Pre-school Stepping-Stone To Success?
- 2005 31 Aug
Put your children in preschool and they will succeed in kindergarten. If they succeed in kindergarten then they will do better in grade school. Grade school success means getting ahead in high school, and being at the top in your high school practically guarantees admission to the best colleges. Attend the best college, graduate and get a great job and you will make loads of money and live happily ever after. And to think it all started with going to preschool.
Sound too simple? It certainly does to me. In our state that is the theme of seven or eight different TV and radio ads. We are being led to believe that preschool is the necessary stepping-stone to succeed for the rest of your life. The commercials are trying to convince you once again that children are better off the sooner they leave home and interact with "professional" teachers and other children their age.
Most of us in the homeschool world have already figured out that the best "professionals" are mom and dad. We've also fought hard to dismiss the idea that children need to be socialized (as the world defines it). I have noticed, however, we are caught up in the idea that preschool is an integral part of a child's learning curve. One of my favorite authors on the subject of homeschooling strictly mandates that you spend at least 15 minutes each day doing preschool with each of your young children. Curriculum companies are selling preschool materials at the same rate as the elementary materials. My question is, why? Why do we feel the pressure to preschool our three and four year old children? Why do we feel the need to boost our own homeschool egos with a four-year-old who can read or a five-year-old who can say all the states and their capitals? Why do we start school so early that by the time the child is eight they have been going to school for five years? Why do we pump time and energy into teaching phonics and math at a painfully slow pace, when a five, six or seven-year-old child could learn that material in a fraction of the time?
I am not advocating a lazy and selfish way of life for the three-year-old little darlings--not at all. If you do that then you will have lazy and selfish grade-schoolers. I would just like you to consider the three most important things a preschooler should be learning. We'll call it "Preschool 101".
First, a young child should be learning the joy of being with dad, mom and their siblings. This lesson is learned through many laughs and shared experiences. Let them be in the kitchen cooking with you. Let them in the garage helping "build" a project. Go for walks, throw rocks and bring home great sticks. If your preschooler has older siblings, get them involved in any school experiments or projects. Our four-year-old loves to organize the math manipulatives while her older brothers are using them. She is listening to their studies, and learning great skills at the same time. If your preschooler has younger siblings, have them help you sing songs, change diapers, or play pat-a-cake. Your main goal should simply be to enjoy each other.
Second, discovering the importance of their contribution to the home is vital for a preschooler. Work ethic and strong character are lessons that cannot wait until a child is five or six. A baby old enough to pull toys out of a basket is old enough to help put them back in. By the time a child is two and three, they should have a short list of chores that they are responsible for every day. Most days, mom should do the chores with the child, having fun and stressing how wonderful it is to have a good helper. The attitude becomes contagious to the child, and pretty soon you'll have a four-year-old who can do thirty minutes of chores without complaining, without needing to be reminded, and all the time feeling very important to the running of your home. Keep the chores simple and specific. Instead of saying, "Go clean your room." try saying, "Let's go clean up your books first." After that is done, direct the child to pick up their dirty clothes. Then it is on to the cars or baby dolls. I'm sure you get the point.
Two small disclaimers here: First, don't expect your child to work with a good attitude if you are not working with them. A child who has to do chores while mom is talking on the phone or watching a television show becomes bitter... even at a young age. Second, be very careful before you set up an allowance. Children should be taught that certain chores are done because you live and function in a house and they will not get monetary rewards for every job. Small rewards that are given for extra effort or a great attitude are fine, but shouldn't be predictable.
Third, studying the subject of respect and obedience should be part of their "curriculum" each day. Without this lesson, the first two points are almost impossible. A child who is not obedient will not be a blessing to be around, so mom and dad will not enjoy building a relationship. The other siblings will be frustrated and resentful if the preschooler is out of control. There are so many books and articles on discipline that I wouldn't attempt in this article to tell you exactly how to be teaching these lessons. But you do need to have a preschooler who obeys the first time (at least most of the time J), and is being trained to treat mom, dad, sisters and brothers with respect. A naughty preschooler can ruin everyone's day in a hurry, but a delightful preschooler will add joy and laughter to the entire day.
Children have years of education with books, writing, rules and grades. My hope is to encourage you to use the preschool years as a stepping-stone of character... not academics. If you have a bright child who is dying to learn to read, then go ahead and teach a little each day. But don't get so caught up in the study of reading and arithmetic that you lose this precious time of growth and development. Applying "Preschool 101" now will make your homeschool experience so much better down the road.
Tori is privileged to be married to J Rollins and together they homeschool their four children. Tori and J live in the Imperial Valley of California and are active members of Western Avenue Baptist Church. Besides caring for her family, Tori also teaches piano lessons and enjoys scrapbooking.
This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com. To request a free sample copy, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html