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.
As a professional educator for 30 years I share your frustration with the desire to push children to undertake formal learning tasks at such an early age. Children require a positive and nurturing environment in which to develop understanding. This can take place at a pace that suits each individual child. There is no real need to pigeonhole children into those who can and can’t do a series of arbitrary tasks at such an early age. I look forward to reading more posts on how parents can best let their children learn and develop in a natural manner.
Hi Andy. Many thanks for your comment and i hope you continue to enjoy the posts.
Thanks for an interesting article. Increasingly I find parents are faced with choice in how, when and where their child is educated. This is no doubt a positive development, but naturally with such options comes a degree of angst. Being informed is just so important- I look forward to reading more of your posts on this.
Hi Ramon. Many thanks for your comment. I agree with you about being informed. It certainly makes making educational choices a lot easier. I hope you continue to enjoy the posts!
It’s stories like these that make me question if a 3 or 4-year-old should even be in a traditional educational setting. I also have an education background and a 3 1/2-year-old. Thanks for sharing your story!
Hi Jackie. Many thanks for your comment and welcome to the site! I too have questioned! I sent my daughter to a preschool at 4 years, 8 months. We’ve kept it very relaxed, with a focus on play. She’ll be 6 when she enters a formal setting and if Finland are anything to go by, she’ll do just fine!