What Can Families Do with their Kids at Home to Improve Educational Outcomes
While most kids get their formal instruction in a public or private school setting, there is a lot that families can do to further their children’s education at home. Many families help their children learn without deliberately planning to do so. It is something that comes naturally to many parents. However, with a little bit of thought parents can provide their kids with even more opportunities to learn at every stage of their childhood.
Simply put, a parent is a child’s first teacher. From infancy, kids learn from their parents. In those first few months of life parents teach babies when to expect food and how to fall asleep. A few months later, parents begin to teach older infants how to eat from a spoon and how to develop the gross motor skills that the child will need in order to learn to crawl and to walk. Throughout their children’s infancy, many parents sing to their children or narrate their daily activities. This, however unintentional, helps children learn language skills.
As the infant grows into a toddler and preschool age child, the parenting role expands. The parent may enroll the child in different kids’ activities such as music or movement classes. While many parents see these classes as a fun way to structure their day, it is also teaching the child valuable socialization, language and motor skills.
Parents of toddlers and preschoolers may also engage their children in simple games. The games are fun and a way to enjoy your time together but they are also educational. Something as simple as playing catch teaches the child to take turns and to communicate with you so that you work as a team to prevent the ball from falling.
Why Early Childhood Education is Important to Future Success
As infants grow into toddlers, many parents begin to think about early childhood education opportunities. Many families enroll their children in early childhood education programs because they need the daycare coverage, because their children are interested or because all of the other neighborhood children are attending similar programs. While all of these reasons are valid, there are some important and fundamental reasons why early childhood education is important. In fact, some experts believe that it is so important that it could shape a lot of your child’s future.
The most immediate and obvious benefits to the child are that the child has a good time in school and learns to socialize with other children his or her age and adults other than his or her parents.
Yet, the benefits extend well beyond the preschool years and may, in fact, last an entire lifetime.
In most communities, students are not required to begin kindergarten with any specific academic skills. It is not necessary for them to know how to write, read or complete simple math problems. However, it is to their benefit to know how to act in a classroom. In other words, they need to be ready to learn. They need to know how to share toys with other children and time with the teacher. They need to know how to act in a group and to listen to their teacher. These skills will allow them to start learning the kindergarten curriculum on the first day of school rather than spending lots of kindergarten time learning the rules about how to behave.
Elementary school through High School
Research shows that the benefits of preschool extend well beyond the day when the four year olds march across the room in their little caps and gowns. In fact, it has been shown that participation in preschool can lower a student’s chances of needing a remedial class or a special education program during his or her school career.
Preschool students often have an appreciation for and a genuine love for school. Most preschool programs are play based, project based or child led centers. That means that the children are usually involved in an activity that interests them rather than sitting at a desk listening to a teacher. These activities are not only age appropriate for preschool children but they also instill a genuine curiosity and interest in learning that extends well beyond their preschool years.
Preschool graduates tend to have a better attitude toward school as a result of their positive preschool experience. This leads to better grades, fewer retentions and fewer high school drop outs. In short, preschool education makes many children into better students.
This advantage continues all the way into high school. Students who are doing well in each grade level are strong students by the time they reach high school. Students who earn good grades in high school are more likely to participate in sports and stay motivated to get into and complete college.
Support from the Government and the Community
The United States government, many state governments and many corporations and businesses actively support early childhood programs. They believe that investing in young children reaps many rewards for those children, for their families and for society.
Early Childhood Education at Home
There are few, if any, legitimate studies that argue against quality early childhood education. That said, children who do not attend formal early childhood programs in early childhood centers or preschools are not necessarily at a disadvantage. It is not necessary for an early childhood education lesson plan to be followed for the students to reap the benefits. Learning disabilities in the classroom.Many stay at home parents or other care givers are able to provide their children with the same benefits that early childhood education programs provide. They think of exciting projects and games to play with their children. They expose their children to different experiences such as at the zoo, the park or a museum and they make sure that their children have other children with whom to play and learn socialization skills.
The location of an early childhood education is not important. What is important is that the child learns the skills necessary to succeed in school and learns to love learning through his or her early childhood education.
How to Choose a Preschool
Many parents begin thinking about where to send their child to preschool long before the child turns three. Unlike kindergarten, where most families choose between the public school, parochial school and a handful of private schools, there is often a plethora of preschool choices.
Make a List
The first thing to do is to make a list of potential preschools. Start by asking your friends, acquaintances and colleagues for recommendations. Then, conduct an internet search to make sure that you have all of the preschool possibilities written down on your list. Then you can begin to narrow down your list by seeing which schools match the basic criteria that you are looking for in a program. For example, you want to make sure that the school’s hours, price and location all fit into your expectations.
Research the School’s Philosophy and Curriculum
Different nursery schools have different philosophies and different pre-k curriculums. You should expect that by the time a child is three or four years old that, regardless of his abilities or disabilities, he is going to need a preschool that prepares him for kindergarten rather than a childcare center or day care facility.
Some preschool philosophies are based on the teachings of John Dewey who advocated for learning by doing. These schools offer play based approaches to learning and believe that young children learn best by playing.
Other preschools are based on the Montessori philosophy of learning. The Montessori philosophy stresses gaining independence and self esteem by having each child learn at his or her own pace. Montessori schools view teachers as guides and foster cooperative learning environments where older children help younger children and gifted and disabled students can learn side by side.
Preschools that adhere to the Waldorf education theory seek to stimulate children’s minds by creating a homelike environment. Students are encouraged to use all five senses in exploring and learning new things. Waldorf schools believe in having all natural play things. You will not find any computers in the classroom, no movies will be shown and there will be no plastic toys. If the school continues beyond preschool then your child might have the same teacher for every year of his education at the Waldorf school.
Reggio Emilia schools are often cited as the preschools that produce the best thinkers. Students in these programs are taught to develop strong thinking skills. Units of study are based on things that interest the students themselves. The students then engage in projects to learn about the unit of study. The teachers act as advisors while the young students problem solve and go about their research. The Reggio Emilia approach is appropriate for all of the different learning styles since new concepts are taught in as many different ways as possible to help children retain the information.
Religious preschools may adhere to different philosophies of learning but they all incorporate age appropriate religious instruction into the preschool curriculum. The quality of education and kindergarten readiness skills acquired by the students vary significantly among these programs. It is useful to inquire about the school’s teaching philosophy in addition to its religious affiliation. What to know about homeschooling.
Cooperative preschools are parent run programs. The parents usually get together and hire one teacher. The parents then take turns assisting that teacher in the classroom, managing the finances of the school and even cleaning the school. The parents, as a group, decide on the preschool curriculum. Cooperative preschools require a big commitment of both time and energy from parents. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your own philosophy is a good fit with the preschool before enrolling your child.
No matter which philosophy a preschool claims to adhere to, each school develops its own way of teaching. Therefore, it is useful to have a teacher or administrator explain what Montessori or play based curriculum means to that particular school.
Visit the PreSchool With Your Child
Once you have found a school that seems to have everything that you want in a preschool, it is time to go visit. It is important to bring your child with you on this visit so that you can see how he or she interacts with the teacher and other kids. This visit is essential and perhaps the most important thing that you can do in your search for a preschool. Trust your gut instinct and closely observe your child for signs that he or she is comfortable or uncomfortable.
As with any childcare arrangement, it is very important that you check the schools references and accreditation status with other parents, with your state Department of Education and with the accrediting agency before enrolling your child in preschool.