The book All Joy and No Fun is an honest and intelligent book about modern day parenting. The author, Jennifer Senior, from the start, acknowledges that unlike other parenting books, this book is not about how to parent, instead it is a book about what parenting does to us.
Her in-depth use of relevant studies and historical perspectives creates a portrait of who we have become as parents and how becoming a parent drastically changes our lives.
One specific chapter reminded me of why I send my kids to Loomis Community Preschool. While Senior is not trying to advocate for play-based learning (she is simply trying to explain the simple gifts that children bring to our lives), her words are reminders of why play-based learning is so important for children.
“Children learn about the world through doing, touching, experiencing; adults, on the other hand, tend to take in the world through their heads–reading books, watching television, swiping at touch screens. They’re estranged from the world of everyday objects. Yet interacting with that world is fundamental to who we are” (All Joy and No Fun Jennifer Senior 104).
Children are being expected at much younger ages to learn as adults learn. We, as adults, forget that what works for us, does not work for them. We can give them all the answers, or we can let them discover them for themselves. Loomis Community Preschool teachers create an environment where children are allowed and encouraged to discover.
“Early childhood is when we first gain control of our bodies and develop our motor skills. Toddlers and preschoolers acquire knowledge in ways that are inseparable from their physical experiences” (All Joy and No Fun Jennifer Senior 106).
A preschooler’s mind is not an adult mind. So why do we try to teach a preschooler in the same way we teach an adult: pencil and paper? A child who can write his letters does not make for a knowledgable child. But instead, a child who has been given the opportunity to physically experience the world, will attain knowledge with every touch, every jump, every stumble, every prick, every bruise. I am thankful that Loomis Community Preschool encourages the physicality of the preschooler’s body and mind. I am thankful for dancing and climbing and digging and raking and rolling and running and pounding.
“Children remind us just how much of our implicit knowledge, which hums inaudibly in the background all day long, is stuff we once had to learn. They climb into the bathtub partially clothed, put half-eaten bananas in the refrigerator, use toys in ways the manufacturer never intended. (So you want to mix those paints rather than make pictures with them? Lay stickers on top of one another rather than lay them out side by side? Use dominos as blocks, cars as flying machines, tutus as bridal veils? Knock yourself out!). No one has yet told them otherwise. To children, the whole universe is a controlled experiment (All Joy and No Fun Jennifer Senior 107).
Oh, how many times have I cringed as a child sits at the art station, squirting glue all over her paper. “No, no, no!” I want to say. But at Loomis Community Preschool, the children are not told that glue is for gluing and paint is for painting. This allows not only for more true creativity, but it allows for children to explore. And although I want my children to know how to follow directions and I want them to know that often in life we are told “No!” I more so want them to have great minds. And throughout history individuals did not earn the label of “Great Mind” by using things the way they have always been used. Instead, the Great Minds of history were innovators, experimenters, explorers. They were people who were willing to say, at the age of 3, “I see that everyone else is painting with that paintbrush and creating pretty pictures, but I wonder what would happen if I poured all this glue onto my paper and left it there? Oh and maybe I will squish it a little. What happens then?” Pretty pictures, maybe not, but at LCP we are developing great minds.
“Most adults consider philosophy a luxury. But philosophy, it turns out, is what children do naturally, and when they do, they take us, back to that remote and almost unimaginably luxurious time when we ourselves still asked loads of questions that had no point. In fact, according to Gareth B. Matthews, author of The Philosophy of Childhood, asking pointless questions is the true specialty of children, especially between the ages of three and seven, because the instinct hasn’t yet been drummed out of them.” (All Joy and No Fun Jennifer Senior 107-108).
Circle time at Loomis Community Preschool is the epitome of philosophy. As the adults laugh awkwardly at the statements and questions being thrown around, we don’t interrupt and we don’t belittle. We discuss cuts and bruises, we wonder about the illustrations on the page of circle time books, we reveal simple details from our weekends, we are not afraid to go off on tangents. The adults in the room can laugh all they want. But is it possible that it is the children in the circle who should actually be laughing at us, because we ask so few questions, and say so few words to one another, out of fear of what others might think.
Touch. Experience. Experiment. Philosophize. The next great innovators will probably be products of your local play-based preschool.