Wednesday, September 7, 2011
READY OR NOT...
I understand that in the North America and Europe children are heading back to school and I was thinking about my days as an early years (kindergarten) teacher. On that first day, those shining faces would enter my classroom... some excited... some petrified... some "ready"... some "not." And the kids were excited too.
Now this business of "readiness" is a subject of much debate amongst educational thought leaders, school administrators, teachers, and of course, parents. Everyone has their version of THE list of essential skills and abilities necessary before the first day of school and parents are mindful and often fretful that their child (and by extension, their own standing as a parent) measures up.
But in and amongst all this well-meaning, grown-up toing-and-froing over the annual Readiness List, there's one question I rarely hear anyone ask...
Who says you need a list?
In early childhood development, EVERYTHING is important. Indeed, the very nature of early childhood is an intricate weave, where a little bit of everything is developing all at once all the time. In other words, no physical skill, cognitive thought, creative inspiration, emotional awakening, or social nuance is built in complete isolation. Instead, each experience and advancement nourishes all the others which in turn, propels the WHOLE CHILD forward. And, frankly, I just can't work out how to put all of that on a single, linear, prescriptive list.
That’s why it’s essential to maintain perspective and take the long view of these important, early years. Think of it as an obstacle course. Your child is bound to excel in some areas and trip up in others. But the individual obstacles don't matter so much as how he navigates the ENTIRE course. And even more than that, how he feels about himself along the way.
And note, this is a solo course... only for your child. It isn’t a race. It isn’t a competition. It isn’t about being the first, or the best, or any ‘est of any kind, for that matter. Competition in any form, on any subject, from any source in the early childhood years injects artificial obstacles that complicate matters, add unnecessary stress to both you and your child, and worst of all can actually slow down his progress by concentrating on a single part of the course (good or bad) and not the whole.
"READINESS" IS A STATE OF MIND
In my view, the focus in early childhood needs to be on helping your child learn to navigate the course in HIS OWN WAY. And to me, that's the very definition of "readiness" -- an inherent confidence in his own abilities to master the challenges of his everyday world, whether it's on some list or not. After all, the purpose of education is to create a fully realized, independent individual, equipped with the courage, skill, resilience, and wisdom to one day chart his own course.