As a master degreed educator with several years experience, I can tell you that how I conducted group then was extremely different than how I conduct group time now. Part of that is due to education, but a large part of it is due to experience,as well as my own personal philosophy regarding how children learn.
Those many years ago, my group time was quite likely your typical parents' dream. We sang a few songs, practiced counting, reviewed our calendar, and practiced our alphabet. After all, knowing how to count and recognize your letters are important skills, right?
Most parents who choose preschools for their children base their choices on several factors. One of the factors, of course, is the feel of the school--does it seem like a pleasant place for my child to learn? But more and more frequently, parents choose preschools based upon academic offerings. Do the children learn their alphabet? Do they count? Do they learn how to write their names? Do teachers review colors and shapes? These expectations often begin as early as two, and continue to grow at an alarmingly quick pace through preschool ages until kindergarten.
As I would sit with my preschoolers, I would listen proudly as those children recited the alphabet and their numbers. I patted myself on the back for being such a good and effective teacher. It never occurred to me that teaching a child to recite 26 letters was somewhat akin to teaching my dog to sit before I gave her a treat.
Is it critical for children to memorize all their letters and numbers? It's definitely helpful, but it's more helpful for adults to recognize that this is an exercise in memory recall, not one based in understanding language or number. In order for the letter A to mean anything to a child, the child has to understand that A is a symbol for a sound. The next step is recognizing that putting several of those symbols together stands for multiple sounds being put together that create words. Reading skills are not as simple as letter recognition. In fact, letter recognition is one very small part of a complex number of skills needed to read a word or sentence.
So here's a few things that as a parent, I would NOT be looking for in a preschool. I wouldn't want a school that drills letters and numbers. I wouldn't want a school that focuses heavily on academics. Instead, I would want a school in which all children's efforts are encouraged. A school that focuses most heavily on social skills in early childhood gives children a head start, and that's what I would choose.
Stay tuned for a post on what to look for--and ask--when choosing a quality preschool. Thanks for reading, pass this blog on, and click on the links! Thanks!