As­sess­ing Day­care Readi­ness

Is my child the pre-school type?

Westcoast Families - - Westcoast families may 2013 - by Nat­acha V. Beim

you’ve man­aged to get through potty train­ing and leav­ing your lit­tle one alone for the first time. But now that the big mo­ment has ar­rived, you’re hav­ing doubts. Is my child old enough to start an early learn­ing pro­gram?

The short an­swer is yes. From the mo­ment your child is born, she is ready to learn. Your child is learn­ing at an in­cred­i­bly rapid pace in the first five years, and that learn­ing will af­fect her for the rest of her life. She is build­ing her brain path­ways, and for that, she needs to be stim­u­lated. Chil­dren of any age are thrilled to go to school if that school is set up for them to ex­plore even be­yond what they can ex­plore at home, so rest as­sured that your child is not too young to go to school.

Un­der­stand­ing the early learn­ing myth

For many par­ents, de­cid­ing whether or not to send their child to pre-school is not an easy de­ci­sion. Not only are there con­flict­ing opin­ions from crit­ics who be­lieve chil­dren should stay at home as long as pos­si­ble, but there is such a wide range in the types of early learn­ing pro­grams of­fered, that the choice can be­come over­whelm­ing. Luck­ily, with a lit­tle ed­u­ca­tion, you can cut through the chaos and make a sound choice that will ben­e­fit your child for years to come. In or­der to do this there are two myths that need to be dis­tilled.

1. Your child is not too young to learn. Chil­dren’s cu­rios­ity in­creases be­cause they have an acute need to un­der­stand the world around them. A good early learn­ing school knows pro­vides plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren to ex­per­i­ment, and con­tinue de­vel­op­ing at an op­ti­mum level. A great early learn­ing school goes even fur­ther and ob­serves your child as an in­di­vid­ual, en­sur­ing that she is chal­lenged and al­ways has some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing to dis­cover or learn. The key is choos­ing a school caters specif­i­cally to your child’s tem­per­a­ment and in­ter­ests.

2. Your child is def­i­nitely the “pre-school type”. Some par­ents look at their child run­ning wild in the park, yelling at the top of their lungs, and con­clude their child is not right for pre-school. This is com­plete non­sense. If you feel that your child is not “ready,” you have not found the right early learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

It is true, you want to avoid en­vi­ron­ments that mimic el­e­men­tary schools, ex­pect­ing chil­dren to sit on chairs for hours on end, work qui­etly, or lis­ten to the teacher with­out in­ter­rupt­ing. Th­ese types of pro­grams are not only bor­ing, but also in­ap­pro­pri­ate for a young child.

Learn­ing and play must be one and the same. By this we do not mean ei­ther or, both, but a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of both. Mod­ern early learn­ing schools will not sim­ply pro­vide your child with some time to learn in­ter­meshed with some time to play. In­stead ev­ery ac­tiv­ity feels like play to your child, but is de­signed specif­i­cally with learn­ing ob­jec­tives in mind.

In th­ese schools, play is the way is­tu­dents learn mu­sic, math, science, and read­ing and writ­ing. Through play, chil­dren will also learn em­pa­thy and so­cial skills. The dif­fer­ence be­tween this play and just reg­u­lar play is the train­ing of the teach­ers and the strength of the cur­ricu­lum. The pro­gram is de­signed to en­hance your child’s de­vel­op­ment dur­ing the brain’s most for­ma­tive years.

We know from early learn­ing and brain de­vel­op­ment re­search that chil­dren ex­cel in an en­vi­ron­ment of this type. So if you have a feel­ing that your child is not the pre-school type, you just have not found the right pre-school.

How do you know when you’ve found the right school?

Armed with this knowl­edge, care­fully in­ter­view the schools you are in­ter­ested in. A good pro­gram will stim­u­late your child’s de­vel­op­ment, not just mimic the ac­tiv­i­ties you do at home. The cur­ricu­lum will not be strict, but should have clear learn­ing ob­jec­tives. Look for pro­grams where the learn­ing is not taught solely by just by see­ing and lis­ten­ing. Chil­dren have to ex­pe­ri­ence things (touch them, hold them, taste them, feel them) in or­der to learn.

Once you are sat­is­fied with the pro­gram, you still need to make sure that the so­cial group is the right one for your child. If your son is the only two year old in a group of five year olds, the group is not ideal for your child. If chil­dren are the right age but are re­lat­ing to each other in an ag­gres­sive man­ner, you might want to look for a bet­ter fit for your child. Find a place where teach­ers seem happy, chil­dren seem happy, and where you feel your child would per­fectly fit in.

Lastly, dis­cuss your child’s par­tic­u­lar in­ter­ests with the teach­ers, and en­sure that they are part of the cur­ricu­lum. Does your child love paint­ing? Rid­ing a bike? Mak­ing rocket ships out of gi­ant card­board boxes? Chances are, the right pro­gram will have all of th­ese com­po­nents.

Once you’ve found the right fit, I guar­an­tee you th­ese will be the most mem­o­rable school years in your child’s life.

Nat­acha V. Beim is a writer, speaker, teacher, and the founder or Core Ed­u­ca­tion & Fine Arts Ju­nior Kinder­garten schools (www.cefa.ca). You can reach her at nat­acha@cefa.ca

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