Finding a balance between one’s work life, one’s home life, one’s role as a parent, one’s role as a partner, and one’s role as a family member is really hard to do even in the absolute best circumstances. Parents of young children often find that they are compromising on everything that is important to them, unable to find that delicate balance where everyone and everything gets attended to.
As Early Math Counts looks at balance as a mathematical concept for young children this month, it is important to remember that teachers of young children need to find balance in their own lives while supporting our parents as they seek to find balance in their own.
One of the ways we can do this is by modeling balanced behavior. Our classrooms do not need to be rushed, pushed, ruled by time limits, or pressure. Children’s play should be open-ended and free. The other day I was observing at a very nice center, but the feeling in the classroom was that they were just trying to do too much. There were two teacher-directed, product-focused art activities going on simultaneously and I could feel the tension as the teachers were determined to get these projects done on that day. Both projects were Thanksgiving-themed and when I asked about them, the teachers said that their parents expect the children to come home with Thanksgiving centerpieces and other art projects that will decorate their holiday tables.
I say, “Just Stop.” It may take a few rounds of holidays to get the parents used to it, but they will eventually appreciate your efforts at keeping their children’s days consistent and free from unnecessary pressure to produce. Your classroom can be an island of calm during frenetic times. This is a good thing.
We can also model balance by ensuring that the children’s daily schedule is evenly divided into appropriate chunks with the vast majority spent in free play (both indoors and outdoors). If children spend their days playing hard, they will go home sufficiently tired and well-spent, ready for dinner, bath, and bed. Children who spend their days in large groups with pressurized expectations will go home strung out and in need of play. You can help ease up parent evenings by appropriately exhausting their children via big and wonderful play.
Next Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, so there will not be a post. However, I will continue exploring Work-Life Balance on the following Friday by offering more suggestions on how to support families as they navigate these wonderfully difficult years.