The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Your Child is Amazing

The  teaching of reading and writing in  kindergarten  until recently was not permitted.  Now we have tests to  determine  if children are ready for the kindergarten curriculum which includes reading and writing.

Most  school  systems  test children  before  they  come  to kindergarten.    As  a result of these tests  some  children  are declared  more  ready than others.  This can have  a  devastating affect on the parents.  For five years the parents have been very happy  watching and helping their child develop.  Then the  child is  given a test, usually lasting less than a half hour, and  the parents  are  led  to believe that in some  way  their  child  is deficient.   He  or  she  is  not  as  ready  as  his  peers  for kindergarten.  Parents not only can lose confidence in themselves they  can lose confidence in their child.  Their wonderful  child is somehow wanting in the eyes of the world.  It does not  matter that  the  child is performing well within the  range  of  normal development,  that  the tests have big  uncertainties,  and  that rates  of  development vary considerably.  All the  parent  takes away  from  the testing is the feeling that  there  is  something wrong.

Dr.  Lilian Katz from the University of Illinois  said  that the   most  continuous  and  constant  impact  upon   a   child’s environment is made by parents.  One of the goals of the  school, therefore,  should be to inspire a parent to have  confidence  in his or her child.  This deep-down parental confidence will  carry that  child  a  long  way.  Schools should  be  finding  ways  of demonstrating  to  parents that their children have a  chance  to succeed  in  coping  with life, rather  than  giving  a  negative message which deprives them of confidence in themselves and their children.   Nothing is more disheartening than an expectation  of hopelessness and failure for one’s own child.

An   article  in  “Education  Week”  by  Harriet   Egertson,  president   of  the  National  Association  of  Early   Childhood  Specialists, makes a plea for recapturing kindergarten for  five-year  olds.   Twenty  years ago she reminds us,  no  one  worried whether  children  had long attention spans, whether  they  could count  to 20 , say their ABC’s or knew their sounds  because  it was  expected that school would teach these things in good  time.

There  was  no imposed kindergarten readiness criteria  based  on eye-hand  coordination or auditory and visual memory because  the materials  and equipment were designed to help  these  capacities emerge.   Today the kindergarten curriculum is at least one  year accelerated, requiring the teaching of specific skills which  the children are expected to learn. .

The  article  goes  on to bemoan the  fact  that  the  rich, creative experiences with real materials like blocks, clay, paint and  dramatic  play  props have  been  replaced   by  worksheets, workbooks,  and  other didactic tasks.   Egertson  believes  that children spend too much time practicing, over and over, a  narrow spectrum  of  discrete skills that are seldom  tied  to  anything young children care about, are interested in, or need.  Also much of these tasks are just plain boring which deadens the enthusiasm  for  learning that children bring with them.  Worse,  they  cause many children to feel like failures.

My brother tells the story about how much delight he took in watching his first child grow and develop.  He was thrilled  when he took his first step. He bragged about his child’s first  word, and  called everybody when he said his first sentence.   He  made tapes  and  movies  not  only of  the  milestones  in  his  son’s development but also of his day-by-day progress.  He then  started reading  a  book  about  children  and  learned  that  his  son’s development  was  unexceptional.   Most children  do  these  same things at this same age.  Instead of being disappointed, he threw the book away  and stopped  comparing his son to other  children. Instead, he resumed taking joy in the progress of his own unique, precious and wonderful child.  It is important that parents  feel this way and continue to be their child’s cheering section.   The experts can help in pointing out the milestones at different ages in  order to alert parents if something is wrong, but try not  to let  them lessen the joy you should experience in  watching  your own, unique, wonderful child grow and develop.

Posted in Behavior, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Labeling, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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