This blog was inspired by my daughter when we started looking at preschools. It seems fitting therefore, for the first post to give you an insight into that story and how it gave rise to Minds of Wonder.
How difficult is it to choose a preschool?
Armed with my years of experience as an educator and knowing exactly what I wanted, I imagined the answer would be, ‘pretty easy’. I was wrong. We breezed into the first one on our list; our hopes high as we admired the paintings on the walls, the ample space, children playing outside. Then the Principal arrived, and the tour began. En-route to a classroom, the silence was unnerving. A group of children passed us on the stairs. Nobody spoke.
Inside the sterile classroom, the Principal happily demonstrated an activity which had a device for, ‘controlled error’: the child would be stopped in their tracks from making a complete mistake. I looked at the Principal, waiting for that facial expression that would tell me she was joking. She wasn’t.
Undefeated, we strode into the next on the list. The conversation with the teacher was going well…and then the bombshell. Children were grouped according to what number they could count up to. If a four year-old couldn’t count up to fifty, then they’d be in with the two year-olds and visa versa. As we reeled from this information, another teacher approaches, arms in the air, cheering that it’s only two days until term finishes. We left.
Grabbing onto a diminishing positive attitude, we walked into the next one. There’s a new playground, there’s noise, there’s movement. Then the worksheets come out. The children sit dutifully at their desks, pencil in hand and start the task. We make our exit.
Four preschools later, we found one. It’s not perfect, not exactly what I had in mind, but we tell the very lovely and very obliging Principal, that we’ll take the play without the worksheets, thanks.
The tour of the preschools had been quite an eye opener. Of course, not all parents will face such a negative experience and there are plenty of wonderful preschools around the world doing wonderful jobs. But observing the children at the various places raised two important questions:
i) How do our children think and learn at this age and how do they make sense of the world around them?
ii) What do our children need at this preschool stage for their cognitive development?
Join me for the next post where I’ll start the journey of seeking answers to these questions by exploring Jean Piaget’s theory on children’s cognitive develop.
If you have any experiences/comments that you would like to share based on this post, then I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.