Modern Day Mr Rogers Neighborhood
In January we signed up for Amazon Prime and I was tickled to find old seasons of Mr Rogers' Neighborhood streaming. I grew up in a PBS household. We watched little television, but what we did was found almost exclusively on PBS. Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Mr Rogers Neighborhood.
(affiliate links are included below)
The last time I watched an episode of Mr Rogers' Neighborhood was probably two decades ago, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I curled up with my sick kids one rainy afternoon.
Two things grabbed my attention.
One, even though television and movies for children today are generally full of bright colors, loud noises, and hectic plots - my kids still loved the simple Fred Rogers version of television. They were literally glued to the screen. They watched in fascination as he rode the elevator. Literally. He was riding the elevator in an office building. Talking about up and down and how the buttons work. They were fascinated.
And two. That's me. I am a modern day version of Mr Rogers. I am not sure entirely how I feel about that or whether I should really be sharing this revelation, but there it is. This is not to say I am him in the sense that I have achieved anything close to his lifetime worth of amazing achievements nor that I have influenced entire generations of children the way he did, but just that somehow I have begun to structure my life and that of my children in a very Mr Rogers Neighborhood type way. The format of his television show is very much the structure of our days. We do simple things like mail a stack of envelopes at the post office, one envelope in the drop box at a time. As I shared in our recent homeschool preschool schedule series;
1. Welcome Chat: We start our days with a conversation. Changing my shoes and sweater have been replaced with muffins and tea. Regardless of what else I'm doing, I'm telling them where we are going to go, who we might see, and introduce any new topics.
2. Take a Trip: Then we go on an adventure of the simplest kind. We visit the post office. We go for a walk to the pond to watch ducks. We go to the doctor's office and learn numbers while we ride the elevator. No joke, that was an activity last week.
3. Make Believe: Then we come home, read some books, take a nap, and then what do we do when we wake up? Pretend. Granted there are rarely puppets involved, but trains, animals and royalty make frequent appearances. Sure I provide a wide array of invitations and learning activities, but inevitably we end up pretending something.
4. Songs: Thrown in for good measure, throughout the day we make up songs. I have made up more ridiculous songs about everything from putting on diapers to waiting your turn than I can remember. Now my kids have begun inventing songs. This past weekend my little fellow came up to me while I was making breakfast and said, "I made up a song about being an Easter bunny, wanna hear it?" Of course I do.
Furthermore, I find myself believing in a very simple approach to education that is full of simple joys, imagination, and curiosity. I believe education should be stopping and watching an earthworm crawl across the sidewalk during a rainstorm or visiting the garden store to pick out plants and seeds together. I want my children to feel comfortable asking questions and wondering about their world. I believe children are capable. Capable of great ideas, of opinions and emotions, of directing their learning, and of learning to care for themselves.
So, maybe I am nuts, but as I watched I noticed more and more similarities. I have to wonder if somewhere in the back of my mind, if these early television experiences, limited that they were, somehow impacted my education practices. This seems unlikely given my 5+ years of Early Childhood Education classes and 11+ years of teaching, but the uncanny resemblance is there. Apparently I need to give in and invest in some puppets because Fred Rogers has certainly had an influence.
I wonder how many teachers and parents were influenced by this same man and his simple, but respectful and ahead of its time approach to education. How many of you are humming tunes, riding elevators for fun, and putting on puppet shows? I am grateful that my children are as delighted as I was, not only by Mr Rogers' Neighborhood, but by the simple joys of childhood. We will continue going on our little adventures, inventing songs, meeting neighbors, and pretending because in my mind, this is what childhood should be.
Want more about Fred Rogers?
Given this discovery, I was curious to learn more about Fred Rogers. Here are some interesting things I learned:
*Fred Rogers was the composer and lyricist of over 200 songs.
*He is the author of numerous books for children, including the First Experience series and the Let's Talk About It series, and the author of many books for adults, including the Mister Rogers Playtime Book, You Are Special, The Giving Box, Mister Rogers Talks with Parents, and Dear Mister Rogers: Does It Ever Rain In Your Neighborhood?. His last book, The Mister Rogers Parenting Book, was praised by Publishers Weekly for the "qualities of warmth and attentiveness that translate very well into this brief yet thorough parenting guide."
*He worked behind the scenes in television for many years, along with appearing on PBS for more than 30 years. In 1968, he was appointed the Chairman of the Forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Youth and worked tirelessly to improve standards for children's television.
*He was an ordained Presbyterian minister.
*Learn more at: http://www.fredrogers.org/fred-rogers/bio/#sthash.zbuF5YuS.dpuf
comments powered by Disqus