Kindergarten readiness: What does it mean to you? There are checklists, worksheets, printables, games and so much more available to help prepare your child for kindergarten. But what are you putting your focus on? The readiness or the child?
Your children go to school for so many things. They study, read, listen, explore, and observe the world around them. This causes them to learn and retain all sorts of important information. And learning must be assessed. There has to be a percentage, a pass/fail or ranking system to know that learning is taking place, right?!?!
My colleagues and I were aware that the education system and its method of accountability was not working in the best interest of the children when it came to assessing each learner’s progress. As a parent, I have a new group of peers that don’t have the same background as I do. They don’t know how children learn and how it should be “assessed”. They hear about the tests, the rankings and accountability and want to make sure their child will be “ready” for kindergarten. That is why I want to talk about The Art of Early Learning, the learning that takes place before your child enters kindergarten. This is for all the parents who are creating the learning foundation for their little ones.
1. Early Learning can look like a MESS!
Your 2 year old may count to 10 one day and throw a bowl of cheerios at you the next. And your 4 year old will probably still scribble when coloring a picture and cut crooked on a straight line. Your 5 year old may know all the sounds of the alphabet, but is unable to identify some of the letters. Learning can look like a mess, but it is NOT!!!
Every child learns at their own pace, which means every child learns differently. If your child’s friend across the street can read books, but your child doesn’t know the alphabet, THAT’S OKAY! When everyone learns differently, it can look messy, but it’s not. It’s just early learning. Early learning involves children studying and exploring the world and taking away different experiences. Teachers know and are trained to differentiate or distinguish learning goals for each child. They also know how to address those needs in the classroom. Your job as a parent is to focus ONLY on your child. DO NOT COMPARE your child to any other.
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2. Early Learning is COLORFUL!
If you expect your toddler to color a printable of an apple to learn the color red, you might have the wrong idea of early learning. Maybe your 5 year old is unable to complete worksheet after worksheet to help them learn to read. You might have the wrong idea of early learning. Early learning should be colorful…full of fun, games and lots of play.
How will they learn by playing, you ask? Children play, they are wired to play and that is how they learn. Our task as the adults in their life is to make their time “playing” as beneficial to them as possible….whether, they are learning how to share toys with a new friend at age 2 or going on “Color Hunts” at age 3 and looking for letters on billboards as you drive around town at age 4. We can make the most of the games they play. When learning is disguised as play, children don’t even know they are learning while having so much fun…it’s quite genius!!!
3. Early Learning takes TIME!
You can’t rush a masterpiece! So, if you want your 3 year old to be reading on a first grade level…try climbing Mount Everest instead. Don’t pressure your toddler or preschooler to complete tasks they SHOULD NOT be attempting until they are ready…let’s say reading on a first grade level when they are in first grade!
Let your child guide you through their learning…takes cues from their interests, questions, statements, or skills they acquire. Don’t try to force your child into something they are not ready for. Sight word readers in preschool…NO WAY…get out those picture books and experience literature at its finest!
If your child struggles with letter sounds it would probably not be the best idea to start blending CVC words together. Let the art of your child’s own learning guide the activities and games you do together, otherwise a masterpiece could turn into tearful mess.
4. Early Learning is PRICELESS!
Early learning is the foundation that your child’s primary education will be built on…that’s a big deal. If you pressure, push and burn out your child before they start elementary school…you are setting the stage for an exhausting learning journey. By valuing the precious learning experiences at this early age you can impress upon your child the importance of every learning opportunity.
You can teach them that THEY are more important than the standards set upon them while still showing them how to work hard to learn new skills. You cannot turn back the clock and give your child back the experiences they gain during this stage of life. The social skills they acquire, jumping in puddles, finger-painting, playing on their own, and simply enjoying childhood are building blocks that form the type of student your child will be. Train them up right!
I am not suggesting to let your child run around in their underwear and have free reign every day with no expectations (although we might be pant-less most days from May-September in our house)…I am suggesting that you let you child be a CHILD and let them learn at his or her own pace while providing activities to foster AGE APPROPRIATE skills. Don’t conform to the standards and expectations you may believe to be the norm, but follow your own child’s learning path and you may be surprised at the masterpiece that is created!