Like many other people, the current confusion around EYs curriculum and what is and what isn't wanted, and how it is "meant" to look is driving me round the bend. Trawling through various posts on social media and the endless blogs and vlogs doing the rounds has me doubting what I know to be right and true. I have taught for so many years now- how have I done it without a meticulously mapped out curriculum? How have my children learned to read, write and do so much more without learning broken down into documented chunks?
And then I remembered this...
And it suddenly hit me, just now- what if this simple image gives a view into so much more than maths mastery- what if it gives a child focussed, respectful view of the EYs curriculum? Stick with me...
Let's begin with what has to be at the roots of any curriculum. Not phonics. Not recall of maths skills or fast, efficient handwriting styles at 4. The STATUTORY characteristics of effective learning- these are NOT about rates of development! They are fundamentals for all learning surely? The HOW that enables children to learn and secure the WHAT? Anyone like me who was teaching back under the old 9 scales at the end of the EYFS may recall what was then the Dispositions and Attitudes strand which was shown by evidence and research to infact be the golden points, the golden thread unlocking the door to everything else!
And from those roots grows the precious, unique, special plant which should be our absolute focus and priority in all we do. The UNIQUE CHILD. Growing in their own way, on their own journey, petals opening at different times to the plants around them sometimes dependent on when they were planted.
Some plants have stronger deeper roots, others roots are taking a little longer to take. As anyone knows plants needs more than roots, soil, mud and sun. They also need water to grow thrive and to feed those roots to enable them to deepen, spread, make new connections and grow more complex. And this is where we come in. We fill the watering water can with the water that is a respectful, child focussed, empowering, enriching curriculum. We hold the watering can, we hold the the power to pour carefully and give the plant the water it needs- not too much to drown it, not to little too starve it. But carefully and loving measured, planned amount which provides the perfect recipe for the plant to take root and flourish.
So here it is. The water in our watering can. Take out the maths references and see what you notice.
1. ENABLING ENVIRONMENTS: physically and emotionally full of meaningful experiences that make sense to the UNIQUE CHILD.
2. Time for the UNIQUE CHILD to explore.
3. An enjoyment of LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT
4. Interactions with skilled, knowledgeable, tuned in, fascinated adults through POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS.
In a nutshell? Our curriculum?
Underpinned and (quite literally) rooted in...
We secure holistic learning across all 7 areas with the prime areas of language, personal, social and emotional development, and physical development at the heart of everything. We secure this learning through the roots and in the water we provide for our children. The current push to break down learning into chunks for everyone to follow together is going to end up with a very sparse, poorly nourished garden. Far from that of Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. Instead the current agenda for the Early Years of education are leading to gardens with wilting plants. And as for those plants who need the most care and attention? They will often find themselves stuck under artificial lights to make them grow through force.The very best intervention for these plants is not to remove them from the garden and put them in an artificial environment but to give them the extra nourishment they need whilst they grow in the beautiful, diverse gardens that are our classrooms and settings.
Let's not forget the godfather of the Kindergarten, Froebel- and reflect upon our curriculum.
The Early Years curriculum? It isn't rocket science. It's gardening.
What sort of garden are we nurturing?
So finally- I am finding my way out of the maze.
I am finally feeling confident and reassured in what I know is right for young children.
I know what curriculum means and I always have.
I know what children need to grow and flourish.
There may be brambles invading our gardens right now but we can come together and push them back.
And I am off to fill up my watering can.
How about you?