I have been using Instapaper (possibly my favourite iPod Touch application) to read some of the Parents' Review articles available at the Ambleside Online website, and plan to share some quotes as I read.
This is from A PNEU Nursery School by Hilda Eleanor Breckels (1969). The children began each morning with a 40 minute period of free play, then:
As soon as this is over and everything is put away, with the help of the children, they voluntarily separate into their age groups and run pell-mell to their group places, glad to have seen the last of free play for that morning.My interest was piqued by the assertion that children find too much free play and free association with other children tiring, and need it to be balanced by structured, adult led time. Also by the way in which learning activities were simply play, from which the children took whatever they were ready for.
Free play has wearied them by the end. Each child has been left to its own devices. It has had to make up its own mind about everything; whom to play with, or which sharing group to join, what play equipment to choose, or whether to dare a big adventure on the apparatus, or dare to knock on the door of the playhouse to see what's going on inside it.
At last all are tired of being creatively busy, and of being left to manage all alone. The children are also tired of each other, in need of a comforting grown-up with a kind voice for telling all about things to do.
The need is for quiet and a spell of uplift, through close companionship with adults. This is especially so with regard to speech. This needs frequent uplift in the early years and the under-fives cannot get this when with contemporaries.For speech uplift, under-fives need to be often with grown-ups who are light-hearted and good at making conversation with the very young.
I must now tell you about our quiet time, because it follows all that noisy play. Some mornings we sing a hymn and say prayers. Others, we associate God with human relationships, or with the seasons and other aspects of nature. We also tell stories of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and Old Testament babes and boys and girls. We learn to be hushed. Reverent.
Thus are they quietened. They are now eager for group activities when they will be in the close care of grown-ups who tell them what to do and how to do it. While carefully and expressively telling the listening children what to do, the group teachers are giving that important uplift to speech.
Besides being training time for skills in speech, these activities in small groups give carefully graded steps in the preliminaries to reading, word-building and number.
That is all done through play. The knowledge is threaded, as it were, through a game, by means of the appropriate teaching aids. If the children are ready, they will learn the little lesson. If they are not, they just enjoy the game. They usually do both.
Being a PNEU Nursery School, we do no more than help the children to play the game. We leave all else to the children's powers of attention, imagination, reflection, judgment and so on.