Pre-School or Day Care? Expert Commentary

There's a real push in the state for all day kindergarten and even 4-K which is a full day preschool for children age four.

Some parents of half day kindergarten wonder what the push is especially since our children did so well, adjusted well to full day in first grade, and seemed to finish out this last year of childhood free play with a few hours of structured learning with a great sense of adventure.

The few of us who provide full day kindergarten - The Garden School does - know what educational possibilities there are when you have the afternoon. But it's only a possibility - teachers have to teach.

The push for 4K is really an attempt at day care reform because the real reconciliation point between 4-K and half day kindergarten is in day care. Right now the question is, "What should we expect from day care?"

There are four hundred pages of standards that must be attended to in every licensed day care. They include standards on food, recreation, safety, and playgrounds, but there is little standardization regarding learning and the question is why?

According to some licensed teachers who have worked in local day cares, "We were told that teaching a child anything was not age appropriate. We were told that learning even to count, even to teach color recognition was to be saved for kindergarten. We were not allowed to teach anything."

Over the years, many children have come to the Garden School from centers all over Evansville and rarely can an incoming four or five year old child properly hold a crayon or draw even a simple picture and that's a shame. Few children have been able to identify the alphabet letters, count to a respectable number, or sit quietly and listen to a simple story.

"Do you know what circle time is?" The answer is always "no."

The national studies done over the years have repeatedly shown that children learn a disproportionate amount of information during the ages three, four, five and six. They will learn more at these ages than any other time in their lives. If this is so, then why are we openly not spending the children's time teaching or at least reading to them?

When the old nursery rhymes are read to children, they have never heard them. "Old Mother Hubbard went?" and the answer is a deadly silence. Three Blind Mice are strangers to children today, so are Jack and Jill, Goosey Goosey Gander, Little Bo Peep and Little Jack Horner.

And worse, the regular natural children's agenda of singing, memorizing, and creating has been wiped clean from the day by this "non teaching provision." The common day care non-agenda is "Child directed only."

So if nothing is taught, how are children are supposed to learn to sing? What is the appropriate age to learn? Should they grab sheet music and teach themselves? Children don't know how to sing because no one is teaching them. As well there is no one to teach them to draw or how to use their imaginations simply because it's "Not age appropriate."

The problem with holding back teaching and learning is this. When children fail to learn anything in day care and go on to public school at age five or six, it's too late for some things like language development. Parents with problem readers can look back on day care and blame the "age appropriate farce."

Learning is a progression and disciplines like language begin at home and are supposed to follow through at day care simply because of the time a child spends there. A love of reading begins with a love of listening. A love of any learning discipline like science or math or literature or history begins at this very early age with that initial discovery and the adult's help that goes along with the discovery.

Ask your childcare today about your child's curriculum. What has your child spent his many hours doing? What can you contribute at home?