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Ready to Learn: Defining Kindergarten Readiness Once and For All!

August 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

Ready to Learn

Kindergarten Readiness: Defining Kindergarten Readiness Once and For All!

Now, Everything you need to know to get your child ready for kindergarten!

by Janet Gonzalez- Mena, MA  “Child Family and Community”

A narrow and simplistic view of what is “Ready to Learn” focuses on teaching academics to young children.  This view ignores the huge societal changes that need to come about to ensure that all children have an equal chance for academic achievement in school. To truly have an equal chance for school success we need to eradicate poverty, give everybody health care benefits, ensure enough nutritious food, and provide decent housing.  Focusing on early academics is a cheaper but far less effective road to school success than what the brain research indicates.  Good health and social -emotional stability in the early years of life are the real roads to later achievement.  Cognitive development is vitally tied to  the social-emotional realm of development (Lally, 1998; Shore, 1997; Zigler, Finn-Stevenson, & Hall, 2003)  Instead of working toward a decent life for every child, the major societal approach is to use standardized tests to see who is behind in academic skills and then use remediation devices to catch them up.  It will take a few years to discover that this band-aid approach won’t work to take care of the wounds too many children in this country suffer in their early years.

It may not take years to discover the other problems inherent in basing educational systems solely around standardized tests.  Testing works as a stratifying tool through cultural bias.  Teachers, in order to raise their class test scores, find themselves “teaching to the test,” which means  they minimize problem solving and creativity in their classroom activities.  The tests dictate what children need to know regardless of their knowledge, experiences, and cultural differences.

Kindergarten readiness, a hot topic among politicians, is also a hot topic among parents.  With this in mind, let’s look at how kindergarten readiness goes far beyond learning the ABC’s and starts way back in infancy.

Here are some general indicators that early childhood educators agree show children are prepared to enter kindergarten:

1. Children who are ready for kindergarten are those who feel good about themselves.

The problem is that much of the discipline used makes children feel bad about themselves.  Children don’t feel good about themselves  by being made to feel bad.  Discipline should not only leave self-esteem intact but should also actually raise it when adults use modeling, guidance, and feedback.  Communication is an important part of discipline; adults should discuss feelings and behavior instead of criticizing  the child.  Adults who understand the importance of communication separate the child from the behavior, saying things like “I won’t let you hit your sister – it hurts her” instead of “Stop that, you bad boy!”

2. Children who are read for kindergarten are those who gain knowledge from mistakes.

Some of the best lessons come from things that don’t work.  It’s easy to take the lesson out of the mistake by rescuing children so they don’t learn about the consequences of their actions.  Or the opposite situation occurs when the adult reacts to a mistake with harsh punishment.  When children become fearful of mistakes, they quit risking.  Reasonable risks are good learning devices.  This child who avoids them misses out on a lot of important lessons.

3. Children who are ready for kindergarten can communicate.

They have lots of experience in talking and listening.  They know how to carry on a conversation.  A conversation means not just talking but listening and responding appropriately as well.  Adults should start emphasizing communication early.  Even infants enjoy conversation and taking turns “talking.”  They also play with language.  As children grow older, keeping a playful attitude toward language helps encourage it.

4. Children who are ready for kindergarten can weigh alternatives and make sound choices.

Visualizing alternatives and their consequences in an important life skill.  Children who arrive in kindergarten with plenty of opportunities to practice this skill come better prepared.  When the “prepared child” gets hit by another child, she asks herself, “What are some ways I can react, and what are the consequences of each?”  The child without the ability to visualize alternatives just lashes back without thinking.  Aggression, in the face of aggression is a poor choice.  Some children never learn that, unfortunately.  Some children have no ability to imagine any response other than hitting.

5. Children who are ready for kindergarten can concentrate and focus.

If they can’t do that, the problem may be too much television.  It might seem as though children develop a long attention span from watching television, because they are willing to sit and stare at it for long hours.  But turn it off and what happens?  They don’t know how to entertain themselves.  We add to the problem by over scheduling their time.  Children don’t develop long attention spans when they are never allowed to play for long periods, never free to follow their inclinations to get involved in something of their own choice, never encouraged to work at length on some project they are interested in (Elkind, 2007).  Adults tend to interrupt children, hurry them up, get them going on the next event.  Preschool programs can contribute to the problem if they keep children on a tight schedule, move them rapidly from one activity to another, and never give them a chance to work at length or in depth on anything.

(I have posted this in my blog here because it is clear that “No Child Left Behind” has turned our public school system into a farce, and it is time to change things.  “No Child Left Behind” is only a little more than 10 years old.  It is not too late to stop yet another generation from being churned out of this ineffective gristmill of an education system.   It is creating children who lack critical thinking skills, children who are unequipped to compete academically, children who are less able to manage themselves socially, and classrooms that disenfranchise children based on their intelligence.  The effect of linking accountability to achievement as proved by testing is to make the teaches anxious to have only the most teachable students in their classroom.  What if your child is not a “star” in every subject…. would you want her or him to be made to feel unwanted?

Maybe it’s time for all of us to start voicing our objections to what is happening: the children traveling through the public school system are, after all, the same children who will be living in the world with our children.  These are their peers.  Let’s do something about it.

Lots of Love,  Linda)

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