We all want our children to excel in school. This is very important to most parents. However, the rigorous demands that public schools put on preschoolers and Kindergarteners may be doing more damage than good. It’s important to support and encourage our children’s academic growth but in a way where we are not pushing them too hard.
Maria Montessori is a well-respected Educator, Psychologist, and Researcher who has completely changed the way many educators approach teaching. I love and admire her work. In the 21st century, educators became overly vigorous and began to put significant demands on little ones in the school setting. In fact, in many school systems today, they require Kindergarteners to already know the skills that were previously taught in the first grade. This is a lot of pressure for 3- and 4-year-olds! I firmly believe that this is the wrong approach for educating our children.
Maria Montessori recognized this imbalance and the rigid demands of schools were not good for children and she reformed the educational system with her Montessori approach to learning. Her system teaches 3-year-old kids the basics of reading and writing but preschoolers aren’t expected to already know how to read or write. Rather, the Montessori focus is on building off of what 3- and 4-year-olds can already do. Educators who model this approach ask questions like “What are her skills?” and “Where is he at developmentally?” to determine the best way to teach each child.
Public school education is too demanding and often requires kids to be able to read and write at the early age of 6. Yet, during their first 4 years of school, kids generally learn the basic skills of reading, writing, counting, singing, and some type of sport. So can somebody tell me why we are in such a hurry and placing all of these rigorous demands on preschoolers?
This unhelpful tendency to put so much unnecessary pressure on our preschoolers comes not just from the families but often straight from the governmental level. Let me try to illustrate very simply. The government wants fewer children to pursue higher level education and to accomplish this, they increase the requirements needed for entry into public schools. What this means is that children are not achieving good grades if they do not arrive to school with a basic knowledge of writing and reading. So, what is the reaction of the parents? They become fearful and begin pushing their kids to learn those skills at an extremely young age.
Now, with this system in place, the individuality of the child is no longer considered. How silly and detrimental is that? So even if he can’t count to 10, there is still a high expectation and he is expected to quickly learn or pay the penalty. And even if she is not ready developmentally to acquire a certain skill, it is forced on her and it becomes very difficult for her to thrive. Then she feels inadequate and school may become a terrible experience for her.
As parents, we need to be focused on whether our children are ready to engage in specific activities. For instance, if your daughter can hardly draw a flower or use scissors, then there is no need to push her to learn to write letters. If your son has difficulty seeing lines and words, then he’s probably not ready to read yet. Instead of teaching them how to write and read too early, we need to give them opportunities to develop their skills.
There are several basic skills that young children should learn to help them become better prepared for learning more complex skills later in their schooling. Here are 5 basic skills that you may want to focus on:
It is important that children further develop both their gross motor skills and their fine motor skills. These skills are learned primarily through play and through activities that are done routinely throughout the days such as swinging, running, buttoning clothes, clapping, beading, and manipulating objects. Motor skills help develop eye-and-hand coordination which is important in helping your child learn to write.
When children are able to use their senses to observe their environment, then they are able to identify shapes and colors much more naturally. This skill is fundamentally important to help children learn scientifically, linguistically, and socially.
SOCIAL SKLILLS AND SELF CARE
Getting ready for Kindegarten also includes developing appropriate social skills and self care. There should be some level of independence when your child enters the school setting. Therefore, learning how to take turns with others; using the bathroom independently; and participating in age-appropriate conflict resolution techniques are all really important skills for your child to master.
Rhyming is one of the building blocks of reading as it exposes children to the natural rhythm of language. It also helps pre-readers learn how to break words into smaller parts and to identify structures and patterns within words. This is crucual in helping your little one naturally learn to read.
Music helps the brain make connections between the sounds that kids are hearing and the words that they are saying, which helps build early reading skills. Singing uses the same process that children use when they first begin to read - they say the word aloud which allows them to hear the words as well. This process helps them build connections - and music helps them learn the skill much quicker. Music also helps children develop better listening skills and promotes creativity.
It is very important that your children learn the skills that they need to be successful in school. When they master these skills, it is then that they will be able to master the more complex skills that are taught to older school-agers. However, pushing preschoolers too hard and too early may do more harm than good. Remember, it’s important for children to learn at their own pace.