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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Should My Preschooler Know?

Do you ever wonder what your child should know at his or her age?  Whether you homeschool or send your child to school, there are certain expectations for children, but you might be surprised at how little a preschooler actually needs to know.

I have always said that preschool is optional.  And that is true-for most* children.  Many children's educational, social, spiritual, and emotional needs are met naturally through family and friend interaction.  (FYI, we do send our oldest child to preschool and her brother will likely go next year.)

My oldest child has always loved to learn.  Because she loved it, I taught her through daily life and purposeful play.  When she was ready and excited, I took it to the next level with crafts and even worksheets.  She ended up being an early reader.  My son does not love crafts (unless dirt or paint is involved).  He does not like me to guide his play in any sort of way.  He certainly won't be ready for worksheets any time soon.  And you know what?  He knows plenty of "academic" type stuff as a three year old!  He has learned much through our daily lives.  It's easy to collect and count rocks and identify letters on a cereal box.  And despite the fact that he does not hold scissors or writing tools is not a concern.

I really enjoyed the Peaceful Parent's perspective....really a four year old child just needs to know they are loved!  Children need their parents more than anything else!

World Book (you remember those encyclopedias that no one uses now thanks to the internet) put together a list of "Typical Course of Study" for preschool through grade 12.  I really enjoyed looking at the preschool course study.  They don't suggest that a four year old know all the letters and the sound correlations.  BUT they do want a child to have his own books and to be read to frequently and to be read to daily.

I really think a list like this is near-perfect for parents.  (Teachers need to meet national and state standards in education, so that is a bit different.  Also keep in mind that speech and motor development are not really addressed here.)  It helps us to know that we're doing the right things at home.  At the same time it can show us areas of weakness.  For example, I want to encourage my daughter a bit more to take the lead when crossing the street when the opportunity arises to see what SHE does even though we talk about it.  By taking a quick look at the list parents can see if there is anything obviously missing in their own children.
Jumping barefoot in the rain puddles is what they'll remember...and so will I.  I think embracing the moment and showing love is exactly what I need to do for my children-in between read alouds!

* In MY opinion, if a parent cares about what their child knows before kindergarten, they are likely doing enough.  After talking to a friend who is a kindergarten teacher, it sounds like ESL children, whose families do not speak English in the home, would benefit from preschool before kindergarten.  There are plenty of other situations when children benefit from preschool for more than the "social" reason.


JDaniel4's Mom said...

We just talked about this at playgroup yesterday. I totally agree with you.

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Preschool and kindergarten are definitely overrated. I read an article several years ago about what kindergarten teachers wished parents would teach their children. Basically it said not to worry about academic skills like alphabet, numbers, etc. but to focus on life skills like going to the bathroom alone; getting out his lunch and eating it in the allotted time; learning to share. Academic skills will come with time.

Ticia said...

Well said, now to check out that World Book link.

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