As the end of another preschool year approaches, the question arises as to what sort of celebration we will be having to mark the occasion. The 'occasion' is otherwise known as 'graduation', but I always wonder 'Does it apply to 3 and 4 year olds?'
Traditionally, the end of preschool is marked with some sort of family event.... a picnic, a trip to the beach, a 'tea party', but more and more often in programs for all ages, the end of June takes on greater significance, at every grade level, beginning in preschool. It makes me wonder how children will learn that there are in fact some milestones that are a bigger deal than others as they get older... or that some personal achievements will require more effort than just showing up...or in the case of preschool and the early years at elementary school, just being dropped off at school. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not anti-celebration, but I have known preschool programs to devote essentially the entire month of June to 'practice' for the ceremony - practicing where to stand, working out songs to sing, how to walk across the floor, stand for photos - it's lot of work for teachers, not really a lot of fun for the children, and most of the time the children don't understand what all the fuss is about.
For many preschoolers, this is just a shift in their routines, as some of them may be heading into all-day childcare programs for the summer months, so there is no real break after the end of preschool.
And what about those children who, as in our programs, participate in 'family group' programs where 3 and 4 year old's attend in the same group. (Family grouping doesn't happen in every program, but it reflects an awareness that not every little person is growing and learning at the same pace, so a mixed group allows for learning opportunities that support a wider range of learners).
Those children may be returning to their familiar classroom come September, so is it fair to take away their time with friends playing at preschool to practice a performance?
So all of this thinking brings me around to what i am truly wondering - who are we actually planning for when we plan activities and calendar items for preschool aged children in programs? Mom and Dad? Grandparents and Carers? or the children who attend each session? What is the best use of the teaching staff's time? Interacting with and supporting the growth and learning of the 20 little people in our programs, or herding them through a structured, choreographed practice that has little meaning to them?
What do you think?
As a part of my working week as the 'principal' of Full o'Beans Preschool (a title given to me by more than a few of our preschoolers in the last 4 years) I have begun giving myself permission to spend some time reading at work. I am an avid reader, generally, but have tended to use my leisure time to enjoy fiction at home - lots of escapist fiction! Naturally, novels with half-clad Scots on the cover are not suitable reading material for the office, so I have been on the lookout for much better choices, more professional choices! In my search, I did find a few books that were interesting, not too hard to read, and provided some refreshing perspectives on little people! If you are at all interested in a bit of dry reading... but valuable dry reading in terms of learning more about how your children think, learn and develop, you might consider one of the following:
'The Importance of Being Little - What Preschoolers Really Need From Grown-ups' by Erika Christakis.
This one is the book I almost wish I'd written, in that it includes a lot of practical, sensible perspectives on children under 5. It is sometimes easy to read and anecdotal in style, and sometimes includes data and research information that shares a broad understanding of how little people grow, how well-intentioned adults sometimes miss the mark and over think, or under think, what is truly essential during the early years of a child's life, and how those of us who love and care for children can help support them as they grow towards later childhood and onwards.
'Rest, Play, Grow - Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one) by Deborah MacNamara PhD.
At a workshop earlier this year, I was fortunate to be able to attend a presentation by Dr. MacNamara, where she was able to outline and bring to life the work that she documents in her book. The book is also easy to get into, and not too technical (aka 'dull') as it outlines developmental stages in young children, how action and behaviour are impacted by development, and also how adults too are still developing after they become parents!
Happy summer reading...It's back to the Scots for me!
Since 1986, I have been working with, and on behalf of young children. As an ECE and a Mom, I have gained some insights and made some mistakes that I am happy to share with others, in hopes that some of what I have learned will be of use to others. Corinne