It Takes a Village

I bought Coco some magnetic letters. She thought they were fun but of course I had a different goal in mind. I have a plan to help her spell her name! I know I shouldn’t be pushing her and truthfully I’m really not. Playing with magnetic letters on the fridge while we are cooking together would be a naturally organic activity if I were home with her more but sadly I am not. After a long day at work I don’t really want to do any direct teaching so instead I do what good parents around the world do: I talk to her about her day, I ask her questions, I get down on the floor and play with her and I read to her. And on weekends and holidays I take her places and give her experiences. These activities are huge but I still want her to know how to spell her name! The yaya, as hard-working as she is, just doesn’t naturally think of learning activities to do with Coco so I have it on the daily schedule to have her practice her first and last name. Five minutes a day should be manageable. I had put 15 minutes of playing with letters and numbers on the daily schedule but it didn’t get done so now it’s just five minutes a day of name practice (which  I still don’t think is getting done).

I know it’s not a big deal if she can’t spell and write her name before Kindergarten; a lot of kids can’t, but to be honest it still really bothers me. It’s not the specific skill of spelling her name per se, it’s more a general feeling that she is capable of so much and I want others to see it. She’s extremely inquisitive and is a bright child but because she’s so active and stubborn and independent I think her teachers may not recognize it. Maybe for me that’s the crux of the issue. I know she is totally capable if someone would just teach her and it bothers me that she would know how if she had remained in her old daycare in the States. In fact, she would probably be reading by now!

The other factor is that her preschool is only half day so the entire rest of the day she is already playing at home so a bit of academic instruction in the morning wouldn’t hurt. And let me be clear, by “instruction” I by no means mean worksheets or desks or teacher lectures! I mean learning through play and games. If you are okay with her learning about spiders and dinosaurs and the water cycle and plants then what is the big deal with about learning letters and shapes and numbers? Do it through songs and games but don’t just ignore in because you are play-based! I know she has made gains in other ways in the play-based preschool she is in, mainly in vocabulary development which is a huge factor in future literacy success. Research states that early vocabulary skills directly correlate with success in reading comprehension in the upper elementary grades so I’m not knocking it at all–but why not also allow for some fun games that target literacy and math skills? Do schools have to be either/or?

I think as a parent you want to see something tangible or measurable when it comes to your child’s schooling. Knowing that she will be a good reader in the 4th grade is important, of course, but doesn’t keep you from worrying when your child is 4 1/2 and can’t spell her short first name. I know that her school is following educational best practices but I think I speak for most parents when I say I still want evidence of learning on a daily or some sort of regular basis– and for me that means literacy and math skills. I want to see gains in phonemic awareness and counting and sorting and patterns and other preschool skills that you see in schools across the world. Again, this doesn’t mean I don’t want her to play–not at all! Play is an important piece of the preschool puzzle –the most important part, of course! I just would be happy with more exposure. That’s all. I am pleased she can now count to 20 and I take credit for that. We count the steps when we come up from the pool; we count when we play hide n’ seek; we count the number of cows we see on the road on car trips. It was all fun and games — no pressure, no worksheets– and she can now do it. It’s not rocket science and it’s my job as a parent to do that. I am her first teacher but now I am not her only teacher; I expect her teachers at school and her primary care giver to do their part as well and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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