Chapter 4 Questions:

1.       After reading this chapter, what do you think should be done about public preschool?

2.       How do the differences in activity level manifest themselves in your classroom?

3.       What segment of society do you hold most responsible for early academics at the  expense of developmental appropriateness:  politicians, parents, or educators?

 

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After reading this chapter and going back, I thought it was extremely interesting that children who attend preschools that emphasize direct instruction experience more stress at school. I also thought that it was important to lend attention to the study done by Rebecca Marcon, whose results showed that there were no significant differences in performance among the three groups of children. I believe that it is essential for children to begin learning as early as possible, but much of what they learn is through free play and interactions between themselves and other children. Therefore, it is important to keep academics integrated in the curriculum, but students, especially preschool students, still need time to be "free" and play.
I wanted to end by commenting on how true the following quote is from the story: "The sad part is that parents are so worried about the future that they are often blind to the amazing development of their kids." It reminds me that it is important to celebrate student success throughout each step to the end goal. If we only celebrate the end result, some students will never be celebrated even though they put in their all.
I also found it very interesting that there were no differences in performance among the three groups of children and that more of the push for academic preschools came from parents rather than educators. I found it to be sad that many product manufacturers, such as Paucek, were able to cash in on the parents' limitless appetite for early academic learning. I believe that many parents believe that they need to push early academics on their children so that their children will be able to fall into the category of being "gifted and talented". As a parent, I have come across many parents, including friends of my own, who feel that they have to compete with one another based on what their children are capable of doing academically. I believe that as educators and parents, we need to find a balance between letting the children be kids and fostering a love of learning.
I agree with Hirsh-Pasek that we (teachers) need to learn and think about about how best to work with boys and in what ways they are different than girls. I thought the study that found that boys move around more was interesting, as well as the fact that boys are less verbal, at least at the early ages. If we are expecting our boys to "use their words" to solve conflicts with others, to what extent are they able? Do they need more explicit support to talk things out? I find with 2nd graders when they try to retell something that happened, their story is difficult to follow.

I also really related to the beginning of the chapter when it talked about our new middle class fears of letting our kids roam the neighborhood. My daughter just learned to ride her bike last Sunday. We were very excited. My husband had been worreid and frustrated that it took so long. She's 7 and will be 8 in June But I told him that if she's not allowed to really go anywhere on her own, how motivated will she be to learn to ride? I know that was my motivation when I was a kid. Our kids definitely don't play outside as much as we did as kids. We go out with them sometimes. other times we throw then out. They are active, play sports, and eat healthily. But they're not allowed to roam the neighborhood in search of other kids whenever they want, so outside is not as exciting and the opportunities to burn that "kid" energy are less. For boys, it must be even more difficult.
Kim's discussion about her children and outside play is so true. I was(am) a protective parent also, did not let my children play around the neighborhood alone and felt badly about it many times. Growing up as I did, with much freedom to play outside and meet up with children of all ages in our neighborhood, I knew what they were missing. This issue has far reaching implications for the youth of today (boys & girls) and I attribute this trend squarely on the media.

I believe the assassination of President Kennedy was the first time television and the press offered prolonged coverage of a national event. This opened the door to an information explosion of around the clock news programs and later internet newsfeeds. We are inundated with horrific stories of child abductions and abuses, although statistics show that the rate of these offenses have not increased, just the reporting of them (often with an endless loop of disturbing coverage for days at a time). I don't think my mother didn’t worry about my siblings and I getting hurt when we were young. She just didn’t have to see horror stories over and over to the point of fearing maniacal murders and pedophiles behind every bush. For children, especially boys, to be cooped up all day means that they can’t use up the vast amounts of energy they naturally possess and this in turns creates a vicious cycle both at home and in the classroom.

The question of who is most responsible for early academics at the expense of developmental appropriateness can also be looked at through the filter of media manipulation. I agree with the assertion that just as research emphasized the importance of early learning, parents were dealing with the change in the structure of the workforce with the decline of manufacturing and jobs less dependant on higher education and college degrees. Wanting their children to succeed they became victims of marketing techniques pushing them to buy every academic toy and product. I thought it was a little creepy when Christopher Paucek, of Education Inc. was quoted that parents appetites for buying these products “is limitless” and saying “Really, when I think about it I get giddy!”
I remember in one of my education courses being told a story about someone who was hungry and that if you gave them a fish you provided them with a meal, but if you taught them how to fish - -they could provide for themself for a lifetime. Isn't part of education teaching children the joy and discovery of learning and teaching children to want to be life long learners. How sad for a preschooler to feel that education is not for him/her at the early age of four. All education needs to be balanced with what needs to be taught with joy and fun in the learning. There is nothing wrong with teaching the alphabet, beginning phonics, beginning math concepts, having a language rich environment, and computers, at preschool- -but there needs to be plenty of movement, free play and discovery. I like when the author states "that real learning occurs when students can touch, smell, move, and taste the lesson." I think that is why so many of the students enjoy our new Science program. Learning is a lifetime process, shame on those parents who are stresing their kids out at ages three and four. Whatever happen to the Jim Grant philosphy "that education is a journey and not a race." I think that as educators we do need to find, especially in the early grades,better ways to engage those boys who are active, aggressive, and impulsive,
Isn't it ironic that we have instituted pre-school to improve the performance of our students and often it is actually turning them off to learning? How sad. The hope, from what I read, is improving the preschool experience by integrating kid-friendly activites can have a positive effect, and take into account male and female development.

We have to face our realities. If parents want their children schooled from the age of 3 to 18 they're going to find a way to do that. Seems like they are stealing their children's carefree early years away from them, but I'm sure they feel well-intentioned. After all colleges are taking only the cream of the crop, parents want their children to achieve that status. Are the colleges creating the need? Are you okay with the idea of your child not going to college?
Our job, then, is to create age appropriate classrooms with the focus on the children, not the test standards. By law our children do not have to go to kindergarten. You may start your child's formal education in the first grade. Maybe our predecessors better understood human growth and development. Then again, they had stay-at-home moms. Life has changed, and schools must adapt.
I just loved reading Michael Thompson's translation of boys' "violent play." He said it portrays the struggle between good and evil, and is about courage and loyalty when confronted by foes. Boys play at being heroes. That's pretty cool.

Jane, your words impacted me also. By tuning in the news we do see horrific violence and hear about kidnappings, drive by shootings, etc... The news media makes our world so terrifying. Where can a family live to be able to let their children play freely? This type of news could bring families closer, and instigate more family outings, but kids need to play with kids, resolve their differences, help each other, and learn about socialization somehow. If it needs to be in a safe schoolyard, then that's better than not at all.
Turning the TV off is another issue that I think is very important.

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