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Free Play or Flashcards? NYT preschool article


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My understanding is that academic preschool leaves kids ahead for three years, after which they fall behind. The study sited doesn't follow the kids long enough to refute that finding. I'm on my phone now but I will post a link to that study later.

Emily

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As a former preschool teacher, my first thought was "why the heck is the preschool teacher wearing skinny high heels"???

 

I have one going to part time 3 day a week, morning prechool in the fall. All play-based. The last play based preschool in our area. The rest are now run by the school districts & are free, but all day & academic.

 

We'll do the preschool academic stuff at home together, before she starts K the following year.

 

They are expected to know more in K than they used to be.

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Mixed feelings.  

 

"Academic pre-school" sounds like a sort of unfair label when the kids are still getting large chunks of play time and craft time.  

 

I appreciated this line from the end of the article:

 

“I see it as emulating good parenting,â€

 

In a learning-rich home environment, a young child can identify a square or a triangle- certainly my 2.5 year old knows square, triangle, circle, moon (crescent), star, heart... all because I just point to them in a book or out walking around.  Does this mean I'm doing "academics" with my toddler?  Of course not.  But a pre-school teacher can't be quite as spontaneous in learning opportunities as a mom can be.  So she/he need to artificially create learning moments for the class so that children who are not in a rich learning environment home can be brought up to where most pre-schoolers are.  

 

I don't think pointing out things like shapes and letters and numbers to a pre-schooler is going to impact their happiness, assuming they ARE getting a majority of free time each day and assuming they are not being stressed out by testing and performance evaluations.  

 

So articles like this are hard to interpret.  Give me a minute-by-minute agenda of a day in these "academic preschools" before I can really decide if I think it's appropriate, or simply similar to how an engaged parent interacts with a preschool aged child.

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School performance does not equal "cognitive gains." Regardless, I think what's lost is a shame, whether it can be measured or not. When we think preschool is "not enough," I think we have to seriously step back as a culture and ask ourselves some hard questions about what we're racing towards and why. 

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Ha, I just started to respond quoting the Montessori teacher who said “I see it as emulating good parenting,†but then saw Monica_in_Switzerland had beaten me to it (and thank you, because you clarified my thoughts by saying it better than I would).

 

My sister, whose children attend preschools and public elementary in a very privileged and high-income area, said everything there is play-based and gentle and nurturing and free, whereas in the low-income district where she teaches, there is a strong emphasis on early formal learning. I can't help feeling, whenever I feel drawn to making an argument for the former, extremely privileged. Yes, if I sent my kids to preschool, I would not want them doing formal academics, but my 2 year old can conjugate several Latin verbs. I want all kids to have the opportunities my own children do-- to play, yes, to imagine and create art, but also to receive the gift of exposure. Unfortunately, I think sometimes we have caregivers who received inadequate educations themselves trying to do their best by kids, but resorting to methods like flashcards and seatwork because they are not perhaps equipped with the tools, experience, (or freedom?) to create more imaginative learning environments.

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School performance does not equal "cognitive gains." Regardless, I think what's lost is a shame, whether it can be measured or not. When we think preschool is "not enough," I think we have to seriously step back as a culture and ask ourselves some hard questions about what we're racing towards and why.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

 

As a culture we need to start recognizing childhood play is academics. They are learning way more in concrete ways. We are having an epidemic in children needing OT, PT, speech, social skills training etc and I think this makes sense. Kids used to play and do hands on work which increased their hand strength for holding a pencil. We let them play and work out their hierarchies without jumping in solving their social problems for them. Those free play interactions are critical not only for social skills but for building resiliency, persistence, confidence, industriousness and so forth. Academics will come and it reminds me of arguments I have heard for grammar: "why teach in 3 years what can be taught in 1 easily at a later year". Same can be said for so many things.

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Here's the study that I was referencing, about how academic preschools give a short term boost and long term harm. So since the referenced article only followed the kids for a short period of time, we should see a boost.

 

That said, there is certainly a way to be academic without being a flash-card school. Free play vs flash cards is a false dichotomy.

​Emily

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