Saturday, February 7, 2015

Honey, Will You Bee?

I'm not the only one who feels nostalgia for the school valentine cards of childhood. As time in school for any child-centered celebrations has diminished, adult longing for a more normal childhood increases. Purely on the basis of what I am seeing on the Internet, I am going to posit the theory that there's some correlation here.

Things that have pretty much disappeared from schools:

  • The messy, doily-and-construction-paper creation of Valentine card mailboxes
  • Time set aside specifically for Valentine's Day parties
  • Celebratory food and drink for said parties

Things that I am seeing in abundance on Facebook and Pinterest:

  • Creative new ideas for handmade Valentine card boxes
  • Elaborate, treat-laden Valentine card ideas
  • Beautiful cupcakes and cookies with a Valentine theme

It seems as though the less our children get to celebrate, the more social media explodes with Valentine fervor. In particular, the rise of the Valentine-plus-gift cards, seen here and here. Is it because we know our children won't have the leisure of an old-style school celebration, so we're trying to pack extra fun into the card?

Taking home a sack full of "stuff" can't replace the time, hands-on activities, and social interaction with other children that Valentine celebrations used to entail. Human beings were meant to celebrate. And celebrations should be multi-sensory experiences. They don't need to be elaborate. But they involve time, process rather than product, and human interaction.

There's so much more I could say about Valentine's Day, good and bad. But today, think on this: if we say we are preparing our children for life, why are we stripping away opportunities for authentic human experiences? The same "skills" used having a class party for a Valentine's Day will be needed all through life:

  • Preparation
  • Creation
  • Successful peer interaction
  • Giving to others
  • Capacity for enjoyment
  • Cleaning up (yup, that too!)

You'll notice that none of those things are "on the test." This year, with the introduction of PARCC, standardized testing will take up more time than ever. In what way is it preparing our children for life? We need to be really clear that, in allowing this trend to continue in our schools, we are making a choice. We are choosing digital assessment over a living and breathing childhood for our kids.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. You still have time to get messy. But please, do it at home. They're too busy practicing at school.






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