Yesterday my almost 2-year-old son, Jacob, and I spent over 4 hours venturing out on a whim. Monday, we had gone berry picking with friends and Thursday he played outside with other friends for 2 hours at Summer Playgroup we’ve been piloting at Here We Grow. Jacob’s word of the week has been “wow”. We made blueberry muffins together on Wednesday, and Thursday morning as he picked one up to take a bite he said “Wow”! Everything right now is a “wow” for him, and I don’t want that to ever go away.
As we were eating breakfast on Friday, I asked him what he wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, he said, “outside”. I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk or maybe go to the pool. He said yes to both, so I loaded up the jogging stroller and off we went. As we walked through town, we saw construction vehicles and puppies and I watched as he took it all in. But it wasn’t just that he was having a great time, there was something more; a word that God had laid on my heart earlier that week.
Jacob was full of wonder.
The word “wonder” can be either a noun or a verb, however I find that often the two go hand-in-hand -at least they should. When a child experiences something for the first time it is exciting to them because it is unexpected and new. The state of being in “wonder” drives their innate ability to take the next step of curiosity filled wonder – the verb. Sometimes I can see it in Jacob’s eyes. His little mind trying to figure out how something works.
I’ve been pondering a few topics to write about in blog posts here, but none of them seemed like they were meant to hold the space of this one. I had what some call “writers block”. I have so much to say about childhood and the magic within these years, but I simply could not figure out where to begin.
And then I watched Jacob marvel over that muffin we had made together and in my heart I where I had to begin – wonder.
Years ago, when I made the decision to open Here We Grow, it was to protect childhood. I pictured children running barefoot in the grass and a huge sandbox with tonka trucks; a small garden the children could tend and a space where children could dig holes. In the past 10 years all of that and more has come to fruition.
What began as a desire to provide childcare in a setting where children were free to explore and have open-ended experiences, has led to both a broadening and a narrowing. While we are broadening our scope outside of solely childcare, we are narrowing our purpose to intentionally focus on protecting childhood – specifically the wonder of it.
In my early career I worked in the public schools and then childcare, and I watched testing become the focus of the lives of children. Anything that could not be measured suddenly was deemed to be without merit and the beauty of childhood was ripped away; the magic replaced with mandates and the wonder replaced with worksheets.
Enter Here We Grow.
As we begin this new season of broadening, our foundation remains the same and it is this:
Children are worthy of a childhood of wonder. Childhood is not a time to be spent preparing to be an adult. It is a time to be spent immersed in experiences that stimulate wonder and allow children the opportunity to explore it freely.
My favorite example of this is baking soda and vinegar. I remember my teacher showing us what happens when the two mix and while I was filled with wonder, I don’t recall ever doing it myself. It is very easy to show a child how to do something invoking a state of wonder. But is entirely different to place a container of vinegar, a container of baking soda, and pipettes and create an opportunity for them to discover on their own – to experience “wonder” the noun and “wonder” the verb.
Homeschooling families, unschooling families, families who don’t have children of schooling age yet, families who work – it ultimately isn’t about the labels. It’s about what we do here.
If you’ve been searching for a place where children explore freely, have open-ended opportunities to learn through wonder and exploration, we invite you to join us. If you’re interested in reading more about what we do (and don’t do) here, I invited you to read the next blog post which will be up by the end of the weekend.
May you have a day filled with wonder.