……….to find to like-minded parents who value freedom and creative explorations for their children, without having to send them to a center or an institution to do the job for us? Back when we were still fresh and young parents to our two little girls, we had wanted playmates for them. So we posted a message about our intention to have a meet-up session to discuss the idea of forming a regular play group for young children and we got several responses – and a playgroup was formed for our girls! That was way back in the year 2000 I think. I remember the kids who came for our weekly play sessions were very young – slightly younger or older or the same age than our girls. We had a simple structure: circle time, story & songs, a planned group activity, snack time and free play time! Each family took turns to host and organise an activity for the week. There were no fees involved. The kids had a regular group of friends to play with. And they grew up together during those few years before it was time for them to enter school. And for some of them who did eventually go to school, we continued with our weekly meet-up sessions on a weekday afternoon (probably on a Friday), while our girls were homeschooling. It was an interesting experience as friendship was established in those early years and we did have good times together! I think I had initiated several playgroups then, or rather they had evolved as our girls grew older. This concept may seem rather odd for those living in smaller towns that still had the extended family ties in place. But in our urban situation, it is very much a necessity for parents to seek one another out and to engineer play sessions for our children.
"Finding interesting things for children to do is not too difficult……We can easily buy, borrow, or salvage many kinds of materials that will be interesting in many ways to young children. We can invent many projects that many of them will find interesting, and they can invent many more themselves." (John Holt: "Freedom and Beyond").
Our play activities revolved around art and craft, music, songs and movement, traditional games like the handkerchief game, nursery games, and board games. We also did simple cooking and baking sessions, as well as paper engineering and kitchen science experiments, and many more fun and engaging activities. The important take away from these early years experiences was that parents (mostly mothers) were the initiators of these sessions, and we did all the planning, preparing and conducting of these sessions that mostly took place either at our homes or in the parks.
Little did I realize that these early playgroup sessions would later form the basis for our homeschooling activities with completely different groups of family. The focus was always on play – sometimes they were creative, sometimes they were more structured, and at times they were spontaneous! The last is my favourites kind of play :)
At no time were we worried about the academics. Because they believed that learning through play was more than sufficient in giving them the education that they needed. And we still believe in that today!
Let kids be kids by giving them space and freedom to explore their worlds.
Let them get a little dirty, and sweaty and smelly, so that they may discover something interesting through their experiences with the outside world!
Protect them from harm, but don't shield them from experiences that may help them know themselves better and to realise what they want to do with their lives.
It doesn't mean they will become chefs one day if they enjoy having fun in the kitchen. But it does give them a lasting impression from the cooking or baking process. It also gives them skills to make food for themselves.
So begin by connecting with your children by playing with them……without lecturing, without nagging, without measuring or judging them……just PLAY. Or at least, be there for them, beside them, alongside them, or just watching them from a distance…..for they will grow up in a flash, and there will be no turning back the clock for the missed opportunities that you may forever regret not having the time for.
I'm glad I did that with my kids when they were young! I hope you do too 🙂