Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | March 12, 2013

Back to my Preschool Tirade!

My dear friend Andrea just sent me another article about preschool.  It seems that President Obama wants to expand Pre-K nationally.  Oh dear…  The author, Erika Christakis, beautifully articulates that it’s not necessarily a good idea in her article entitled Preschool is Not a Panacea.

Here is an excerpt from her article…

“Why should we expand subsidized preschool when children from Finland don’t start school until age 7 and yet exceed their American peers on international achievement tests?

As an early childhood educator, it’s a puzzle I’m frequently asked to explain. How can preschool be so essential for some children and unnecessary for others?  The answer is simple but we don’t talk about it for fear of causing offense or stating the obvious: a young child’s environment is her first and only teacher.

Of course, we all grudgingly acknowledge in some abstract way that the young child’s environment — parental love and stability, material comfort, cognitive stimulation, and so on — is a key predictor of healthy development. But I’m going to go a step further and say for a 3- or 4-year-old child, it is the only educational curriculum that matters…

…And that curriculum can be found anywhere. The authentic early childhood curriculum isn’t necessarily contained in the word we reflexively call “preschool.” It doesn’t need to be in a school at all. You can find it under a moss covered tree stump in the woods, or in a parent’s arms. On a noisy playground, or hiding behind a book in the library…

…Once we accept that the environment is the curriculum, we can begin to understand how Finns still manage to outpace American students on virtually every academic achievement test. Because they have avoided the narrowly defined curriculum rabbit hole that we’ve hurled ourselves down headfirst in the last decade, they are winning and we are losing…”  End excerpt.

This is actually completely aligned with Waldorf Education’s theory of early education.  The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America Web site explains, “the early childhood teacher in a Waldorf school works with the young child first by creating a warm, beautiful and loving home-like environment, which is protective and secure and where things happen in a predictable, regular manner”.  Begin OFF KiLTeR tirade.  So here’s what I think:  Waldorf preschools are a gentle, developmentally appropriate, play-based early education option and they achieve this because they try to make their classroom “home-like” – as opposed to “school-like”.  So this brings us back to the previous conclusion/post:  preschool is not necessary.  BUT as preschool does provide moms with a few precious hours of peace and rejuvination each week.  And for that alone, it is worth the high price of Waldorf admission.

But what if we carry this theory forward…take it to elementary school?  In general, we have been taught to believe that it is also in children’s best interest to go to school as long as possible.  7 hours a day.  We need to keep up with China!  More math!  More science!  We must start them younger!!  Our children NEED to be in preschool at least five mornings a week (and that’s kind of a light load for a 3 or 4 year old) and our 6, 7, and 8 year old children MUST be in elementary school all day.  But wait!  Let’s take a step back.  Get off the roller coaster.

So, what if elementary school is not a panacea either? What if our kids are better off at home riding bikes in the neighborhood – as opposed to exercising in gym class?  Spending mornings at a working farm – as opposed to learning about nutrition in health class?  Reading for pleasure on a hammock in the backyard – as opposed to sitting at their desks in Language Arts class?  Learning to measure by baking cookies with mom – instead of learning from the science teacher on a cart once a week?  Spending a whole afternoon at the playground with other kids – as opposed to 15 minutes at recess?  I’m just sayin’ – I really want to home school!!!  More specifically, to unschool.  End tirade.

In closing, Jeff, I anxiously await your rebuttal!!  And as always, thank you all so much for reading.  Love, Tracy

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Responses

  1. Interesting timing, since Hannah has come home twice in the last 2 weeks asking if she can be homeschooled. And well I already have Josh signed up for preschool in the fall – although that may be more for me 🙂

    • Hannah likes the sound of home schooling??!! I LOVE it! Hmmm…I bet you two could get a lot done while Josh is at preschool. Hee-hee!! xo, Tracy

  2. Last year I was going through the process of getting the girls enrolled for kindergarten (read: first grade masked as kindergarten). During the process, I was really getting the impression that the teachers thought I had done the girls a disservice by choosing to not put them into a formal program. Both this article and their success, thus far, have made me feel better about trusting my instincts!

    For what it’s worth- I, too, have mixed emotions about elementary school…

    • You were wise to trust your instincts are your girls (and boy!) are lucky to have such an awesome mama who gave them the BEST possible start at home!! Let’s unschool our un-first graders together next year!! Tell Pat not to worry about the taxes, you’ll get your money’s worth out of the lake, parks, playgrounds and one day, the high school!!!!! xo, T.

  3. I think that preschool may be helpful for children that don’t have a solid home environment. In this case, it’s almost a parental substitute. I am not sure that means it should be nationalized. However, I can see the benefit in some cases depending on what the kids are actually doing. Like most things, government looks to schools to fix problems that really are at home. It’s not fair to the teachers. They are not parents yet often fill voids.

    • Agreed!! If the home situation is bad, school is (hopefully!!) a better option. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, honey!!


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