Thursday, September 23, 2010

We wanted to share an important and very thought provoking article that came to us via BANANAS, one of the preeminent Child Care Resource & Referral organizations in the country. They are located in Oakland, and have been doing exemplary and extraordinary work for children and their families for over 35 years. This article was part of their Fall, 2010 newsletter, BANANAS, and is reprinted with their permission, and although it focuses on Child Care programs, we believe it extends to all children. As parents, teachers, child care centers, great/grandparents, etc...we are ALL child care providers. Since we are entrusted with the oh, so important task, of raising and nurturing the children in our lives, we have to look at ourselves, our families and our environments to figure out what’s best for these kids, whether they be in pre-school or school age settings. With all the hoopla being raised now about teachers and testing, by the Los Angeles Times, and others, we felt that this article may help put some of these issues into perspective. And so, with much appreciation to BANANAS, for all the thought they put into this article, we’d like to share this with you and hope you can see why we felt this was so important.

June & Laurie

Thinking about child care is a necessary, crucial part of our job. We are passionate about keeping the family's point of view in the forefront of any debate. For over 37 years we have gathered powerful evidence of parents' strong instincts to nurture their children and to want the best for them. Just so, we have come to trust the inborn developmental processes of children. Compelling scientific evidence supports the notion that children are natural learners. They are born programmed to interact with their world and the people they meet each day so that they can develop the skills they need to grow into healthy adults. We don't teach children how to do this. Rather, our job as parents and providers is to surround them with the nurturing adults and environments they need to become healthy, happy and whole.

What do parents want for their children?
Most parents talk about two wishes: they want their children to be happy and to be good, contributing members of a community. How does that happen? What are the qualities that make up the "good life"? These are qualities that cannot be quantified or bureaucratized in any meaningful way. Our staff came up with the following responses:

We should try to help our children be
• responsible
• forgiving
• thoughtful
• empathetic
• helpful
• reliable
• giving and generous
• open-minded, non-judgmental
• and, "to do no harm."

What we want for our children
• success in whatever they choose to do in life, taking advantage of opportunities and following their interests.
• relationships with trusting and loving people as part of a community of family and friends
• life long learning, not just in the formal academic way, but through experiences in life that expand their minds
• respect for diversity and the knowledge that the world is made up of people of different cultures, life-styles, economic realities and perspectives
• safety, not sheltered, but the ability to judge risks and make good choices
• contentment, to have self respect and find inner peace
• independence, autonomy and self-reliance
• ability to communicate well with others
• acceptance by their peers
• respect and acceptance in American society (specifically mentioned by staff who are people of color and/or first or second generation immigrants,)

It was revealing that no one talked about achievement in the sense of earning a lot of money or credentials or status. All spoke of the attributes of being a person and a quality of life that cannot be quantified.

How do we help children get there?
As child care providers, parents and advocates, rather than being side-tracked by test scores and other artificial markings of "achievement," we need to keep what we know about children and what we know about parents in the forefront. Children will be successful in life not because they went to a child care program with a certain rating but because the adults who cared for them had the commitment and resources to give them the love and support necessary to help them become happy, caring adults.

Can a rating system really encompass these qualities, these issues? If we support parents and providers in their efforts to nurture children, then the quality of life for all children will most likely improve.