In a discussion on the Always Learning list in March, 2008 (linked below), Pam Sorooshian wrote:
There was a point, and I can't define when that was, when "schooly"
things stopped feeling inherently "bad". In the beginning it was
somewhat reactionary, dumping out all the school stuff from my bag of
goods, filling it up again with fun stuff, for the sake of being fun.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped being concerned as much with whether
something was "educational" or not, and started enjoying things for what
was enjoyable about them or not.
Little kid toys that are constantly geared towards 3 and 4 yr olds
learning the alphabet get old. I wouldn't intentionally go out and buy
a toy specifically designed for a little one with the intent on learning
the alphabet, however if I ran across something that seemed really cool,
AND it had alphabet stuff within the workings of the toy, and I thought
the recipient would enjoy it, I might purchase such a thing.
When Chamille was little, I taught a lot of dance classes for little
kids. I used to buy stickers for after class, I have mixed feelings
about sticker usage in classes, but little kids love them, so I used
them. I went to an educational supply store regularly to buy these
stickers because they had good prices and good selections. Chamille
loved browsing all the "educational" stuff, and we bought stuff for her
on many occasions at that store. Lots of stuff in those stores are
interesting. My intent wasn't to make her do any of those things that
she bought and used. They were purchases on a whim that got used
sometimes and other times not as much. Lots of people go to those
stores and buy workbooks and educational toys for their kids and go home
and make their kids use them, with the intent at some knowledge being
acquired through said usage.
I didn't fear pushing educational stuff on Chamille, I didn't go out of
my way to avoid educational stuff nor go out of my way to get
educational stuff. I think all of this goes back to intent. If my
intent had been to get Chamille to learn how to read and spell and do
math, on my schedule, I would've probably gone to that store regularly
to buy more and more workbooks and chore charts and reward incentives to
use in my homeschool curriculum. I don't have a reason to go to that
store these days, I have more than a few completely blank workbooks and
such sitting on our bookshelf, along with coloring books and maze books
and puzzle books. They hardly ever get touched, except the puzzle books
that Margaux recently discovered.
I'm not afraid of coercing my children into doing educational stuff.
They do what they do, and I can SEE what they are doing and how they are
learning and what they could potentially be learning from such things.
It's something I store in my thoughts as proof that they are learning.
All of that to say this; all that stuff is secondary, what comes first
and foremost is my relationship with each of my kids, trusting them and
honoring them for who they are and what they each need and want. If
those things happen to be very educational, so be it, if they happen to
be colorful dreadlocks, then cool. They all provide opportunities for
learning, simply because someone is enjoying them.