Many years ago, at a homeschooling picnic, I met a family who
had a baby a little less than a year old. I watched her as we sat on a picnic
rug together, eating our sandwiches. The little girl reached for a knife. It was
a rather big and sharp knife. I looked at the mother and father expecting them
to take it off their child. But they didn’t make a move. I felt obliged to do
something, so I smiled at the baby and offered her a safe cup to hold, while retrieving the dangerous knife. The father noticed what I had done and said, “We don’t
take knives off our children.”
attitude was that a child will learn the right way to deal with a knife by watching our example, and by being allowed to handle one. As long as we don’t act with fear, she will be quite
safe. A child will become afraid if she thinks we are afraid and that’s when
have accidents with sharp objects. But I do feel we place too many restrictions
on what our children can and cannot do. We sometimes underestimate their
begun, not in the teenage years, but in the toddler years. When they want to
sit on a “big chair” and not in their high chair or on mummy’s lap for meals…I
let them. When they push the chair to the toaster to try to make their own
toast for breakfast…I encourage them and show them how.”
Gemma-Rose making her own breakfast. Actually, she could have been only 2, I
forget exactly. Anyway, she was a tiny little thing but she could reach the
oven griller. She knew how to press the gas pilot button and turn the gas dial
to light the grill. She knew how to pull out the tray and lay her bread on it.
She was quite capable of making her own toast. And she never burnt herself
and because she was shown how… and because I let her.
her older siblings can do…
dangling over the side. She emerges and throws a handful of wet clothes down to
the basket resting on the floor. Then she disappears once again. By the time I
discover her, the basket is almost full.
grabs a pair of socks and a couple of pegs and hops up onto a chair. Up and down,
up and down… She works by my side and soon the washing is all pegged out. I thank
her and she smiles.
“Are we leaving the washing on the line overnight?”
go around: There was a washing party going on in the back garden and everyone
wanted to come along and be involved.
she was scowling. “I was going to bring in the washing,” she said. “I can do it
all by myself.”
Gemma-Rose went to pick one up and I said, “That’s too heavy for you. Let one of
the bigger girls carry it.” Then I realised what I’d done. I had underestimated
her capabilities. I wasn’t giving her an opportunity to demonstrate what she was
able to do. I was treating her like a
baby, and wasn’t encouraging her towards growth and independence.
Sometimes I think we are just careless with our words. We have our stock
sentences we say without considering their truth: “You’re too young… too little… It’s too heavy… too difficult…” And sometimes we just want to
avoid the work that comes with letting our children become independent workers. Sometimes
it is easier and faster for me to do a task than it is to take the time to show
Gemma-Rose how to do it, and then wait for her to carry it out.
carry a heavy washing basket. These things may not seem to have anything to do with academic
learning. But one forms the foundation for the other. Children are capable and will become independent as long as we give them the necessary opportunities. Yes, Leonie is very