May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In my previous article I qualified the meaning of al pi darko to mean “empowering each child to become an adult.” The way children express this need is “Help me to do it myself.” Therefore, as educators and caregivers, our goal is to create an environment that fosters children’s independence without giving unnecessary “help.” Children are adults in potential and thrive when offered the opportunity to exercise some level of control over their environment.

Consider a scenario in which a crowd gathers around a commotion and a young child struggles to climb onto a chair. We understand that the child might be interested in the process of climbing into the chair himself as much as he’s interested in the result of seeing over the crowd. Thus we first ask, “Would you like me to help you on to the chair?” If the child feels capable of accomplishing and wants to accomplish the task, “help” is not only unnecessary but destructive to the child’s development.

When we see an adult potentially in need of assistance, such as a car stuck on the side of the road, we don’t presumptuously intrude and solve his or her problem without first asking if he or she would like some help. The intrusion to help without asking is not only patronizing in that it presumes he or she is unable to fix the problem independently. It deprives the person of the feeling of being in control of his environment. This is a universal human need, children included, and is part of the process of becoming an adult.

The more a child can see and hear the adult world, the better he will absorb what he needs in order to build himself into the adult he will become. Walking with a toddler is a wonderful opportunity for him to explore his world and absorb what his inner teacher wants him to know.

In a Da’ehu classroom the children are allowed a high degree of freedom within a carefully crafted environment. Procedures are many and expectations are high, yet mistakes are embraced and failure is a step toward success. The goal is for the child to own the process as much as the result.

During a two-hour period called the Work Cycle, a child is free to choose his own learning materials. He retrieves these materials himself from their designated location on the shelves and carries them on a tray to the place in the room he has selected and prepared for himself with a special work mat. When he is done, he is expected to return the materials as they were on their tray, which is then returned to its original location so as to be ready for the next individual. At the end of a work session the child is responsible for returning his mat neatly to its basket and the children collectively clean the room. Children exercise further control over their environment via regular community meetings.

The learning materials further facilitate achieving grown-up aspirations. For example, special materials teach buttoning, sewing and even weaving, skills useful for children’s independence. Others sharpen the senses for colors, sounds and even pressure so as to be better equipped to understand and control their environment. Da’ehu preschool children learn to set the table just like an adult. They prepare all sorts of food, invite and entertain guests and clean up afterward just like an adult. If something does go wrong, they can try again and again until they succeed, just like an adult, because our focus is on helping him do it himself.

In the next article I will detail a specific example of how children are taught to self-regulate with regard to social challenges.

To find out more about Da’ehu, contact Gershom Tave at 973.356.3729 or visit www.daehu.org.

By Gershom Tave

 

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