Saving Childhood

By: Neil Mufson
What are parents to do? Last week I wrote about writer Kim Brooks’s NYT article “We Have Ruined Childhood” and its conclusion that in our society, “a disintegration of communal and familial structures for childcare and child raising,” coupled with a dramatic increase in work demands for most parents, have led families to have “to prioritize physical safety and adult supervision over healthy emotional and social development.” Brooks asserts that these significant and often overwhelming social forces have led to phenomena that are distinctly unhealthy for children. Thus, childhood today is marked by longer school days, earlier and earlier academic demands, over-regimentation, protection from any kind of adversity, active-shooter drills, constant mass gun violence, and the scaling back of time devoted to play, being in nature, or doing nothing. Unintentionally — but not surprisingly — all of this has resulted in higher and higher childhood levels of unhappiness, inattention, learning issues, social maladjustment, stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide.
At The Country School, we try to promote a balanced and healthy childhood. Yes, we believe in challenging (but not overly stressful) academics. Yes, we believe in assigning (a controlled amount of) homework that builds independence, inculcates responsibility, and furthers classroom learning. But TCS also believes in preserving childhood with time-tested developmentally-appropriate practices.
Consider that all of our students are nurtured by a caring and attuned faculty. We build skills incrementally and meet our children with consistency, structure, and the expectation that they will falter from time-to-time but that they need support in learning from their mistakes, not in ensuring that they avoid any unpleasantness. We tailor their learning in personal and responsive ways.
In addition, all of our children have recess at least twice a day. They enjoy regular and healthy outlets for physical activity, the arts, and creativity. We make lessons active and hands-on as much as is feasible, while not neglecting the fundamental skills that enable life-long learning. Our new Lower School science program gets kids outside exploring the natural world and encourages them to realize that active learning sometimes gets messy. Upper Schoolers have memorable outdoor education experiences that get them outside and away from their comfort zones. Our older students also have the chance to participate on sports teams, with all of the potential learning that comes from competition and team membership.
All the while, we nurture the growth of independence, organization, time management, study skills, and the acquisition of social skills. Then there is our constant focus on values, character, and doing the right thing. I could go on. The important point, however, is that when you invested in The Country School, you invested in a lot more than just academics. You have chosen a school that does its part to stand against the tides of the forces “ruining childhood.”  

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