Preschools Struggle to Retain Balance in Face of Academic Pressure
Preschool education, and preschool special education in particular, is conflicted and confused at the present time. With accelerated academic rigor and high level expectations in the upper grades, there has been increased academic focus placed on children in preschool in order to get them “ready” for elementary school. That, in itself, is not a bad thing. However, preschool curriculum cannot overlook or skim over all areas of development, particularly social-emotional development in favor of academics. Many children enter preschool lacking the skills needed to be a successful “learner”. Before they are ready to learn concepts and academic content, they need to know how to attend to adults and peers, follow directions, manage possessions, learn to cooperate with peers and transition from one activity to another. It is often expected that preschoolers will come to school with these skills in place. This is not always the case, especially for children with an educational disability. These children often need a “learn-to learn” curriculum. To make a comparison, highly academic preschool programs are akin to finding oneself at the top of a black diamond ski run without the rudimentary prerequisite skills for skiing.
Preschool children in society today often have a strong skill set when it comes to technology and they may have splinter academic skills that are quite high. Computers, ipads and smart phones are very appealing! The social piece may not be as strong. Children do not always come to school knowing how to share, take turns, negotiate, understand feelings of others and show kindness and empathy. It is extremely important to foster social/emotional development in young children as strengths in this area will serve them well throughout their lifetime. We cannot lose sight of the forest while concentrating of the growth of a specific tree. We need our young children to make their way in the world as kind, compassionate caring individuals, and the place to start is preschool.
By Meg Rugg