Providing a Good Environment for Kids to Grow

Every once in a while you read something that resonates with you, and you carry it around – pulling it out when you need it, but always having it tucked away in your mind. This is one: “Try to see your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. Your job is to provide the right environment and nutrients and to pull the weeds. You can’t decide what kind of flower you’ll get or in which season it will bloom.” Wendy Mogel, the author of “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” shared this wisdom that both of us carry.

We all harbor expectations for our children when they are little. We hope that they will follow in our footsteps where we succeeded and find their own paths where we were less fortunate. We envision the best possible future – a college scholarship, a prestigious career, a wealth of good friends, a thirst for knowledge, etc. We hold on to those hopes and at times create impossible standards and benchmarks to attain them.

It is hard as a head of school and a kindergarten teacher to write this article to an anonymous audience. In our minds, we have an audience of parents who agonize over a child learning her letters when “all the other children know them,” or a child who doesn’t make friends as easily as others, or a child who isn’t reading fluently. How much better it would be for those parents (and for all of us) to accept the word YET at the end of each of those thoughts. She hasn’t learned all her letters YET. She doesn’t make friends easily YET. He isn’t reading fluently YET. The business of learning and growing is challenging and time consuming – so much so that we send our children to school for more hours than they are awake with us at home. They have so many skills to acquire – academic and social – that an arbitrary timetable cannot come in one-size-fits-all.

The teaching of the wildflower seeds asks us as parents to respect our children for the individuals they are. Your child may not read as soon as others do, but one day she will. It will click – letters will make sounds – sounds will make words and words will have meaning. Your job as a parent is to provide the right environment where she loves learning and recognizes learning as the reward – not keeping up with her classmates.

She needs the right nutrients. Maybe this will mean she needs a growing year. Maybe she needs some extra reading time with a teacher or with a parent. Maybe she needs glasses. Maybe she needs to touch the letters with her own hands. Together, the parent and teacher determine the best nutrients.

Finally, we parents must pull the weeds – the ones that take the nutrients away from the flower. As parents, pulling the weeds certainly does not mean solving every problem for the child – he can’t do the business of learning and growing if we do that for him. It means we have to be objective enough to see which “weeds” are choking the child’s growth and which are challenges that are helping them to grow.

We don’t know what is in store for our children. Your son who is entering kindergarten in the fall will graduate from college in 2029 – we cannot even imagine what the world will look like at that time. Who knows what flower he will become or when he will bloom?

This parenting gig that we undertook is an epic love story – we are in it for the long haul. How do we start on this journey? Find the environment, provide the nutrients, pull the weeds and prepare for a garden in full bloom – someday – whatever blooms those may be.

– Linda Krulock graduated from West Liberty State College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and early childhood. She teaches senior kindergarten at Wheeling Country Day School. Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini is head of school at Wheeling Country Day. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard University Graduate School of Education.