. It seems kind of hard to molest a kid in the middle of a trip to the petting zoo. (To read how children are being discouraged from actually petting animals at the petting zoo — for health reasons — click here. But then don’t forget to come back! The bus leaves PROMPTLY at 2:15.)

*Secondly, the idea behind these background checks is that everyone who is innocent should be happy to be checked, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that now we are treating everyone as GUILTY of unspeakable crimes against children, until proven otherwise. That is a strange view to have of humanity, not to mention a depressing one. It’s also wrong: Most people are not child rapists. (Something tabloid TV forgets.)

*Thirdly, and this is a topic I hope to get deeper into on a later post: even most of the folks who are ON the sex offender lists do not pose a threat to children. I know that sounds shocking, which is why we’ll revisit it. Suffice to say that if you are a 16-year-old who has consensual sex twice with a girl you think is about your age (who turns out to be 13), as was actually the case with a guy named Ricky, you can find yourself registered FOREVER as a “Tier 3 predator.” Your charge will read  “lewd and lacivious acts with a child.”  

Any parent reading that description would think, “Keep him AWAY!” But is a teen who had sex with another teen really a threat to our kids? Those sex offender lists are like bad data: They look like helpful information, but a lot of it is just garbage. I’d let Ricky chaperone my kids.

*Finally, this whole “background check” deal falls into the ever-growing category of trying to make extremely unlikely events extremely unlikely.  Just as a manufacturer will recall a stroller if 1 child in 36,000 gets his fingers pinched in a wheel,  just as a park district will remove all the merry-go-rounds lest some child possibly hurt herself, just as a principal will forbid kids from playing tag because someone could trip,we are now going to excessive lengths to make it harder for helpful parents to help a school,  when we should be doing just the opposite.

Anyone who is willing to volunteer for lunch duty, or recess: God bless ’em. (I tried once, and fled.) –Lenore