Why Not Let Them Play, Saving Academics Until Age 7? (#23)

A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 23

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math.  Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”  And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”

Why ambient?  A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. Today’s blog will focus on the Free Play segment of the Kindergarten Day.  Suggestions for integrating the Common Core Standards and their Ambient Math counterparts will be listed, starting tomorrow.  Note that the standards will be paraphrased.  (I need a bit of a break from the standards’ formal, sometimes complex, wording.)

First a note on the Free Play segment itself.  Play is the proving ground for creativity, intelligence, and imagination.  All great ideas, theories, momentous discoveries or inventions are discovered through play.  Play is the unique doorway into the unknown, which is where the new is born.  A child who freely plays until age 7 builds up a treasure house of confidence, curiosity, and the will to work hard at pursuing and achieving goals.

In Waldorf pedagogical theory, the “change of teeth” at age 6-7 signals a true readiness for formal teaching and learning.  Rudolf Steiner’s reasoning here is that from ages birth-7 the child is building up the physical body more intensely than at any other time in his/her life.  This is hard work!  And you might say that the child needs to be singularly and inwardly focused for this process to happen in a healthy way.  The replacement of the baby teeth signals that a significant part of this process is complete and the child’s awareness can safely and successfully begin to be turned outward.

That said, why focus on any academics at all?  Sound beginnings foster later academic success.  Play for the sake of play should be the primary focus, yes.  But bringing the playful aspects of what will later come in a more formal way helps build an unshakable foundation for healthy, effective, successful learning.  If academic subjects can take on a friendly, playful guise in the Kindergarten, they will be all the less daunting or fearful and all the more welcoming later.

Each of the 17 blog posts, from Days 3-19, focused on one or two Common Core Standards and their ambient counterparts.  In reviewing these posts, I found that 15 fit into the Free Play segment, 7 into the Circle Time segment, 5 into the Outside segment, and 3 into the Snack / Story segment.  Obviously there’s some overlap.  Tomorrow’s blog will focus on the standards and ambient math from Days 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8: while fitting the activities seamlessly into the earliest part of the day, the Free Play segment.

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