It’s January and I have a 3 year-old that will be 4 by September. Translation (according to modern society): I should be in a panic because preschool application deadlines are upon us. And of course, after preschool comes kindergarten, and we’re told that academic success in kindergarten corresponds with future earnings.
Yet, when it comes to all that kinder-prep frenzy, I learned the hard way that that pressure does very little to produce a desirable effect, and I have no wish to repeat the experience.
For the sake of my friends and acquaintances in the same stressful boat who feel their sanity hangs by a thread, I want to share a few thoughts once more on this kinder-prep phenomenon.
First, recognize that as a loving, involved parent, you are enough. The scarcity mindset comes from a place of fear — fear that there’s something out there that we don’t have enough of, and it is the deal-breaker between success and failure (for us and our children). But as Brene Brown wrote,
I thought of this same principle when I saw this lovely post from Kristina Kuzmic:
Of course, this NOT intended to be mean preschool isn’t valuable and even necessary for many families. Programs like Head Start play a particularly valuable role, providing support for children that may not have as many advantages.
What this does mean is that we should never underestimate the impact of a loving and involved parent. As I’ve shared before from one of our local university preschools,
“You parents are already doing a great deal to insure success in kindergarten for your youngster. You read to your children, you go on family outings, you model a love for learning, but most of all you are very involved in the lives of your children. This will make kindergarten a wonderful time for your child, and start him/her on the road to a good education.”
Second, recognize that excessive focus on the future robs us of today’s opportunities.
It’s wonderful to want to ensure our kids can face whatever their futures hold. But sometimes we should pause and ask ourselves: are we focusing so much on the future that we forget to focus on their current developmental needs?
In other words, is it about the developmental needs of a 3-4 year-old, or is it about fear for what they might not be ready for when they turn 5?
This fearful approach might include excessive academic drilling, worksheets, or other highly-marketed programs that guarantee hitting every “kindergarten readiness” checklist item. For the most part, rich social interactions are what preschoolers developmentally need most at this age — playing outside with other kids, helping out with siblings, etc. Incidentally, such interactions are the very things that will best prepare them for future success in school anyway.
Third, recognize the importance of letting your child take the lead.
If your preschooler is indicating interest in learning to read, by all means, pursue that. But if she is resolute in her passion for dinosaurs, please don’t abandon that because you are stressed about kinder-prep checklists. Follow their curiosity, because that precious zeal for learning will serve them far longer than the ability to identify all 52 upper & lower-case letters on the first day of kindergarten (also, keep in mind that there are about a thousand ways to create rich learning experiences that revolve around dinosaurs).
Following our kids’ lead also involves a greater emphasis on self-regulation. Helping our kids develop skills in stress-management and expressing their feelings will also empower them to take ownership over their lives and learning.
One more disclaimer before closing. Speech delays and learning disabilities are absolutely real and parents should be on the look-out for signs and resources to provide their children the support they need. I just wonder if sometimes we start from a place of assuming there is something wrong if our kids are not yet interested in counting and shapes when they are 3.
As we look toward the beginning of formal education, let us do so in a manner that will cultivate curiosity, joy, and ownership.
Relevant posts related to this topic that might be of interest:
- How Kindergarten Prep Frenzy Changed My Teaching Perspective
- When In Doubt, Go With the Child
- The Storm Cloud When Growth-Mindset Meets Stress
- Will It Help or Hurt to Review Scores with My 1st Grader?
- Why I’m Saying No to A Home Reading Program
Recommended Books & Resources:
- The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis
- The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik
- The Hurried Child by David Elkind
- TED-Talk by Julie Lythcott Haims:
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto
2 Replies to “Preschool, Kinder-Prep & 3 Things Kids Need Most #TeacherMom”
Mary, this is excellent advice – every word of it. Be in the present moment with your child, enjoying their company – talking, playing, reading, exploring – now! You can never recapture the moment. They’ll never be this age again. Kindergarten can wait. And if you’ve done all that – they’ll be ready. In the best way – secure, confident kids with an interest in the world and and a well-developed vocabulary.