We are proud to share this guest post by Jennifer McCarville, Founder and Director of Marvelously Made—the School for Young Children, about the Save Childhood Movement, which asks how we can provide children with childhoods that respect their needs and honor their process of learning.
On the northwest edge of San Antonio, you’ll find a small school doing big things to Save Childhood. Marvelously Made—the School for Young Children began as a preschool in 2010 and currently educates children from three years old through eighth grade. Here, brain research and child development drive all that we do, the spirit of discovery is embraced, play and genuine interest are understood as the vehicles for authentic learning, and every day we find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Honoring Child Development at Marvelously Made
This is a school where happiness is found in the mess and the noise, where laughter abounds, and the joyful sounds of childhood fill the air. In our outdoor classrooms, nature nurtures our curiosity as we wonder, observe, and explore. Our days are shared with critters and we discover how important animals are to our souls and our living. The children learn handwork skills, explore art, build strong foundations in mathematical thinking and operations, study history and the sciences, and develop a powerful love of reading.
At Marvelously Made social and emotional development are paramount, friendships are formed, empathy and kindness are shared, and learning belongs to the child. It is a school where we breathe in the simplicity and the complexity of it all and focus on the goodness and magic that is childhood.
Over the years the work being done at Marvelously Made has proven time and again that when you honor development, embrace children the way they were designed to learn, and educate parents to understand what children truly need, everyone thrives!
Why? Because while childhood may have changed, children have not.
Society is telling us that children should be reading earlier, sitting longer, and be exposed to more and more information and images at younger and younger ages. But our kids (and the research) are telling us a different story. Children are desperate to show us that it’s okay to sit in our emotions, that tears can be embraced, that laughter should be abundant, and love should always be limitless. Above all, they want us to understand that they are made good and that, if we just take a deep breath and trust their deeply embedded, biologically wired process of learning, they will thrive.
Principles of the Save Childhood Movement
At Marvelously Made we are listening! We have launched the Save Childhood Movement, which encompasses twelve key principles, to help equip others with the same knowledge and understanding of development, best practices, and ways to advocate for children that our school is built on. We are dedicated to helping others learn how to provide children with childhoods that respect their needs and honor the process of learning.
Together we can Save Childhood! Here’s how.
A happy childhood requires the freedom to play in the creek, feel grass beneath your bare feet, soak in the rays of sunshine, catch raindrops on your tongue, listen to wind rustle the leaves of the tree, and learn that the smallest bug is as important as the lion or the elephant. Being outside gives children space to imagine, ponder, play, and be. There are gifts of life, growing, and learning that can only happen in nature.
We are all overburdened and overscheduled. The easiest solution is one of the hardest: simply SAY NO. Say no to extracurriculars that aren’t passions, which fill your free time and stress the logistics of your household. Say no to overburdening children with assignments, homework, and an endless battery of standardized testing. Now more than ever, for their well-being and to allow them to experience joy in their learning, children need us to SAY NO.
Unplug yourself and don’t plug in the children. Screens are hijacking childhood. They can’t replace a story read by you, the feeling of satisfaction from climbing a tree, or the fun of a game of make believe in a mud kitchen. What screens do is create distance from those we are next to, expose children to images that their brains are not designed to process and their hearts are not prepared to handle, and suck away the care-free years of childhood. Screens create a barrier to the vitally important task of nurturing social interaction, empathy, and humanity in our children.
We all want our children to read. But this desire compounded by social pressure is pushing our kids to read at younger and younger ages and at levels that are not appropriate for their development. This is leading to a generation of children who are losing confidence in themselves and their ability to read, who begin to dread arbitrary reading requirements, and who may never learn to love language. It’s on us to right this ship and the best way to do this is to read to our children. Reading together, sharing stories, and experiencing oral language through storytelling lay the important groundwork that inspire children to love reading in their own time. These things introduce children to the rhythm of language, expand their minds and enhance creativity, give them uninterrupted time with you, and will inspire them to want to read. Put down the flash cards and the worksheets, ask them to tell you their story, or simply pick up a favorite book and JUST READ.
Play is the most valuable and important work children do. It’s complex and meaningful. It teaches empathy and kindness, problem-solving skills, patience, how to handle frustrations, disappointments, and successes. It teaches them how to take appropriate risks and to listen to what their body is ready to do. It encourages ingenuity and experimentation. Time in play allows the child!s brain to process information, to unpack the learning and teachings of the day and make sense of them. The most authentic and important learning comes through play. UNDERSTAND PLAY so you can value it and protect it.
The songs you sing with children form the soundtracks to their lives—they’ll remember the impromptu concerts in the living room, the off-key but joyful duets while stuck in traffic, and how free and unrestrained you were while sharing the songs that bring you joy. The songs we learn in childhood remain in our souls our whole lives long. So sing songs that make you happy! Sing songs that fill your soul. Sing songs that bring a smile to your face. SING and the children will, too.
Children are made good! Discipline often gets a bad rap and at worst it can be is harmful. But discipline means to teach, not to punish, and children need consistent and reasonable discipline as they grow. Knowing what to do when things don!t work the way you think they should (or want them to) is tricky. Figuring out how to express yourself when you are sad or mad or disappointed can be overwhelming. Children need someone who is committed to walking alongside them when their feelings are too big and the world feels overwhelming. They need a GUIDE to give them tools and skills and boundaries to live in harmony with others and themselves.
