Monday, 21 March 2011

Kindergarten prep

I heard a program on the CBC radio the other day that was highlighting a private school that was running kindergarten prep classes. Parents enrol their 18 month old - 4 year olds in this school that academically prepares the children for kindergarten.


The school said that their program was responding to parents who were growing more and more concerned about the competitiveness of the job market post education, especially in light of the new trend of hiring globally. It was becoming clear that in order to have the edge on others, a 'regular' education was not going to cut it. To many parents, 'daycare' was becoming a word associated with laziness and lax attitudes.

I think this line of thinking is crazy, for two reasons.

First of all, children need time to be children. There is a fantastic amount of learning that takes place out in the world, by just living each day and spending time with a parent (who is, by far, their own child's best and most effective teacher.) Five years spent exploring, discovering and asking questions is far more valuable than pushing two year olds to read and write. A well-developped love of learning will take anyone much further than an extra couple of years in a classroom.

Secondly, I think parents are fooling themselves if they think classroom schooling is going to give their kids an edge. Any child can go through school. Any child can enrol in classes. It is already evident that a university degree is meaning less and less in terms of hiring. Perfect GPAs are a dime a dozen, and are not a guarantee for success once a teen is thrust into the 'real world.' Rather, I believe that what makes the difference is creativity. Someone who can think outside the box, see things in a new light or from a different angle, birth brilliant and original ideas - that is the person who is going to have the edge in the new global workforce. And creativity cannot be learned in a classroom with 25 other children, for 24 other kids are doing exactly what you are. The first 5 years of a child's life are imperative for imagination development. I'm pretty sure that if you were to chart the increase of years spent in school (including kindergaten, junior kindergarten, preschool, and private kindergarten prep school) you would see an inverse proportion in the decline of children's imagination.

In light of all this, I have been feeling badly lately in regards to Colin. He continues to be non-plussed about school. Even though his French has taken off in the last couple of weeks, he is never excited about what's going on in the classroom. And he has an absolutely fantastic teacher, as far as our current school system goes. More and more often he climbs into my lap and sadly wishes he could spend more time with me. It breaks my heart to think that this is only the beginning, and that he has another 12 years, at least, of schooling to get through. If it was just Colin and I, you can bet I would be homeschooling him. But with Benjamin the way he is right now, I couldn't even try. I don't have the mental stamina nor the physical energy to fill each and every day with learning opportunities. I do my best when he is home (in the past week he has learned checkers, Solitaire (the clock version, which also involved learning how a clock works), and even the first stages of chess (all the pieces, how they move, and how they kill.) He continues to amaze me each and every day, and makes me hope for the days to come when I can be at full strength again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


A lot of food for thought there. I agree with you that children need to be children and I wouldn't put my child into a pre - K class (I'm not even for JK except that, when it comes to learning languages, the earlier the better). I agree with you about children's lack of imagination - I used to see that all the time in my classes when I was teaching in Canada. However, I think that has more to do with parents allowing their children to sit in front of the television or computer for hours on end. If parents in general were more like you - interested in spending time with their child and giving them experiences which develop that imagination and curiosity about the world - things would be different by the time they get to school. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be that way, in general. And it seems to be the same the world over - or at least in Canada, the U.S. and Australia (and I'm sure that if I were to talk with teachers in other countries, the same thing would be found). To me, what would be awesome, is for parents to stay home with their children and spend quality time with their children; TALK with them enjoying the WHY? questions their children have; take them places which encourage curiosity; help them develop a love of learning.

I'm sorry that Colin doesn't feel that excitement about learning at school. It's nice that he wants to spend time with you. It's good (not the right word to explain how I feel, but can't think of a different word at the moment) that you see that it wouldn't work to keep him home right now with Benjamin still in this stage. It would be difficult to spend more time with Colin at this time, but who knows about the future. It IS wonderful that you are showing Colin different 'thinking' games - that you are seeing his capabilities and honouring those. Not only will he be able to stretch his brain, but he will relish the time he gets to spend with you (and, naturally, you will love watching him develop these skills and also spending time with him). You are a wonderful mother! :-)

Love, Mom