Metamorphosis Elementary School Of Monticello Inc

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall Frenzy

I spent the morning with some frenetic children yesterday. Frenetic: fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way. Frenetique...frantic. That too. Of course it was Halloween, but that is not the problem, nor is Christmas, Easter, Valentine's, etc. The problem is the build-up to the day, which starts early and becomes more excessive each year.  I wish I could get people to understand that the simple beauties of the season are enough for children, without the frills and hype. Here are a couple of examples.

A pumpkin patch or apple orchard in and of itself is more than enough stimulation for a young child. We had a good one when my children were small. We picked our apples, selected our pumpkins, and played with kittens, baby goats, slid down a simple slide from a hay mow into a pile of straw, and it was great. It was a ritual, something children adore, and it was peaceful and pertinent. But now, both of the pumpkin patches in this area have gone Disney. One has a Wizard of Oz theme coupled with all other things cartoony, and now, it's cheesy. The people obviously thought they could increase sales by turning their charming place into crazy kid land, and they did increase sales, and now it's a big, ugly, overstimulating and over-priced ubiquitous American child attraction. The other, that I loved for its huge selection of gourds, has done the same.

My other example that just broke my heart, was what happened to our local 4-H camp, where I camped and my children camped each year. Envision perfect little log cabins that stayed perfect. How? The camp rule was rise at 7 a.m. and go to breakfast. While we were eating, the counselors inspected each cabin to find the most perfectly tidy. Each day the winning cabin displayed a flag. That was it. That was the reward, and we loved it. Sounds old-fashioned doesn't it? At the end of the week the cabin with the most flags got to have a midnight swim at the pond. So exciting! It was enough, and we loved it. I forgot to tell you about the dining hall, which was also a big cabin, with women from town who cooked homemade mashed potatoes and chicken and noodles and homemade rolls and homemade everything. Some of us were trotters who served the food, and some were cleaners afterward. It was heaven. I visited a few years ago. Someone thought the dining hall needed to appeal more to children, I guess. They had painted Disney murals everywhere. The cabins were in even worse shape, with graffiti  both written and carved into the log walls.

Things have changed, but it is not the children who have changed. I see from working with them everyday that they are perfectly happy with simplicity. They are having all of this excess foisted upon them by adults who mistakenly think  they need it. This has all happened over the last twenty years, in my opinion, as a reaction to parents believing that they must pack in that "quality time" with their children. They worry that because they do not spend a great deal of time with their children, that they must make every second special. The sad truth is, to use a sad phrase that my daughter used in one of her articles, they are "Killing Special." To a young child who has only been in this world for a few years, all simple things done with a thoughtful adult guide, are fascinating. Sowing a pumpkin seed in spring, tending it through summer, harvesting in fall, reading some beautiful books, playing in the leaves...all special.


Each child is invited to help remove the pumpkin goop. Squishy and so funny!

I am lucky to teach at a private school where we educate families as well as children. Friends in traditional ed tell me that they have gone way past cheerleading to hold a child's attention. Faster, faster, brighter and louder. I saw a bit of that yesterday, and it saddened me. Being seasoned, (ha - I say that so I don't have to say, 'old,'), I usually have great confidence with a group activity. Children listen to me. Yesterday some children could simply not sit without nearly exploding as we cleaned and carved our pumpkin. I almost felt the need to make our annual favorite Halloween book somehow more exciting to hold them. But I breathed deeply. Made my voice softer. We got through it. Then I went home and took a nap.

Just a Very Few Good Autumn and Halloween Books...

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell

The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

Apples by Gail Gibbons

The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall

Apples Here by Will Hubbell

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

Picking Apples and Pumpkins by Amy Hutchings

Mousekin's Golden House

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell