As an early years school teacher for more than twenty years I see a lot of stressed out parents coming through the doors at the start of reception worrying whether or not they’ve done enough with their child to ready them for their education.
More and more, as with many things these days, the pressure seems to be building to have our little four year olds proficient in phonics, knowing all their numbers and shapes and able to make the right kind of lines when putting pen to paper.
We are often informed by beaming parents at the start of the year that they are handing over a ‘child genius’ who will simply not be able to go at the pace of the rest of the class and must be given separate work to challenge him. This may seem all well and good to those who have the time, ability and inclination to work their children at home but actually, in my opinion, it’s a loss leader. Why?
The kids come to school to learn. We teach them all simultaneously, like fresh white sheets of paper, in a tried and tested way suitable for their age and development. It is much harder to ‘unlearn’ naively taught methods from the home than it is to instill completely new skills.
Does that mean us parents are completely off the hook and should leave it to the professionals? Yes and no.
It is hugely helpful if a child can start reception with the ability to handle scissors, hold a pen, rhyme and most of all enjoy learning.
That can be achieved very easily through play! The rest is up to us.
I think most early years teachers would agree with me that whilst all children are different and progress at different paces, its is far more helpful when parents support the work done in class each term and reinforce at home where possible than try to teach the child ahead of the pack.
So, bedtime reading – invaluable! Play-dough, cutting out shapes and drawing whatever the child desires – wonderful! Sitting down each day to learn next year’s curriculum ahead of the pace – to me, this is actually negatively impacting their school experience. Children need to feel amongst peers at school and the camaraderie of continuously encountering new ideas and skills as a team is a great gift to give.
Just my opinion anyway and hopefully some food for thought for those stressed out parents who never feel they are doing enough. You are!