My daughter Finn is an artist. She loves to draw, paint, dance, sing. She loves to read, count, make up stories. She is four. My fear? That while she is definitely more than prepared for school, is school prepared for her? We know from magazines, news reports, blogs, other parents, that pre-k is much needed for our kids today. That there are so many benefits. But what happens if you have a child that is either ill prepared for school or over prepared. What happens to that child?
Finn wants to go to school. She loves to be with her big brother. She loves the library, the classroom, she loves to do homework. But with a lack of proper funding in place, will she get the education she needs to go along with the socialization aspect of pre-k? My daughter is ready. But what about her peers? What about their parents? Many parents leave childcare and education to others, to Dora, to Nick Jr, to Playhouse Disney. Our children are media savvy. Finn speaks Spanish because "Dora" taught her, not because I did. I want to be the bigger influence, but it is hard to compete with Spongebob. Sure, I limit televison. We are a household full of books...books about Dora, Curious George, Yo Gabba Gabba. So I know that she is ready for school. She knows all the alphabet letters and can solve simple math problems. So will this mean that when she is in class she will be praised as a great student and then left to her own devices while the teacher has to concentrate on other students? You might think I am worrying too much, but this has happened to both of my sons in school. Because they excel, they were often ignored. Sure they can work independantly, but they shouldn't have to.
Then people will ask why Finn isn't in school yet, I remind them that she just turned four. I think, isn't she going to be in school for a long enough period of time when she starts next fall? Or since she isn't enrolled now, will she be left behind in the future? Will she feel insecure because she is older than her classmates or will she struggle because she may be younger. Will the momentum she has for learning dry up or will she always have a zeal for aquiring knowledge? So at what age do we put our children in school? Don't get me wrong, I love that all three of my children have inherited their parent's passion for learning. That they love to read books and magazines and do research, that they are naturally curious and love to be outside in nature...well, not when it is 10 degrees outside, but in the summer, you can't hold them back. Where is the balance, or more importantly, how do we create a healthy balance so that our children are prepared for their future?
I've been reading a lot about this 21st century approach to education. You can read more here at http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/What_is_21st_Century_Education.htm. I am not saying that I embrace all the ideas, but I know that in order for Finn, or Seth and Jonah, to be a part of this ever changing global landscape we have got to really look at how we are educating our children. That we have got to be willing to embrace new approaches to education. That when a teacher is failing to teach it has to be addressed. That when a student is failing to learn it has to be addressed. That all children should have access to key technology, whether in the form of a smart board or laptop, as well as being encouraged to connect with one another in the classroom, either thru a program such as CARE for Kids, or community connections thru volunteering.
We can no longer sit by and think that the education our children are receiving, from Pre-k thru 12 is "good enough" because it isn't. Our accelerated learners are being lost in the shuffle as much as our struggling learners are. That our teachers and school administrators need to be partners with parents in educating all children, and that parents need to know that they have the right to ask key questions about curriculum and where their child will be in the future. Certainly Finn loves to perform, sing, etc. but she also talks at length about being an animal doctor. It is my job to make sure that whatever she decides she wants to be, that the education is in place to provide a foundation for those goals as well as to ensure that she doesn't burn out by 4th grade and give up on herself as well as her peers.