What's On My Mind

Monday, March 11, 2013

What a loaded subject. I mean, really. There's SO MUCH. How do you narrow it down? Do you talk politics? Nuclear war with North Korea, that basketball player visiting North Korea, our status with North Korea, I could go on, but I won't. Do you talk about Second Ammendment Rights and Gun/Firearm control in the United States? I could, but I won't. Hmm...let's see. How about Mayor Bloomberg's decision to ban all "sugary drinks" over 16 oz from being served in NYC restaurants? A judge has temporarily halted that. It wouldn't have applied to deli's or bottled drinks. Nope, going to pass on that too. What about.....


Hoooo doggy. That's as complicated a topic as any other, isn't it? I'm not even going to broach "Higher education". That's not my specialty. Oh, yes. I do have a specialty, and that is Early Childhood Education. For clarification purposes, Early Childhood Education (ECE) is considered birth - 3rd grade. If you didn't know that, now you do. To narrow it down a little bit more, I'm specifically going to comment on what people commonly refer to as Pre-K and Kindergarten.

Pre-K are those grades/ages before Kindergarten, usually 3 year olds and 4 year olds. Pre-K is NOT child care. There is nothing wrong with child care or day care, it just isn't the same thing as Pre-K for 3 and 4 year olds. Kindergarten students usually turn 5 years of age before school starts or shortly thereafter. Here are some facts:

*There is an international organization which specializes in ECE. It is the National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC.

*The NAEYC has advocated for quality ECE for all children for decades.

*There is a major push now to offer quality Pre-K experiences (school) for 3 and 4 year olds before they enter Kindergarten.

*In the majority of states in this great country of ours, Kindergarten is NOT mandatory. It is NOT a required grade, meaning, if a parent wanted to keep their child home until they turned 6 years of age, they could do so. It happens all the time. In the majority of states, a child must enter public school in the fall they turn 6 years of age unless the parents home school or send them to a private or parochial school.

*Every state, and every school district within that state can set and determine their own cut off date for students entering school. There is NO consistency between states, or even with districts within the same state. Some districts may stipulate that a child must have turned 5 before September 1 of the year entering school; another district may say the child must turn 5 before December 31 of that year. You'll have children ranging in age from 4-6 years of age in one classroom. I know. I've taught them.

*State sponsored and private quality preschools are exactly that: schools. They follow guidelines, core curriculum, and standards.

*Kindergarten is no longer the grade where children get acclimated to school, play in the house corner or sand box, take a nap, and eat milk and cookies.

*In Kindergarten, children are now expected to read and write fluently. They should be able to read independently a book with simple text and write between 2-4 sentences on topic and draw a detailed illustration.

* NCLB may have been push aside, but what is taking it's place is just as bad. Kindergarten students now take standardized tests on a computer 3-4 times a year in addition to other assessment measures to procure data to determine whether or not the student is making benchmark. One quarter is roughly 41 teaching days, and during that time a child could be tested as many as 4-5 times.

If your children are grown or older, or if you don't have children yet, you may be shocked at this. This is one reason why Pre-K education for all children is so important. If we expect certain things of our children in Kindergarten, and they don't go to Pre-K, how can we ever expect them to be successful in school? They will always be at a disadvantage and working to "catch-up".

Pre-K is important because, as important as technology is, it still isn't the way that children learn about their world. They learn by experiencing it. They learn by squishing the play dough into shapes and letters and numbers and then counting what they've made. They learn by building a castle with wood blocks and then designing costumes from the house corner to pretend to be kings and queens. They learn by painting at the easel, painting with water colors, and cutting out bits of paper to make a Cat In The Hat. They learn by singing songs, learning poetry, and listening to good children's books. They learn by running outside and playing with sticks and stones and acorn caps and maple seeds.

Pre-K is important because we used to do those things in Kindergarten, and they aren't being done anymore.

Children need to be children. How can they become amazing adults if they haven't been allowed to be children first?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    beautifully put. we are pushing children so hard and yet they seem to be falling farther behind. i see evidence of this in faulty grammar, poor spelling, atrocious math skills and a lack of self reliant and imaginative thinking. you are SO RIGHT that children need to be children. they learn far more from constructive and guided play than they do from being plopped in front of a device that barfs information at them, or from being pressured by tests. i learned to read in first grade. kindergarten was play and socialization (another skill set that is sorely needed). my teacher taught phonics to us and i had the same teacher in first and second grade, which was a tremendous help. i learned early on to love reading and writing from her. we wrote compositions and poems, made pictures and murals that matched the stories, read aloud to each other and had spelling bees. our poems were entered in the jury process for the school literary publication--two of mine were accepted, and i can still recite one of them! we played interactive games of all sorts to encourage reading and thinking skills. the closest we came to a computer was listening once a week to "purdue university school of the air" over the intercom. i think it was a story time--interestingly, it is the part of my class time that i remember the least.
    i will always be grateful to Miss Richmond. she gave me the firmest of foundations and it has never failed me. probably a lot of what she did would not be considered modern today. it doesn't matter. it worked then just like it would now. i bet you are this kind of teacher.
    2973 days ago
    The world is changing and not necessarily for the better.
    2976 days ago
    WOW! That's a lot on your mind!! I guess I never knew what I'd missed!

    (I skipped kindergarten and went straight into first grade at 5)
    2979 days ago
    WOW!! My kids are grown and I have 3 grandkids and the 2 older ones are in a private Catholic school. They are getting a wonderful education. The older one has created her own web-site on bees. It was amazing. She is in 6th grade! Their reading list is also something I would never have imagined. I had to read 12 books per year in high school (also Catholic) but she is reading 6 books every 9 weeks! The 3rd grader is also doing amazing things. The youngest is in day-care that provides pre-K. He can already do some reading. All 3 kids read for 30 minutes each day at home. The youngest will join his sisters next year at the Catholic school. It costs a lot but worth it for these kids. Thanks for posting this blog and for being such a conscientious teacher.
    2979 days ago
    I agree that Pre k is important, especially for kids who are from poor families or have teen moms. Families with resources place a value on early education and more likely to place a child in dance class or take him or her on a field trip. Also better off families tend to have bigger vocabularies and provide books,etc. I fell somewhere in the middle, but both my kids went to Pre k.
    2979 days ago
    You've got ME thinking, that's for sure. My DS is 20 and in the Army and my Dd is graduating High School in May. So, the days of dealing with elementary education for them are long gone. It was challenging as can be, but it is 10 times more so now!

    2979 days ago
    Oh I so agree with you. Luckily here in Texas (or at least where I am in Texas) Kindergarten is a transitional grade. No standardized tests. Still learning to read and write but expected to know basics. I am tossed up as to whether or not to send my 3 year old who will be 5 in pre k to pre k. He is extremely smart and knows most of the things already that he would learn in pre-k. He has older siblings so he knows how to interact with other children and does very well in the preschool room at church. On the other hand, Putting him in pre-k would definitely give him an advantage when he enters kinder. I will eventually figure it out. I have another year and a half to decide. Thank you for your post. It is something that people need to know.
    2979 days ago
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