After eight years of teaching Joy School, today was my last day of teaching Joy School to my own kids. Today, my twins and their little friends graduated from Joy School for the last time. The CD player wouldn't work so they had to sing their songs a'cappella (with my son Silas singing off-key at the top of his lungs and the other kids sort of mumbling in the background - but it sure was cute!). The kids were so excited to give their mom-teachers the bracelets they designed and painstakingly strung together for them and everyone loved the individualized "All About Me" books they got as a souvenir (complete with hand and foot prints, transcripts of their entertaining answers to interview questions, drawings of their families, etc.). My twins, Oliver and Silas took it upon themselves to hug all their mom-teachers and decided to throw in some hugs for the dads as well. They're such great huggers. Oh, it's killing me that they're growing up!
I thought maybe last year would be my last year teaching Joy School since I'd put the twins in a Joy-School based preschool nearby and wasn't exactly surrounded by moms who were begging me to do a co-op Joy School with them anyway. But in October, one of my friends who did Joy School with me last year talked me into doing it for one last year - her son called the preschool he was going to "fake school" and was missing Joy School like crazy. So with my twins, her little boy and another cute little guy from our neighborhood, I found myself doing Joy School with an all-boy group (something I swore I'd never do - but I was wrong - the group worked out great!). The twins have loved doing both Joy School with me and going to "Busy Bee Joy School" with their beloved Ms. Bowen.
I'm so glad I had this one last year to teach Joy School to my own kids. I know I'm probably just a bit biased (since my parents founded Joy School 35 years ago and I run Joy School Company), but I really believe that the Joy School curriculum is by far the best curriculum for little kids. They don't NEED to focus entirely on reading or doing big time math at 3 or 4 (if they do they'll be bored out of their little minds in Kindergarten!). They need to learn to get along, understand the world around them, develop self-confidence and cultivate a real love of learning and discovering. I love how Joy School helps enhance the "joys" they already have (the joy of imagination and creativity, the joy of the body, the joy of the earth) and how it helps them develop really important "joys" that form a foundation for their character (the joy of honesty, the joy of uniqueness, the joy of decisions). Through stories, songs and such fun activities, little kids really "get" all the great stuff in the lesson plans. It's amazing how it really does sink in.
Quite often, I'll meet someone who tells me they went to Joy School as a little child. I feel an instant bond to these fellow Joy School graduates. I can bet that they know how to treat other people, that they have good manners, that they are honest, that they appreciate other people's uniqueness, that they know how to find more fun and joy in life than your average person. The things we learn when we're 3 or 4 really stick with us - especially when we learn them from our own mom who can keep re-emphasizing the things she and her friends taught us in Joy School as part of our daily life.
Joy School isn't for everyone. I know that. But it is an invaluable experience you can give yourself as a mom and give your kids. It's a great thing to really be your kids' teacher for a period in their life - and have them learn from your trusted friends who take their turn teaching as well. I think teaching Joy School is a big reason why I've always make a every necessary sacrifice to volunteer regularly in my kids classrooms once they're in school. There is no way to know how your child interacts with others and how their learning abilities compare with others without actually seeing them in a learning environment in person. I've learned SO much about my children by watching them at free play time at Joy School and seeing how they behave when I teach a lesson - and I've gone on to keep learning about them as I've helped in their classrooms and observed them there. Plus all my Joy School teaching experience has helped make me a pretty darn good classroom volunteer!
So anyway, I love Joy School and even though I admit that I wasn't always jumping for joy when it was my turn to teach (even though the preparation is pretty easy with the great lesson plans and all the experience I've had, it takes a LOT of energy to keep little kids actively involved for 2 and a half hours!), I wouldn't trade it for the world. Every single time I taught, I'd come away feeling like a good mom and feeling more in love with my kids (maybe I didn't feel that DURING Joy School every minute, but that afternoon after Joy School, I'd get that nice afterglow). In fact, it was during the busiest, craziest times of my life (when I was thinking "what in the world am I doing trying to teach preschoolers in the midst of everything else I have going on?") that I really valued it the most. I loved that I was forced to set everything else aside and really do meaningful and fun things with my children for that 2 and a half hours of Joy School when it was my turn to teach.
Anyway, that's my little ode to Joy School as I finish out this era of my life. Check it out for your kids. You won't be sorry. You can set up a regular Joy School co-op. Or if none of your friends are up for it, you can be the sole teacher and run your own little Joy School preschool in your home to make extra money while having all these great experiences teaching your own kids and others' children.