Boredom begets creativity. Boredom gives the mind time to pause and wonder, to go places it would never have the chance to go if it were overscheduled and overstimulated. Encourage boredom. Resist the urge to offer suggestions to the inevitable “but I’m bored” and you!ll be amazed by what a child discovers.
We are all guilty of it. We compare ourselves to the person next to us in line at the grocery store or at church. We compare ourselves to our siblings and our friends. And often the biggest comparison of all comes as we scroll through social media posts. But we don!t only compare ourselves to others, we compare our children to so many other children. Why aren’t they athletic like that kid, the top of the class like that kid, reading when they were four like that kid, potty trained at two like that kid. The list goes on and on and on. But here is the truth . . . comparison is a thief. It is a thief of joy, of contentment, of reality. It destroys the rights of children to figure out what they like and to be fully and unapologetically themselves. And it keeps adults from seeing the amazing people they are. Comparison is the thief of everything.
The world is full of no. But why should we be? Why do we jump to “no” so quickly when saying yes can open a world of possibility? Say yes to wearing a costume to the doctor!s office. Say yes to singing Christmas Carols in July. Say yes to one more story. Say yes to painting your fingernails, the occasional dessert for dinner, games, spending a weekend in PJs, and that haircut that they want.
Savor the Moment
Childhood is made up of extraordinary moments that we often mistake as ordinary. Enjoy the morning cuddles full of bedhead and little bellies busting out of their pajamas. Relish in the excitement that comes from seeing a bug, jumping in a puddle, learning to do something new, or building a fort. These childhood days are fleeting, and you will never be sorry that you spent more time being present with your children at home or in the classroom. Resist the urge to photograph and post what children are doing so that you can experience it fully first-hand. When you allow yourself to soak in the little things, to really see what a child is doing, you will give yourself the gift of a lifetime of memories to cherish.
Trust the Process
Children are made to learn! They want to explore and touch and test things out. They need to move and climb and run. They love to talk and wonder and question. They deserve spaces that allow them to do all these things and adults who invest in understanding how to best support them. Children were designed to develop exactly the way they each need to. The sequence of development is the same, but the time spent in any one stage or area should be determined by the child and respected by the adults so we can step out of the way, take a deep breath, and TRUST THE PROCESS.
Join the Save Childhood Movement
We hope you will join us on our mission to Save Childhood by becoming part of the movement! Find us on Facebook and follow our work. Be on the lookout for a growing body of information and encouragement around each of our twelve principles of Saving Childhood. If you want to see the Save Childhood movement in action, check out Marvelously Made—the School for Young Children where every day we are proving that Saving Childhood is possible.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Jennifer McCarville, Founder and Director of Marvelously Made and the Save Childhood Movement, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on January 25, 2023 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Jennifer McCarville is the founder of the Save Childhood Movement and founder and director of Marvelously Made, an award-winning oasis of childhood full of play, wonder, exploration, and genuine learning. She is an engaging and sought-after speaker, having presented on topics including, but not limited to, discipline, supporting the emotional needs of children, nurturing mathematical thinking, orality, how children learn to read, handwriting, motor development, and the value of process art. Jennifer has presented workshops and teachings through organizations such as the Early Childhood Christian Network, San Antonio Association for the Education of Young Children, and the International Play Association, through community and parent workshops and as a speaker for online educational summits.
Cami Daigle is the mom of a soon-to-be seven-year-old who is in her first year of Primary at Marvelously Made. They joined the community four years ago when her daughter Millie entered preschool at the Farmhouse. An attorney by trade, she and her husband relocated to San Antonio and spent many months researching, visiting, and learning about the wide variety of school options in the area before finding the perfect school for their daughter.
Crystal Seiford is a wife and mother. She began her career as an educator in 2005 teaching kindergarten and first grade for seven years in a public school before becoming a stay-at-home momma to her two sons. Born and raised in San Antonio, she has given her time volunteering in many organizations helping children and their parents including serving as the coordinator for a local MOPS group and holding many roles in the church. Crystal’s family joined Marvelously Made in 2015 when her oldest son entered preschool. She has been an integral part of the school’s growth, first helping as a substitute teacher, and then joining in 2017 as the first Primary teacher. In this role, she has grown the Primary class from four to 40 students. Both of her sons continue to attend Marvelously Made as students in the Collective, a 4th–8th grade homeschool hybrid program that is an extension of the school. Crystal’s family considers Marvelously Made their second home. When they’re not at school you can find them at the river or at home playing games, reading together, living life, and enjoying time with their many cats.
Read More About Early Childhood Education
- “International Play Association Conference in San Antonio Promotes Children’s Right to Play,” Amanda McMickle and Tessa Baden, San Antonio Charter Moms, September 7, 2022
- “Play-Based Learning at JOY Holistic Education,” Adriana Becerra, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 19, 2022
- “Guide to Enrolling Your Four-Year-Old in Pre-K 4 SA,” San Antonio Charter Moms, February 22, 2022
- “San Antonio Charter Schools Pre-K Options and Resources,” Amy Johnson, San Antonio Charter Moms, January 8, 2021