Have you ever thought about how your child learned his first words? How about how he began counting on his fingers?
Do you recall doing anything special -- or, did your little one start learning her colors just by listening to you? What about the names of common objects – did this require a lesson plan or were you able to figure out how to teach these on your own?
In the early years, babies and toddlers learn volumes. But not from books. Not from schools. And not by being enrolled in a formal curriculum program either. While kids can certainly learn things that way, these tools aren't necessary.
Preschoolers learn in all kinds of ways. They watch and listen. They imitate and repeat. They experiment and practice. And they take cues from everyone they see and the reinforcement they receive.
And without them (or you) even realizing it, eventually they learn it.
To a young child, banging on a set of plastic bowls with spoons is just as much fun as a toy drum, an electronic keyboard or listening to an audio CD of the Boston Philharmonic. No formal training necessary - the concepts of sound and rhythm (not to mention the joy of creating music) come entirely on their own.
Little ones love small toys and can often hold 2, 3 or 4 in their hands all at once. They can also drop 5 toys into a sand pail. Or carry 6 in a sun hat. Or unload 7 from a dump truck. How long do you think it takes for preschoolers to learn to count from 1-7? Is a formal lesson plan necessary or will die-cast cars or miniature zoo animals do the trick?
Too often parents become hung up on what they know. The product of schools themselves, most parents of young children assume that something that works from K-12 will also work for preschool, only better since the child has a leg up before they're even supposed to begin school at all. Pressure from school districts, publishers and friends and family who believe in sending children to a formal preschool doesn't help either.
Add to this the efforts of curriculum developers trying to make an extra dollar by convincing parents that preschoolers need formal lesson plans, too, and you have robbed your young child of early childhood and all of the play-time and natural learning that is supposed to go with it.
I have never met an ordinary child, and I'll bet you haven't either, who hasn't been able to learn easy numbers and basic colors on his own before the age of 6. Interacting with you in his immediate environment are the only lesson plans he needs.
Preschool is just that -- "pre" (that is, before) combined with "school". The next time you consider spending good money on curriculum products because you worry that your young child needs formal training to be ready to learn, please keep this in mind.
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau writes about homeschooling, parenting and additional education topics. Browse her other Examiner articles HERE and HERE or visit her home on the web, Quick Start Homeschool for much more.
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