I find it fascinating to read blog posts from teachers living in other parts of the world. I have just read Jessica Brown’s post about transitions from preschool to kindergarten (or from “kindy” to the school system) and although she is in New Zealand and I am here in Canada, her post resonated with me. A huge thank you goes to Jessica for inspiring this post. She talks about what children need in order to move into the school program when they are five years old. For us in British Columbia, children start the kindergarten year (part of the public school system) in September and must turn 5 by the end of the calendar year. So when they start some of them are 4 years old and some are 5 years old. In New Zealand, I believe that it is customary for children to enter the formal education system on their 5th birthday. The differences are small and really, we are talking about the same thing: what happens beyond preschool.
Sometimes, parents and teachers can get really focused on “readiness” and specific skills that they feel children should master before beginning kindergarten. I get a little concerned about that because for young children so much learning comes through play. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice play time for “skill development” time. If we did that I truly feel we would only be going backwards.
I read another interesting post about ordering “pedal desks” for kindergarten classrooms. I had never heard of such a thing! Kindergarten teachers would never need pedal desks if they ensured that children had adequate time to play and be active as part of the program. Just take them outside, save the money on the desks and give them a far more valuable opportunity to learn outdoors. It is the walls that are getting in the way, not the fact that children don’t have a “pedal desk”!
When children are learning to speak, we do not give them lessons; we simply talk to them, expand on what they are saying just a little and trust that with practice and time, they will be able to communicate and that is all they need! I believe that children learn to read in the same way. We read to them, we talk about the pictures; they get curious about the words and pretty soon they can pick out some letters, then whole words and then sentences. They learn to read by reading and being read to. It just like learning to speak.
Do we read in preschool? Yes! Do the children have opportunities to see words, letters and print in the environment? Yes! Do we give them pencils, paper and other interesting writing materials? Yes! So why do we need to worry about readiness when the children are already doing exactly what they need to do. We need to trust in their capabilities.
To expect all children to possess exactly the same skills when they reach age 5 is totally unreasonable. Each child develops at his or her own rate in his or her own way. How many adults know exactly how old they were when they learned to crawl? Some babies start early, some later, but eventually we are all walking upright unless we have a physical impairment. Read my post Our Own Journey for more on this topic.
Here are my hopes for the children at my preschool:
- I hope that they feel confident enough to try new things; the ability to take risks is the basis for learning! (a future post about risk and play is coming… stay tuned)
- I hope that they will develop the skills to take care of their own basic needs in terms of dressing, eating and using the washroom.
- I hope that they have developed a genuine love for play and learning.
- I hope that they have begun to develop skills in the area of problem solving, empathy, and consideration of others.
- I hope that they are learning to self-regulate.
- I hope that learning through play continues to be part of their lives at school and outside of school.
- I hope that the families that have met through the preschool are building connections now that will last them through the child rearing years and beyond.
“I never teach my pupils, I only provide conditions in which they can learn.”