A mom who has lived in Germany for six years is worried about the state of schools in America. Most interesting to us at Let Grow is her realization that she will not be in a country that automatically lets kids get themselves to school on their own, or take public transit.
Writes Firoozeh Dumas:
Now that I have lived in a society with a much better alternative, I realize that the idea of a city where children can practice independence from an early age requires a social contract: A certain number of people have to participate in order to achieve success. I don’t know if we can replicate this independence in America, not just because of the lack of transit in most places but also because of the anxiety intertwined with the idea of a child going anywhere alone.
That's the same conclusion we came to: You can't be the only family letting your kid walk to school, because then it's considered weird or dangerous. And you can't be the only family sending your kid out to play at the park because your kid will be back in 5 minutes saying, "There's no one to play with."
That is precisely why Let Grow created our two social-contract changing school initiatives:
The Let Grow Project : Teachers tell the kids to go home and do ONE THING on their own, maybe something their parents did at their age. Walk the dog. Make dinner. Get themselves to school. When the kids come home the PARENTS are so thrilled, they can't remember why they didn't give their kids this freedom already! Anxiety and fear get pushed aside by pride and joy. And since ALL the kids are now doing things on their own, the social contract has been changed. Independence becomes normal, not wacky.
The Let Grow Free Play Club is also basic -- and transformative: Kids are given time for old-fashioned free play before or after school in the gym or on the playground. Unlike Little League, piano lessons or school itself, the kids are in charge. They make up their own games, solve their own arguments and learn the social and emotional skills (compassion, maturity, empathy, creativity) that they'll need on up through college and adulthood. It's especially thrilling when a socially awkward 9-year-old is suddenly a hero to a gaggle of 6-year-olds. It changes everyone. And suddenly, free play (without devices!) is a part of kids lives again.
These programs work because they change a whole group at once, re-normalizing some childhood freedom. If your school is interested, please drop a note to Info@LetGrow.org. All our materials -- including extremely cool stickers -- are free of charge.
And Firoozeh, if you see this: Let's talk. Danke!