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?
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