Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is it ever too young to learn?

One of my readers, ecometrochic, sent me a link to this article. First, thanks for the link; and second, you are right! It is an interesting read.

I read the article and then I read the 145 comments on the page. It was extremely interesting to read the views of parents all around. This article provoked a stream of thoughts and ideas in my head and I could not wait to write about it all!
June 30th, 2010 @ 5:20am
By Mary Richards

SALT LAKE CITY -- Kindergarten used to be about learning social skills, creativity and curiosity. But now some educators say it's become way too academic.

Deseret News;
At the University of Utah's Child and Family Learning Center, some kids are attending a summer session of school. One boy told his mom that school is fun now and that shocked his new teacher. "We're talking about kids who just finished kindergarten, and they are just realizing that school is fun. What was it like for the past year?" says Rachel Casper, kindergarten supervising teacher at the Child and Family Learning Center. Casper says public school kindergarten has become too academic.

"It isn't about learning. It's about knowing the right answer to the test," she says.

Kindergarten has become the new first grade, it appears. Casper says it should have more focus on play, curiosity and creativity.

The state's core curriculum talks about learning curiosity in kindergarten, but Casper says that's not happening.

"You're told how to hold your pencil. You're told how to make the letter, how to do it correctly. You're even told in art time -- and very few classes have art time -- how to make the snowman," Casper says.
I like to think of preschool as a place where children can learn social skills, creativity, curiosity, and communication. Kindergarten should still be that place, with the addition of building skills to prepare them for elementary school. While I’ve always attest that learning should be fun, no matter what, I don’t see what’s wrong with challenging young minds and incorporating a more academic route to an already fun learning environment. I had the privilege of attending both the school systems in Asia and in the United States. In Asia, school is purely academic. I remember not having a single pair of jeans, only due to the fact that I was in school uniform from Monday through Saturday, dresses for Sunday, and in the words of my friend Britt, “comfies and cozies” for the evenings at home. Then, when it came to schooling in the United States, it was almost too laid back, very fun, but not challenging enough. I believe the best school system would be a perfect marriage of the two systems. It is a difficult and delicate process to find the right balance to academic success and integrating a creative and open work environment for children. I had two teachers who managed to find that perfect balance. Have you ever ask your teachers why you had to learn certain things in class and the only answer you got was “well, it’s going to be on the test!” There was a student in my trigonometry class in high school who asked that very question. The teacher, however, gave a very different answer. He first replied that the student had asked a very good question and that interestingly enough, he had the opportunity to use what we were learning that day to help a friend a week ago. He went on explaining that his friend was building a house and he was able to use trigonometry to measure how exactly his friend’s spiral staircase should go and in what exact measurements. He then proceeded to show us how he figured that out. From then on, trigonometry was not just trigonometry. That teacher brought a new perspective of learning boring math into the classroom. I know most students have a love-hate relationship with poetry. A teacher I had in Asia was introducing the concept of poetry into the classroom during the early elementary years. She divided us into groups and had each group pick one of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. We had to act it out and be completely animated. The more animated we were, the higher the points we got. After that exercise, we had to write our own revolting rhyme as a group. It was such a fun class activity and definitely got us interested in poems.

What most parents and teachers don’t understand is that a child’s brain is rapidly developing during those early years from the time they are born to when they turn 5. Almost 90% of their brain will be fully developed by age 5. As such, babies, toddlers and young kids crave stimulation. Their brain acts as a sponge and these young children WANT to absorb knowledge. You’ll notice how curious babies are and that toddlers ask a thousand and one questions on a daily basis. The window of learning for a child to learn a language starts to close by age 4, meaning it will be much more difficult for a child to learn a language after age 4. So while preschool and kindergarten should be fun and all, we must remember to make the best use of their early age and rapid brain development to evoke the joy of learning! Over the years, I have taught many kids before they even hit elementary schools. I am more than amazed by their high capabilities to learn challenging subjects and concepts. These kids LOVE the idea that they can solve difficult problems or read big girl/boy books. Be enthusiastic about your child’s learning and make learning fun for them! To do so will create a child who loves school and enjoys the challenges of learning both academic and social skills. Please do share of thoughts, comments and suggestions about early learning! I’d love to hear them all!

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