I have met many people who do not believe children who are 4 can or should be taught academically to read well and fluently. If you met me 7 years ago you would find a person who agreed, but I have to say over my last few years of teaching my mind has been changed. The Pre-K program I work for used to be play based and then very decidedly went academic based. A huge change for the better of our children, here are 10 reasons why children need an academic pre-Kindergarten program.
1. Don't let your local public school tell you that your child needs to know nothing when they get to kindergarten, most children are loosing invaluable learning time if teaching is postponed till they are five. Developmentally children should know their letters, sounds, numbers and some words before they go to formal school. Plus, those who attend an academic pre-kindergarten ar more likely to be given a chance in the gifted and talented program in the public schools becasue they are ahead of the curve.
2. Your new teacher may assume there is something wrong learning wise with your child if they are not showing proper development at the start of kindergarten, your child may be forced into unecessary testing and possibly labeled with a learning disability without having the chance to learn in the first place.
3. Four year olds need structure before formal school, they need to learn how to sit still for a few minutes, listen to their teacher, follow rules etc. All of these waste precious Kindergarten learning time when a teacher has to focus on children who don't have the proper idea of expected behavior.
4. Socialization skills must be taught, not left to the child. Modeling behavior for children is essential to growing up with proper social skills and self esteem.
5. Not all "play" is equal. Children learn tons from playing but can learn even more when the play is strategically planned by a knowledgable Early Childhood Educator who knows what developmental milestones should be met and what areas will need to be worked on.
6. Kindergarten is no longer playtime, in most areas kindergarten now has the content first grade used to have which means your child goes into a classroom a year behind without an academic prekindergarten.
7. A love for learning is a learned behavior. Showing your child at this young age that learning is a priority to your family will not only increase their long term school success but will encourage your child to enjoy school not loath it.
8. Giving your child a head start in school by making sure part of their day is spent on academics ensures better readers, writers and learners.
9. Young children (before the age of six) learn faster, easier and retain more information than children at any other age. After the age if six the neurons in the brain are set and children with learning issues such as dyslexia and dysgraphia don't do as well in "resetting" their thinking to correct the problem. It is crucial for parents to understand that as soon as a teacher sees a learning issue the child should get immediate help, wasted time at this age can cause devestating learning issues later in life that can be helped before six. Early intervention is the key if any learning issues are suspected.
10. The brain is like any other organ, if you don't feed it, it doesn't work! Giving your child a literacy and math based program will only help feed the brain not hinder their childhood.
Done with love and care an academic pre-kindergarten program is the way to go. I am not talking hard core, sit at your desk and don't move type schooling here. Just a program that offers more than a Mother's Day Out where playing is often the only thing going on. My school has a great balance of academics and strategically planned play, where manipulatives and toys are used towards learning goals and for assessment. We go from 8:20-1:30 five days a week and in everyday the children work through the following activities:
Tabletop Centers (sensory buckets, wiki sticks with mats, magnetic letters with boards, counting trays, etc.)
Bible Lesson (We are a Christian Private Pre-K-12 School)
Reading Group (15 minutes of leveled reading instruction)
Math Group (15 minute of leveled math instruction)
Language and Literacy
Gym/Music or Spanish (depending on the day, and yes, most of them know more Spanish than I do!)
2-30 minute recesses
Play based centers (45 minutes of play in the library, blocks, kitchen, science or art center with specific activities planned)
Snack and Lunch
We have a very full day with little time to spare, we don't waste any learning minutes that are not necessary unless there is an emergency etc. We are very much a school and not a daycare, when you choose a so called academic daycare you are most likely getting underpaid, nondegreed teachers who have no idea what they are doing. So make sure to do your research and ask lots of questions. Tour several schools even if you think you already know where you are going to send your child. Research the background of the school and it's teachers, talk to present and past parents. Ask for references, there is no better test of a school than the satisfaction of the families it has served.
I cannot tell you how much improvement we have seen in behavior, happiness, affection and Parental satisfaction. So take it from a teacher who has taught both, a balanced academic program is the way to go!