Please Let Us Be Little

Please let us be Little,
We’re Big soon enough.
Please give us some freedom
Before life gets tough

To drop a few things

Just to hear them go “thud,”
To stroke the soft grass,
To squish the cool mud,

To wander and wonder

And learn to make choices,
To practice small whispers
And try out big voices,

To touch with small fingers,

And feel with big hearts—
Let’s celebrate Little
Before the Big starts.

Those worksheets can wait.

Please postpone the tests.
Just help us keep growing
In ways we grow best.

That may mean small messes;

Forgive our big noise.
We can’t help but get swept
Away by our joys.

And when we feel frightened,

Please honor our fears.
(There’s much to get used to
In these early years.)

Don’t rush us to Big;

It’ll come fierce and fast.
Please let us be Little—
For Little won’t last.

    ~ Annie Reneau

I wrote this as our youngest child approaches his 5th birthday…as you can see, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. 🙂

It’s so easy—especially with first children, who suddenly seem so big when younger siblings come along—to nudge preschoolers into Big Kid World. And with standardized testing for kindergarteners becoming more prevalent, I worry that the wonder years are being cut shorter and shorter in the name of early academics. 

Our first child was an academically precocious preschooler, and I remember thinking that was somehow beneficial. So I get it. But now that I’ve had three children go through those ages and seen how learning really plays out over time with different children, this is where my perspective on early education has landed:

Preschoolers really only need to know two things: 1) They are truly loved and valued, and 2) The world is a wondrous, amazing place to explore. 

Given those two lenses and a child-friendly environment, everything is a learning experience in the early years. Preschoolers’ discoveries are so exciting, their joys so pure, their wonder so raw and immediate—they learn deeply and naturally, just being who they are. There’s no need to rush them through this stage of free exploration in the name of arbitrary academic standards. 

Kids in Finland don’t start formal schooling until age 7, and they have some of the highest test scores in the world by high school. Early learning isn’t about early academics. Early learning means giving preschoolers language for emotional expression, time and space to practice through play, a rich environment to explore, and the freedom to do so without pressure or coercion. 

If your oldest is a preschooler, relax. They’re younger than you think. Really. 

Don’t worry, Big is on its way. But let it take its time, because once it arrives, it’s around to stay. 

Little is just stopping over for a spell—enjoy its company before it flies away for good. 🙂

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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