Why I don’t teach SCLANs (shapes, colors, letters, and numbers).

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What do you want most for your kids? To be happy? Successful? Generous? Inspired? Fulfilled? When was the last time you felt all of these things? When was the last time you felt invigorated?

The lucky ones among us will recall the glorious days of summer break as kids, when we couldn’t wait to get started on building, reading, moving, inventing, and playing. We would jump out of bed excited to start a new day, reluctantly pause for meals, and then happily resume our work. Somewhere along the way, many of us lost that spark. Where did it go? Chances are, it got buried somewhere under homework, textbooks, and to-do lists. Somewhere along the way, we were pulled away from our passions and directed toward something else. Something practical. Something useful. Something you have to know in the “real world.” Something that’s going to be on the test.

What if we took a different approach with the next generation? What if we encouraged them to follow their passions, instead of dragging them away from them? What if we let them follow their dreams? What if we didn’t extinguish their spark? What if we provided the oxygen to let their sparks turn into powerful flames?

How do we accomplish this? The first step is to take a look at some of the common building blocks of early childhood educations: shapes, colors, letters, and numbers, known collectively as SCLANs, and then zoom out. A little further. Keep going. There. With a wider lens, those old concerns about whether your 2 year old knows her colors or your 4 year old knows his letters look really small. Instead we see that there is a whole world out there to discover alongside our children.

Instead of teaching letters, let’s inspire reading and writing with stories from great children’s literature.

Instead of teaching colors, let’s provide space and materials to create art.

Instead of teaching numbers, let’s immerse ourselves in the mathematical beauty of nature and music.

Instead of sitting in a classroom, let’s go out into the world and breathe fresh air, help others, and find complex problems to solve.

Find your spark. Build a fire. Fan the flames.

That’s what the real world needs.

Pocketful of Pebbles Nina

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