This just popped up on a neighborhood listserv:
a quick question about preK: my child is in preK at [local school] and I’ve been a little surprised that they haven’t been doing anything educational. My child was in preschool at [other local place] before and they used to read books, paint, practice letters, etc.. There was always a learning theme too. I saw the handwritten schedule the teacher left yesterday and it was something like: play dough time, bathroom, playground, table toys, lunch, nap time, movie time, bathroom, dismissal.
My child also reports that there’s a lot of playtime. I was just hoping for a little more enrichment or structured play-learning.
Oh my. How long until we all understand that playtime = learning time, particularly when kids are very young, but probably also until the day we die?
In play, kids learn focus, creativity, compromise, communication…you name it. Reading and numbers will come later on. No need to rush.
A number of well-controlled studies have compared the effects of academically oriented early education classrooms with those of play-based classrooms…
The results are quite consistent from study to study: Early academic training somewhat increases children’s immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at (no surprise), but these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, at least in some studies, are eventually reversed. Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.
A Study in Germany that Changed Educational Policy There
For example, in the 1970s, the German government sponsored a large-scale comparison in which the graduates of 50 play-based kindergartens were compared, over time, with the graduates of 50 academic direct-instruction-based kindergartens. Despite the initial academic gains of direct instruction, by grade four the children from the direct-instruction kindergartens performed significantly worse than those from the play-based kindergartens on every measure that was used. In particular, they were less advanced in reading and mathematics and less well adjusted socially and emotionally. At the time of the study, Germany was gradually making a switch from traditional play-based kindergartens to academic ones. At least partly as a result of the study, Germany reversed that trend; they went back to play-based kindergartens. Apparently, German educational authorities, at least at that time, unlike American authorities today, actually paid attention to educational research and used it to inform educational practice.
So if your child is not learning her alphabet in pre-school, but is spending her time playing “We are lions” and learning how to roar instead of talk, she’s getting a dose of everything she needs, including focus (find the other animals), self-control (can’t talk, must roar), imagination (how would a lion react to an elephant?), cooperation (now it’s your turn to chase ME!) and the kind of joy that makes her run (perhaps on all fours) back to school.
All that plus nap time? Sounds heavenly. – L