There in my doorway, stood a familiar face. The face of a parent whose third chid had graduated from our program last May. She was quick to notice the new pergola, new bike path and walkways, and the addition to the music area. That wasn't why she was here. She was here to share. She was here to share how well her child had done in kindergarten this past year. She believes in our outdoor program and the importance of giving children time to explore and learn in nature. She knows the importance of learning social skills and self-regulation. She understands the gift of time, and taking risks and building friendships, and watching a worm squirm in your hand. Her children have been in our home for twelve years, and even she laughed at her own comments.
"How many times have you had to explain to parents that they will learn when they are ready to learn and that we can't rush it?" she asked. "I know and believe in your curriculum but why am I always so surprised when the test scores confirm it?"
Memories fill my head of the little boy who didn't care about letters or numbers or learning to read. This was the child that could dig for hours, walk on stumps with his eyes closed, ride bikes backwards, listen to books for half a day, and lead his friends on adventures in lands far, far away. His kindness and caring for friends far exceeded how many alphabet letters he had memorized.
The test scores confirm for all of us that social and emotional competence is more important than learning the alphabet. Children will learn when their brain tells them to and when it is relevant to their lives. Knowledge will come when it is meaningful to the child. Yet even I caught myself glowing inside; even I felt confirmation once more that outdoor learning brings success in life. Giving children the foundations of social skills, problem solving, trust, and risk taking in an outdoor classroom is a very strong foundation. The social skills will bring new friendships and confidence in asking questions and taking turns and sharing. They will be kind and caring with new friends just as they learned to care for worms and plants emerging from the ground each spring. The problem solving skills they developed in the outdoors will be carried over to math and reasoning skills in science. Learning to read, is a risk. Children in outdoor classrooms take risks on a daily basis.
When we give our children the gifts of time and nature and caring adults, the test scores will take care of themselves. Once more, Under the Gingko Tree passed the test. Thank you to all my alumni families who took the risk of a non-traditional preschool program. Thank you for believing in yourself and your child, and in our program. Thank you for returning to share your success stories with me. The Tree House door is always open. Come often.