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Karen Brennan
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Choosing an early childhood program/all children are gifted

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Chapter 11, “Cognitive Development and Early Childhood Education,” Rahima summarizes a lot of what she covered in the previous chapters.  Her description of her own program sounds so lovely that I wish I could go there! 

For those of us who are lucky enough to have choices, choosing a school is a big responsibility.  In a big city like Chicago, there are many choices of schools.  Of course, Waldorf early childhood education is a wonderful thing and I highly recommend it both as a teacher and a parent.  But whatever preschool you choose, it’s important that it be play based.  She cites a long term study in Germany, which someone told me about when I was there, also.  In the study, they looked at 100 public school classes for 5 year olds, half of which were play based and the other half with play and academics.  Although they found little difference among the 6 year olds, by the time the children were 10, those who had been allowed to play surpassed their schoolmates in every area measured.  Germany changed all of their academic programs for young children back to play based programs within months after the study was released.  Studies of brain development show that the young child learns best through movement and play.  It makes me wonder why there is still so much focus on early academic learning.  I certainly felt the pressure to have my girls learn early academics 20 years or so ago. There is more focus now on play based early childhood education, but even some schools that call themselves play based use a lot of direct instruction.

She also writes about the gifted or advanced child.  Every child, of course, and every human being, is gifted.  But when schools offer gifted programs, they are generally talking about academic gifts.  It makes me sad that gifted is used in this way.  It overlooks so much and even for those children who are gifted in this way, they are valued primarily for those gifts.  Some children will start reading at a young age.  I had three year olds in my nursery class who could read well.  But there is also nothing wrong with letting children wait even if they are interested.  It is exciting when a child learns to read.  Whole new worlds open.  But it is good if they know the world around them first before learning to read the written word.  Kim Payne, in Simplicity Parenting, writes about the value of anticipation.  Anticipation, he tells us, holds back the will and counters instant gratification, which is so wide-spread in our society.  It is good to have something to look forward to, to dream about.  “You will learn that when you are in first grade (or when you are a little older)”