Our Preschool Experiment Part 1

A few weeks ago, the Jibbers and I involved ourselves in a preschool experiment. I did this as a way to see if I am comfortable with my conviction to homeschool him for as long as possible. He did it because I asked him to and told him that I’d be in the classroom with him. So he was satisfied and I was curious.

Play-based learning

I very strongly hold the belief that between the ages of 0 to 7 children must be primarily exposed to play-based learning. Children learn using their imagination and natural curiosity. Study after study proves this. Yes, our children are sponges, and yes we must provide them with every opportunity to learn. But we must also recognize that children learn best when they are interested in learning the material and when it is child-led.

I’m not opposed to school. I am a product of the public school system. I was lucky though. I went to great public schools and for the most did very well in sports, academics and social life.  I don’t want my son growing up thinking that school is bad, just a different way of learning from the learning done at home.  That said, I am also a firm believer in homeschooling and the benefits of home education.

Preschool misgivings

Back to our preschool experiment. I wanted to see if indeed the Jibbers was missing out on this whole institution called school. I was curious to see how what I saw as a great school espousing many homeschooling philosophies (many ages/grades in one classroom) that I agree with implemented these at the preschool level.

The short of it: they didn’t. While the teacher and school were well-intentioned,  – and this is particularly true for many Muslim schools – it’s scary how these good intentions manifest in a classroom with very limited resources and training. The product of this well-intentioned-few resources process end up being the children.

While the teacher recognized that she lacked many skills in working with young children, and she tried as best she could, it is so easy to forget that they’ve only been on this earth 36-48 months. Believe me, I know, and the Jibbers always reminds me: “Mama, I only three,” and he holds up three pudgy little fingers.

I was concerned by some of the directives throughout the day:

“No noise from you.”

“No skipping.”

“I want to see you all colouring in the lines.”

Besides these observations, students did not sing very much, did not have stories read to them, and had minimal free-play in the schedule. When I asked her, “Oh, is this their free play time?” She responded with, “Yes, I didn’t have time to get the next activity ready.” Oh, I said to myself. I thought the free-play was the activity.

Numbers

On the bright side. While they were taught their numbers 0 to 100, they did not have to know them all and this was done in a song-and-dance style by the teacher. Then they were given a set of 10 cards each that they had to put in order. The Jibbers who can count to 10 took his number cards and put them in a row like he saw the other children doing. I was amused to see him imitating the other children. He, however, did not know what the characters on the card meant – except for the number ‘4’ and my husband and I don’t know why or how he recognizes the number ‘4’. He just does. Working with the children, I realized many of them did not know their numbers or the characters, either.

While the teacher recognized this, I felt the students’ frustration at being exposed to something they may not have been developmentally ready to understand. And this frustration with learning can become a demotivating factor when school becomes more serious, especially for boys. But that’s a post for another day.

Here is an excellent piece on PreSchool Math Lessons and how that affects math ability in later years. Interestingly enough, the two main factors in determining the future success in math was not the quality of preschool a child went to, but the mother with college degree or professional qualifications (0.50) and the highest-quality home learning environment (0.40). And if one may seem lacking, the other can compensate for it.

Preschool models

So, was our preschool experiment a failure? I don’t think so. Not for me or the Jibbers. He got to spend a couple of days playing with a new group of kids with Mama nearby and I was able to see what preschool shouldn’t be. There are a number of preschools that do know what they’re doing and I recommend you visit Teacher Tom and Teach Preschool for ideas and thoughts on preschooling done right.

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~ by Omaira on November 15, 2012.

One Response to “Our Preschool Experiment Part 1”

  1. […] This was seen as a good thing  by the teacher. You can read about how feel about these things here. I decided against any further exploration. The Jibbers already knows a how to wait his turn when […]

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