Every so often, when curiosity gets the better of me, I take a peek at the school curriculum to see what my 6 year old would have been learning at school. I’m always left a little confused. Not by the material, which is pretty basic as you would expect, but by what has been deemed important for a 6 year old to know. What things they need in their life at this age. I wonder how this was all agreed upon. Who decided the important things a human needs to know to have a successful life, and when they ought to know them? It’s rather interesting to think about.
Much of the curriculum seems obvious, and is made up of things that form part of our everyday life so there would be no need for explicit teaching of these points. But there are some things that, to us, are not relevant at this point. For instance, who decided that at 6 years old you need to be able to interpret bar graphs and Venn diagrams? How did it come to be that 6 years old was the time to learn about verbs and adjectives? To me, some things seem so displaced from the everyday life of a 6 year old. My 6 year old anyway.
Sure, there may come a time for these things. I am not saying these things aren’t important, and I’m not saying that some 6 year olds don’t want to learn them now even! What I am saying is that I’m really very comfortable with waiting. Waiting until it becomes relevant and necessary. When they have an interest. When they need this knowledge in order to complete something they’re working on. I’m saying that I don’t believe there is one plan that can be mapped out for every person’s education and that when they get to the end of it that means they are considered ‘educated’. I’m saying that there is no rush, there is time, and things are learned very easily when you wait until children are motivated and ready for them. So it doesn’t matter to me who came up with which curriculum, or when ‘they’ say kids should know certain facts. What matters to me is the little individual learning and growing in my home.
Can we just pause with childhood for a moment? Can we just delight in all the things that are important to a 6 year old? Six years old may be the second year of formal schooling but it is still very little. There is oh so much time ahead.
So, what is on the ‘curriculum’ for my 6 year old?
- LOTS of unstructured play time. Every day.
- Many hours spent outside.
- Art, every day. Exploring new materials, expressing ideas, letting her creativity lead her.
- Time with friends. Getting to know each other, playing, working together on art and projects, exploring together.
- Adventures: to the beach, to the creek, bushwalking, around our neighbourhood.
- Excursions: to the museum, art gallery, zoo, wildlife centre, library.
- Visiting family.
- Reading stories together.
- Imaginative play.
- Time with her siblings.
- Following her interests, asking questions, finding the answers.
- Catching bugs.
- Climbing trees.
- Riding bikes.
- Everyday maths: counting, cooking, shopping, learning to tell the time, handling money.
- Science: experimenting, asking countless questions, studying animals and insects.
- Building projects with her Dad.
- Helping with household jobs.
- Growing independence.
- Keeping alive that childlike sense of wonder and love of learning.
That’s what’s important to her. That’s what’s meaningful to her at this stage of her life. What do you think a 6 year old should know?