As a young couple we had just moved from Boston and were starting our first job in Washington D.C. On the day we arrived home from the hospital with our second baby in our arms and her seventeen month older sister in tow, there was an attractive flyer on our doorstep advertising one of the premiere pre-schools in the area. In essence it said “Get you baby on our waiting list now for our outstanding academically oriented pre-school or he/she will never be able to get into an Ivy League School or any fine University.”
I felt my tummy tighten a little as I tossed the flyer on the table determined to think about it when we got the baby settled in. That evening after joyous visits from friends and neighbors to welcome our new little cherub I picked the flyer up again. “What if our children fall behind because we didn’t get on that wait list? What if we fail to give these girls the good start they need to succeed academically later in life?” I had friends who were diligently drilling their two year olds with flash cards for numbers and letters and then words as well as addition and subtraction, determined to have their little “whiz kids” reading and doing math by the time they arrived at kindergarten.
When my husband sat down by me to take a look at the flyer, he started to laugh! “How absurd,” he said. Think about it Linda! Children have only five years to be little children before they hit the academic world that will encompass them for the next seventeen or eighteen years. This “funny” flyer spawned an ongoing discussion which carried on for the next several months as we thought about what we did want our children to learn while they were still pre-schoolers.
As we made our list of what we really wanted to teach our children while they were young and impressionable, we discovered something really important. What we wanted them to learn was to feel joy. We realized that one of the best things we could teach them was about the joy that their body brings in being able to see, hear, touch, smell and taste and to enjoy the beauties of our spectacular earth. We wanted them to feel the joy of setting simple goals that they could accomplish with a sense of great satisfaction. It also seemed important to teach them to learn how to have the confidence to try new things and how to make good decisions. It seemed especially important to teach them to feel the joy of sharing and service to others as well as how important it is to be obedient and respectful.
When we had finished our list and compared it with the goal of teaching children how to read and do “square roots” we came out firmly believing that for pre-schoolers, the Joy Quotient is much more important than the Intelligent Quotient! Although both are important and we realize some children come with gifts for academics which also need to be nourished, we came to believe that the JQ is much more important than the IQ as our children entered their academic lives.
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Those thoughts germinating over several years led to a way for Mothers who wanted to teach their children the joys of life to organize their own Joy Schools. Since the launching with a few small groups in 1979 about a hundred thousand children have now attended Joy School, where mothers rotate taking turns giving a two and a half hour lesson twice a week about the Joy of the Month at their homes. In a group of four moms, each mom takes one week a month. With six moms their turn comes every six weeks. Some moms have done it with just one other mom and others who live in remote locations have done it on their own with great success.
Ruth Eyre, my mother-in-law and an early childhood education professional developed the original minute-by-minute Joy School lesson plans and many gifted mothers have “popped up” to provide delightful music, visual aids, stories, finger plays, craft ideas and games that teach the joy of that week. The result has been phenomenal! We have kindergarten teachers who say they can always tell a “Joy School Graduate” because they all seem to be emotionally well-adjusted children ready to learn!
After years of printing and mailing bulky manuals, tapes and CDs the program has now been streamlined online where the lessons and music can be downloaded and printed from a computer…a joyful development! If you are interested in learning more or in forming your own Joy School group, visit valuesparenting.com for details.
Whether or not you want a formal Joy School program, the challenge this month is to think seriously about what you want your own pre-schoolers to learn by the time they enter school. Those dazzling days with your little ones before they start school are full of stress and crisis but are also precious treasures that you can’t call back. Good luck developing your JQ…. for yourself, as well as your kids!
P.S.—Even though our little girls didn’t ever attend that premier Pre-School, they did attend Wellesley College, Harvard, Boston University and BYU. Never say never!