Childhood. The shortest and most influential six years. What happens in our childhood seems to affect us for a lifetime, good or bad. So what is good? What is healthy during these first six years? A wholesome childhood used to be about being home with mom. Mom baked bread and cooked meals. Mom did the wash and ironed the clothes. During the course of a week, there would be a trip or two to the grocery store and perhaps the library. Then on Saturdays, the treat may have been a trip to the dump (the landfill) with Dad. If you were three years old or 4 or 5, your days weren’t rushed. Mom didn’t consider to sit you down to teach you letters and numbers. There was no pressure for these things. You would learn them when you got to school. And that would be kindergarten. You may have spent a great deal of time outdoors just fiddling or making up games with a sibling, playing with dolls or cops and robbers. But family life has changed. And children have not.
And what is life like now for most children during this influential period of life? We’re very preoccupied with getting children ready for school, making sure they won’t be behind when they enter formative schooling. Sometimes parents become so concerned that their children are not being challenged or stimulated intellectually (at the Stone House) that they would place them in an institutional type of setting where they would be subjected to 40 minute time periods of learning something specific and irrelevant to their life.
While the social culture values productivity and tangible evidence of learning, the Stone House continues to promote SLOW EDUCATION. That’s right, there’s slow food and SLOW PARENTING and now, SLOW EDUCATION. One might think that by speeding up childhood, making children “advanced” with rote learning in preparation for school might set them right for a future of success. But just the opposite is true. Like the soil for a plant, or the foundation for a house, when we are slow in the beginning, taking the time to notice, to comment, to talk, to sing, that this indeed will propel children with health and well being for a lifetime.
“I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core and I think the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age.”
—Henry David Thoreau