A recent article in The Washington Post reported on a program in Utah called Upstart that offers 15 minutes a day of learning on a computer as a way to get four-year-olds ready for kindergarten. This raises the very valid question of what is kindergarten readiness.
For an answer, we can turn to the book, Sharing Among Us: Parents, Children and Teachers Communicate,* edited by PCPI member Anne Eddowes, retired professor of early childhood education. "The most important predictor of school success is the child's social skills. Children who have difficulty relating to peers in early school years are at risk for difficulties throughout their school years," explains Lois Todd, who holds an M.A. in early childhood education, in the book.
A checklist of self-control behaviors needed for kindergarten includes:
- The child can delay gratification - take turns and listen while others talk.
- The child is responsible in routines.
- The child soon learns where things go and helps keep equipment in order.
- The child knows the appropriate time for various actions. (i.e., doesn't start a puzzle when it is time to go outside.)
- The child can work or play independently without constant adult support.
- The child can control most gross motor movements appropriately.
While academic accomplishments are important - using crayons, drawing and expressing themselves - the child needs most of all to be able to pay attention and participate.
Can these skills be learned from a computer? We think not. We even think they are difficult to learn in a structured academic type preschool. Social and emotional skills are best learned in play-based preschools. A play-based program is centered on the child giving the child opportunities to choose activities, make decisions and negotiate with their peers,
thus giving them extensive practice in the needed social/emotional skills.
In fact one study of preschools in Washington, D.C. found that children in teacher-centered preschools (focused on memorization and work sheets) did not do as well in kindergarten as those from child-centered schools and further they declined in skills over the years and fell behind their peers. More information about the research on play-based, child-centered preschools as compared to academic, teacher-centered preschools can be found on the PCPI website under Preschool Years,
Cooperative preschools have long been advocates for play for good reason. Cooperative preschools not only help children gain self-control and put them on the road to academic success, these play-based preschools also offer children the joy of learning and working with other children and adults.
* The book,
Sharing Among Us: Parents, Children and Teachers Communicate
, can be purchased from PCPI for $20 for members; $25 non-members.
end check or money order made out to PCPI. If paying the membership rate, list the name of the organization or individual holding membership.
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Becky Allen Fund deadline is December 14
If your school could use funds for a parent education program, the Becky Allen Parent Education Grant may be just what you are looking for. The grant offers U.S. preschools up to $500 to fund parent education programs. U.S. preschools with their own direct membership in PCPI are invited to request the funds. The request deadline for this year's grant is December 14, 2015. Grant award decisions will be made in early January 2016. Find more information and an application on the PCPI website, http://www.preschools.coop/v/rebecca-allen-fund/