I came across this article by Rick Ackerly recently. You can find the full version here. You might have noticed that I don't do a "letter of the week" curriculum or have the children do much tracing or paperwork. That's because my goal is to nurture brain development, and I recognize that all children develop differently. I want to set my students up for success. I think Rick does a nice job of writing about this topic. I hope you have seen some growth in your child's brain development this year.
In today’s anxious climate the purpose of pre-school is increasingly understood to be preparation for kindergarten. This focus on preparation will not only fail to produce better “results,” but will also have a negative impact on the learning ability of at least half the population of five-year-olds—in fact it’s not really good for anybody.
In a literate environment all children are motivated to learn to read, but readiness timetables vary enormously. Just as some children can speak by age one while others don’t till after three, so some kids can read by three and others not until nine. Only half of all children are physiologically capable of reading and writing by six-and-a-half.
The brain can’t work on everything at once, so one child will learn how the physical world works while another focuses on language. It’s not about ability, it’s about timing.Acceleration through skill development retards brain development—like trying to accelerate a car to 60 miles-per-hour before it’s out of first gear.
Parental anxiety about kindergarten readiness drives teacher anxiety, and community leaders have their own motivations. But decisions driven by anxiety are usually bad decisions.
Those who want to invest money in the problem (and I am all for that) want to see measurable results. But unfortunately this motivation predictably results in direct teaching of those measurable results. This approach results in anxious people who are drawn to cheating on tests, rather than producing children who are better readers and writers.
The purpose of preschool—actually any school through 12th grade—is optimal brain development with literacy as a subset. Focusing on brain development will have children reading as soon as they can, but benchmarking skills won’t serve anyone well—not even the donors.
When everyone focuses on skills that really matter: focus, self-control, creativity, connection, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, perspective-taking and problem solving, and when professional educators create benchmarks like: asking questions, welcoming challenges, making guesses, changing your mind, building on other’s ideas, etc., then kids will not only learn to read, write and calculate, but will also grow brains that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.
If we keep our eyes on the right benchmarks then school can be glorious in the here and now, and preparation for the future will follow apace.