Should all children attend preschool?
I teach a morning and afternoon session of preschool in a wonderfully diverse school of children from all socioeconomic backgrounds. With the expectations of the No Child Left Behind law and the demands of a more challenging curriculum, preschool is even more vital emotionally, physically, and educationally to a child’s development.
Research shows that children begin to learn compassion and empathy around the age of four. A classroom setting provides opportunities for young children to practice their skills under the guidance of a teacher. For example, in my classroom, I encourage children to talk to each other about problems before coming to me. They are learning to express themselves in intelligent and compassionate ways. School is also a good opportunity for children to play and interact with other children on a level playing field. No one owns the toys in the classroom! Students can help each other learn the social ropes.
A child can also develop physical skills in preschool. Not only do they have opportunities to play outside on safe equipment, they have access to balls, jump ropes, and other physical education equipment. The health benefits of enriching a child’s gross motor skills are immense and should stay with them as they grow. In addition to the large muscle skills, their fine motor or small muscle skills are also developed. Correct pencil grasp and scissor skills will better prepare them for kindergarten assignments.
Should girls be encouraged to take more math classes?
The tally on the debate in the last NEA Today:
As the curriculum demands more at an early age, I feel the adage will now be “All I really need to know, I learned in preschool.”
Margaret Fetting teaches preschool in Frederick County, Maryland.
Are we pushing children too hard by asking them to start preschool too soon? Can they all succeed? Some children are ready, some are not, and the decision on whether to send a child to preschool should be based on a child’s own cognitive, emotional, and physical development and individual readiness.
We all know that children enter the world with a great capacity to learn. However, if a child is too anxious about separation, cannot yet adapt to group situations, or is still unable to express physical and emotional needs, he or she is likely not ready for preschool. But parents can still foster the child’s capacity to learn and prepare them to be successful in school—and in life. Research shows that children are more likely to succeed in learning when their families actively support them.
For many children, life is already too hurried. They need time to grow, run, and play—the world of play and pretend can be a wonderful education experience. When I was growing up, I learned about the physical world by running around our Idaho farm with my brother and sister. I built structures with Lincoln Logs, learned the alphabet with wooden blocks, and learned about music by playing the piano at my grandparents’ house. My parents read to us often and limited our TV time.
When young children are provided with an environment rich in language and literacy interactions, and are presented with opportunities to listen to and use language constantly, they acquire the essential building blocks for learning to read. A child entering school without these skills runs a significant risk of starting behind and staying behind in school. However, these opportunities can be provided at home if a child isn’t ready for preschool. The child does not have to attend preschool to be presented with a learning environment.
Kevin Kramer is a reading specialist at Morningside Elementary School in Twin Falls, Idaho.