I just got home from dropping my son off at school. Before leaving, I took a minute to scope out the kindergarten teachers 🙂 There are two of them and I’m already thinking ahead to which one will offer the best environment for my son. I met one of them several years ago while I was out walking with my husband and my son (my daughter was not yet born). My son was just a toddler and home with me every day. What this teacher said that day struck a chord in me… and I didn’t realize how profound it was until now.
She asked if my son would be attending preschool. I said no. She said, “Good! Keep your baby home with you as long as possible. You can give him everything he needs right at home.” She said, if you can be home with him, then don’t bother with a program. She was referring to the concept of early head-start and other preschool programs that claim to better prepare a child for his or her future learning.
In an article from the Dec. 3, 2012 issue of Education Week that summarized a paper by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a question was asked: “Would the wave of new academic expectations across K-12 inevitably force early-childhood educators to “align” their standards and teaching practices for young learners in ways that could be harmful?” And the answer for the most part is: YES. The article is a short read so I won’t reiterate that here.
But a fond memory of my kindergarten experience came back to me on the walk home from my son’s school…. actually a whole flood of them from the huge room where over half was devoted to play, to the sweetest teacher I ever remember. I don’t have any memories of “learning,” at least not in the formal sense. But somehow I had already possessed the skill of counting to one-hundred! My point is not that I was so advanced or that I’m proud of my “book smarts.” My memory is this: I was standing at the desk of my kindergarten teacher. It was one of those huge, heavy oak desks with drawers on both sides with massive oak pulls. I stood there with my teacher and I counted to 100 for her. And she just sat there patiently and smiled while she listened to this shy little 5 year old spout off number after number. It must have taken me forever!
One never knows how truthful childhood memories are. If one could watch a scene from one’s early years being replayed, would it align with the information contained in that childhood memory? I don’t know the answer to this. But I do know the sense of pride I had at the time and how she didn’t rush me, she didn’t cut me off, she didn’t say “that’s great, but you only need to know up to 20 right now.” My son is now in Pre-K, which is considered the new kindergarten. I wonder if his teacher now would have the time to let one of her students ramble numbers on and on. I am doubtful… there is too much Common Core to be learned.