Thursday, November 4, 2010

schooling

As my little girl fastly approached her 3rd birthday, worries began to fill my heart.  It seemed all the good friends we had made with neighbors and at local parks were disappearing, into the abyss of Preschool.

They must be prepared, prepared for college, prepared to compete.

It is enough to cause one to long for another day, another time, when children could be children for oh so much longer. But, I did not want to be left out either. I did not want my sweet daughter to be left behind. So I began to research all things childhood, preschool, and how a person grows into an educated adult.

Here are some of the resources I found:

1. 0-6 years of age are in many ways the most important years in a person's life:

The agreed upon conclusion is that the earliest years in a child's life are the most important ones.  A child's cognitive, social, emotional, health, and nutritional abilities are most deeply established.  Language, culture, and religious values are incorporated into lifelong assumptions at this age.

Psychologically, if a warm caring environment with a consistent maternal caregiver present is available, a child will successfully establish security, identity, and purpose.  I loved reading about Dr. Erikson's discovery that in the years zero to six, a child needs a mother for attachment, cultural identity, and belief that the world is a trustworthy place.

Developmentally, if freedom to explore is in place, children will find themselves noticing relationships between people, objects, and themselves in the world as they individual begin to grow through childhood.  I loved learning how Piaget focused on the skills a child acquires as he or she is free to use his or her natural curiosities to discover cause and effect, comparison, and concrete thinking skills.  A mother can offer this freedom of exploration and movement as they are not required to meet a normative classroom standard, but can be driven by an inner motivation to learn and discover.

Moms are very important for a child's early development.


2. Working moms need childcare:

As moms left the home, so children had too as well.  The growth of the families income or the desire for the mother to experience independence from traditional home life, caused a significant growth in childcare.

Childcare was virtually non-existent before the 1920's.  Early childcare developed as wealthy women created safe places for poor, mostly recently immigrant children whose mother's worked.  As the 1960's women's movement increased home abandoment into the middle class, more spaces for young children to be housed were similarly developed.

But it wasn't until studies noted that children raised in impoverished non English speaking homes or in extremely poor ghettos and public housing complexes did not enter Kindergarden ready to read as did their middle class and upper class peers, did preschool really get it's "Head Start".

Head Start, and the idea of manditory preschool was developed to deal with a specific portion of the population, the extremely poor.  It hoped to create a space where children would be read to, spoken to, given nutrional meals, and offered other brain stimulating activities.  These things they were not recieving in their small apartments and dwellings where no adult or unattentive adults resided, whose understanding of childhood development was very low.

Before head start, the church and women in particular, had always cared for poor children, opting to bring the resources to the family's home.

3.  Preschool, offering a homelike environment:

Ironically, as I began to research my local preschools, the best ones with the longest waiting lists, proudly advertised the homelike environment of their preschool.  Again and again I would read about "cottages" "living rooms" "working kitchens" and "consistent female caregivers" as the way to offer a premier preschool experience in which a child might grow and mature.  Well, I knew of a cottage, with a living room, and a working kitchen, who already had a consistent female caregiver, and there was no waiting list.  It was my home, and me!

I read Marie Montessori's book on childhood's most important years, zero to six.  In it she discussed how children need:
-simple repetitive tasks to gain independence, tasks like buttoning a coat or washing one's own hands
-an ordered environment that the child knows well where all toys and developmental items (puzzles, blocks, paint, etc.) are placed
-an ability and freedom to take out toys at will, to put toys away for independence without the aid of an adult, and the freedom to return to a toy/developmental item again and again for gaining competencies

Again, I knew of a place where the child would have an ordered, consistent space and access to repeated engagement.  I knew of a place where a child's small tasks could be given them to do, including buttoning their own coats, washing their own hands, and helping make meals and clean.  It was free, and it was easy, it was my home!


4. Social skills and preschool:

Another oft quoted concern for parents was to have social skills develop in preschool.  Social skills do develop during these years.  They are key years to be near a positive role model to imitate, especially the mother and father.  Siblings or family friends offer a ready way to engage with others and test manners, sharing, caring, listening, and waiting for turns.  Neighbors and other adults in the community (church adults, grocery store clerks, librarians, mail carriers, delivery men, repair men, restaurant servers) serve as opportunities in how to interact, make eye contact, speak clearly, express oneself modestly yet confidently.  Play mates who visit the home and those whom we meet at the park, zoo, library, and botanical gardens, create opportunities to practice being nice, sharing, using your words, and listening to others.  If the mother is close by, she can redirect poor choices, repremaind selfish or harsh actions, and offer positive alternatives  for engaging others.

Studies have shown that  preschools that are top in it's field create amazing academic results and readiness for formal schooling.  However, children who are enrolled in preschool can also become more aggressive, more concerned with peer acceptance, and more wary of new situations.  (These findings diminish if the home is a neglectful one.)   Studies also indicate that preschool really helps those who do not have education as something important in their family values, but does not improve outcomes in families where education is already valued.

Many amazing mothers who work full time use all of their resources to find the best possible childcare options.  The incredible truth is that moms matter most in a child's life.  Even as they are at preschool, their mother is carried with them in their hearts.  Her intentional connection and responses to them when she is with them are the most important factors in a child's outcomes.

However, those of us who have the option to stay with our children through the preschool years, can also find ourselves preparing our children for success in their long term educational and development skills.  We can do it at home, we can do it well, and the outcomes can be as good and in many cases better for the child's overall well being and emotional development.
student-holding-birdnest-portraitWe converted our dining room into a free to roam, play, and develop room and made it accesible to the children any time they were awake.  And we stayed home a lot so the children could invest many hours in free play and exploration.

It became such a joy and privilege to continue home life into the preschool years.  It has been work, and yet, so much fun.

Luke 2:51
   Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and obeyed them. His mother kept on thinking about all that had happened

4 comments:

Misty Krasawski said...

This was beautiful! Great points. And I love your pictures! Keep enjoying your preschool-at-home, dear one! ;-)

Charise McNutt said...

Love it! Thank you for sharing! And AMEN!

Kori said...

you are brilliant. Way to shut down the pre-school argument. We are so swayed by culture, aren't we? Someone (a family member...ugh!) boasted to me the other day that their 4 year-old grandchild is reading at a 5th grade level...which of course led me to the comparison game and started stressing me out that I am not doing enough for my boys. But, then I stepped back and got a grip. I don't have to strive for the world's low standards. I am training children for eternity and righteousness. They will learn to read at high levels in due time. RELAX, Kori. ;) Keep writing, Mary Robin. You are awesome!

J.R. Forgey said...

MR, I appreciate many things about you, but your abilities to reason and research are among the utmost attributes I love! Thank you for sharing. I have passed it on, and I have food to chew on. Bless you, Jen