Are we expecting too much from our preschoolers?
I write this blog article as a frustrated kinder mum, and now a confused, child development therapist.
If I had of written this blog article last year, I would have shared my excitement about getting children ready for school, by improving their:
- Gross motor skills
- Fine motor skills
- Ability to maintain focus
- Ability to follow instructions
- Letter recognition
- Counting 10 objects
I still agree with the importance of development children's gross motor skills, fine motor skills, ability to focus and follow instructions. However, now, as a kinder mum, I feel confused and torn about the importance of 4 and 5 year olds learning letters, numbers, and drawing pictures on a page.
As a mum, with a 4 year old, who isn't yet interested in mark making and letters, why am I rushing my 4 year old daughter to learn letters and numbers in kindergarten?
Why am I rushing my 4 year old daughter to write her name, draw a picture of a sun and a person, point to the letters of the alphabet?
If I could find research that showed the above literacy and numeracy skills are appropriate for a 4 and 5 year old's developmental level, then I would be all for it.
But I can't.
The information that I can find is that children should not be doing any formalised or explicit learning of literacy and numeracy until the age of 7 - 8 years.
What I can observe, is a primary school curriculum (in Australia), pushing children to learn letters, count objects, write their name, and draw pictures, by the age of 5 years.
As Phoebe hops, gallops, and crawls into her kindergarten classroom, positively greeting her educators and peers, I feel inspired by her kindergarten teacher's immense effort to develop the children's gross motor skills, social skills, and emotional skills, that are definitely needed for a strong learning foundation.
However, Phoebe's kindergarten teacher at the moment is nervous about Phoebe's school readiness, because Phoebe isn't making an attempt to write letters, complete puzzles, draw pictures, or paint shapes. She is still interacting mostly with the outdoor play space, climbing A-frames, walking across balance beams, searching for bugs.
Unfortunately, a highly qualified, and inspiring kindergarten teacher is feeling pressured by a curriculum, that has been set by academic professors and policy makers.
These curriculum academics, created a curriculum years ago, before the introduction of technology (internet, smart devices, google search) before the new-age online employment opportunities.
These curriculum academics and policy makers, may not be well versed in the child development research, yet they're controlling how our children are expected to learn.
What is a kindergarten teacher to do? If some parents and primary schools are pushing for kindergarten children to write their name, count to 10, and sit for extended duration in circle time, because that's the perception of school readiness, how can we change the system to support a child's development, instead of push a child's academic performance?