I recently spoke with one of the childcare workers at my son’s childcare centre. My son is about to turn four and is very keen to learn. He hounds us with questions, trying to name all the letters on every sign we go pass; which is great when driving! He can write his name, count to 10, identify colours and weather types and is even starting to add basic numbers.
Enthused by his progress and eagerness to learn about the world, I decided to talk to his childcare centre to see if they too could encourage him. The response given left me flabbergasted!
Apparently, it is unfair to tailor learning programs for the advanced children as this would disadvantage the rest of the children in his class. I was told that my son is advanced and that it would make the other kids feel left out if they were to offer activities catering to his learning needs.
I tried to explain that there were some very easy ways that you could encourage my son without making the rest of the class feel inadequate. For example, at home we have “letter of the day”. My son chooses a letter from a pile of flash cards and we stick it on the fridge. We then try to find the letter in our travels and point out various items that start with the day’s letter. Sometimes we print off colouring sheets for the letter or he tries to trace it.
Is this really too advanced for pre-school? I know my child is quite smart, but he is certainly no genius: A recent incident involving him sticking a small ball up his nose will attest to this.
Have we really got to a point where it has become unfair to teach children the alphabet or how to write their names before turning four?
Are educators today unable to teach such simple things in a way that caters to all children?
I actually have two children. My other son has just turned one. Although he has no concept of the letters (mostly he just tries to eat the flash cards), we include him in our activities. He too is given colouring sheets with letters on them and he too looks at the signs with us. Am I putting him at a disadvantage by incorporating him in these activities? Should I only be providing activities that are suitable at his level in the hours that he is awake?
I find the entire concept ridiculous. By catering to the lowest common denominator aren’t we simply making our children more stupid? Perhaps if we encouraged them to learn multiple aspects from a young age, they may actually show some interest in learning.
I have since been looking at other childcare centres as I was quite horrified with this result. Generally speaking, learning under the age of four focuses on becoming familiar with the wider world. I am not opposed to this and I welcome activities where my children get to experience new things and find words to describe their environments and emotions.
However, I am curious how we can prescribe one ideal to all. Even the government recognises this, which is why childcare centres are required to develop individual learning plans for each child. So why not my child? Why is he being disadvantaged because he would like to write?
If this is the logic by which we structure our education, then what hope do we have.
Several childcare centres have assured me that they will develop learning plans for my son to incorporate his needs. I will be testing this out in the near future and relocating him to a centre that meets its obligations. Lets just hope that they actually do so!