School Readiness

School Readiness

School Readiness – Confessions of a Grandmother

Text by Jeanne Darling

We edited this piece to meet the blog’s requirements.

School Readiness

Going Back to School

At this time of year, I often hear parents’ collective sighs of relief as their young children return to a routine revolving around school. My experience tells me that this state is short-lived for some parents. Parents’concerns begin to creep in about the educational adequacy of a young child’s program.

For the last 30 years, I have fielded such apprehensions. One worry relates to their child wasting time in preschool or a Swiss kindergarten which takes two years  (they will start later in schools elsewhere). The other concern is about the play aspect of programs before first grade.

Most of the parents I speak with are highly educated. They are deeply committed to wanting the best for their children.

What is Pressuring these Parents?

One factor is the proliferation of information about brain development.

For example, the knowledge that children can know a second language early. That there is a “window of opportunity” and that a child can learn more quickly than in the later years of their development. Subsequently, we feel the urge to push them to learn more and sooner. The child’s mind has become a big concern to modern parents and “big business” to entrepreneurs.

School Readiness

Another aspect is the general speed at which modern society functions.

Hence, some parents place their children in formal playgroups to give them educational opportunities and to keep up with their peers. But they then worry about how well the child compares to others.

 

Differences in Education Systems.

Numerous governments have stepped into educational systems, pushing the “basics” with a false notion that their students’ higher test scores will give the country an edge in global market competition.n

However,  a study conducted several years ago in the UK speculated that burnt-out third and fourth graders might have been introduced to reading and writing too early. The report points out that countries that wait until children are older (5-7 years) display better success rates or test scores later. The latter group includes Finland and the Swiss-German part of Switzerland.

Sidenote: China has encouraged more creative thinking in the early years to counteract its tradition of rote learning to develop better entrepreneurs to compete in global markets.

School Readiness

Understanding the child’s mind during the preschool years.

Going back to the “basics” is to fathom how a child constructs their knowledge and how best we can support real learning.

Learning psychologists posit that a child constructs meaning by manipulating real objects in their world. From there, a child will eventually develop their ability to abstract. Also, true reading and mathematical comprehension development only occur when the child has made a mental leap to manipulate symbols.

You cannot drill kids to understand, just as you cannot drill them to ride a bike.

Furthermore, learning to count does not reflect a grasp of a number or how numbers work to represent quantities. Flashcards representing simple addition and subtraction exercises are tools for improving memory. They do not help decipher how manipulating numbers can result in a quantity change.

Conversely, the play we witness in a high-quality preschool and kindergarten are the experiences that help children build an understanding of number, quantity, measurement, space, time, problem-solving and the other dimensions of mathematics. These activities that involve language (including pretend play) build the basis for learning how to communicate with language through reading and writing. They create an “intrigue” for decoding the system of letters and words that leads to reading for comprehension.

No need to rush.

Let us not forget the basics as we strive to provide the best opportunities for our children to grow into curious, happy, enthusiastic learners.

There is a lot more that goes into learning than the mechanics of reading and math. They include attitudes of persistence, self-regulation, and risk-taking. And social skills to integrate and collaborate with peers and use teachers as resources. Children can gain a sense of competence and willingness to explore. All these factors can affect a child’s later development.

The playing years before entering formal school are beneficial. Indeed, important learning has to occur before a child is “ready” for school. There is thus no need to rush children as they will not learn any faster or better. Indeed, rushing may hamper the child’s growth by producing feelings of incompetence and not understanding expectations.

School Readiness

 

Editor’s note:

The BCT Blog is incredibly grateful to Jeanne Darling for her generosity and ongoing support. You can find her other articles here (Confessions of a Grandmother).

Jeanne Darling is a retired educator, having taught children for over twenty-five years in Basel. She continues working with children, offering “Story Times” workshops at several schools and libraries. She also wrote the children’s illustrated book “Basel’s Hidden Stories”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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