Monday, April 08, 2019

should Kindergartens be readied for kids?

Deborah Stipek at Stanford asked the question in a recent article, Should Children Be Ready for Kindergarten — Or Should Kindergarten Be Ready for Children?

Kindergarten is not what it once was. Now the common kindergarten curriculum is almost purely (and impurely) for the purpose of getting students ready for reading and math. All the other things we were to have learned in Froebel's Kindergarten have been brushed aside, as they have been in most other forms of public education. The question that concerns educational administrators, and politicians most, is "readiness to learn." Ready to learn what? It can be observed by even the most simple minds, that children are hard wired from birth to learn. Adults with their observational wits about them would envy the pace at which children learn. Try 2nd or third languages, for example. The administrative and political aims for kindergarten are distorted in comparison to what Kindergarten once was. That children are being bent out of shape by schooling is also a no-brainer.

When I attended an educational conference in Helsinki in 2008, I grew bored with the sociological discussions of the impact of various methods of manual arts training. I took a short break down the hall where I found a wood shop occupied by very busy Kindergarten teachers. They were earning their masters of Education degrees and to do so, required learning to teach woodworking (among other crafts) to their kids. Can it be any wonder then that Finland would beat the pants off the US in the international PISA testing?

There is no easy to measure cause and effect relationship between school wood shop and PISA test scores. To claim that I would be out on a limb. But my visit to the University of Helsinki wood shop helped illustrate a major difference between education in Finland and the US. In the US, we push reading and math at earlier ages, while in Finland's schools they begin reading at age 8 and far surpass American readers in 30% less time.

And so while all kids are "ready to learn," not all children are ready to read. Reading requires development that best occurs on the timing within the child. If we were to follow the Finnish model, children would be developing skills, character and intelligence while working to create beautiful and useful things to serve family and community through their own hands, years before they picked up a book in school.

Froebel's gift number 2 was so closely associated with the life of Freidrich Froebel, that its form consisting of a sphere, a cylinder and a cube form the marker at his grave. You'll notice that I've placed my own photo of gift number 2 upside down in protest to what Kindergarten has become. Froebel would roll over in his grave out of concern for what they've done to his child.

Make, fix and create. Be brave and confident in demanding change.

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