Janet Lansbury: 4 Reasons To Ditch Academic Preschools
Blogger Janet Lansbury writes about reasons to get academics out of preschool.
I’m still scratching my head that I actually witnessed this… Years ago, I was investigating preschools for my first child and made a scheduled visit to one of the most popular schools in the neighborhood, chosen by parents I consider to be intelligent and thoughtful. As I entered the classroom and discreetly sat on the floor behind about fifteen 3-4 year olds, a teacher stood at a chalkboard to present a lesson on ‘shapes’. She drew a square and asked, “What is this?” One of the preschoolers raised her hand and shouted “Square!” The teacher gave a brief nod of approval and continued drawing, this time a circle… A few hands shot up, and she pointed to a boy. “Circle!” the boy exclaimed. To my astonishment the teacher frowned, shook her head and corrected him. “No, round.”
Huh? A trick question? Preschoolers need this?
There were other dismaying interactions between the staff and children in the time I spent at the school. The director manipulated the 2-3 year olds to move onto a climbing structure by pointing to the sand and saying, “There are sharks in the water!” while smiling smugly at another teacher on the playground. Later she admonished a boy who found it difficult to stand still during the long graduation performance rehearsal. “If you do that tomorrow, I’ll embarrass you in front of all the parents!”
Needless to say, I passed on that school. Eventually, I lucked into finding a jewel with an educated staff, child-centered philosophy and developmentally appropriate educational curriculum – play. Although the name of the school did not include the words “creative children” as the first had, this was a center where creativity was truly nurtured, and where preschool-aged children were understood and respected.
Our child’s first school experiences can color his or her perceptions about school and learning for years to come. Child development experts and early childhood educators agree that the preschool years are a time for the development of social skills and hands-on sensory learning that is experimental and exploratory. Here are a few of the reasons our kids don’t need academic instruction in these first school years.
We can’t rush development (or nature).
Kindergarten has evolved from being a time for play, socialization, cartons of milk (loved them!) and afternoon naps to structured lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic. The Gesell Institute for Human Development recently “conducted 40-minute one-on-one cognitive assessments with 1,287 children ages 3–6 at 56 public and private schools in 23 states” (as reported in The Harvard Letter). They then compared the results to identical studies published in 1925, 1940, 1964 and 1979. The conclusion: Kindergarten has changed, but children haven’t.