Preschool: Nice But Not Necessary For Your Child’s Educational Success

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I considered preschool when I had a 4, 3 and 2 year-old at home. I would watch my neighbor send her children off and the space and quiet she got for two hours a day was enviable, but when I looked at the cost of sending 3 children to preschool, it came just short of $800 per month. I figured that amount could be better saved for tuition at university rather than a few hours of wonderful peace and quiet.

 

Are preschools absolutely necessary? No! They are a “nice to have” change for your child, but are not necessary for building social and active learning skills. Your child can do just as much at home as the average child at preschool and excel in arts, sports, friends and academics when they get to school.  The key is in you as facilitator, and your home as the environment, and your willingness to endure a wee bit of mess.  In fact, research supports that a child that has a huge hand in their own creative endeavors, builds more brain connections than a child that has to be told what to do. There are also studies that show that the more years of institutional education a child has, the less likely they will go on to post-secondary education. Burn-out is the reason.

In addition, children most need “serve and return interactions” with an adult (not a peer) in the early years to develop their brain connections and they are more likely to get that in a one-on-one home environment with a single caregiver, than in a peer-based institution.

If you can’t afford the cost of preschool, or choose not to feed into the parental peer-pressure of signing your child up, here are some alternatives that will foster your child’s social, cognitive and emotional development just as much. Remember that your child needs you, a few toys and unstructured play the most!  Not peers, not worksheets, and not early school.

  • Have a sand/rice/lentil table.
  • Set up painting twice a week – all you need is newspaper, paper, paints, brushes and lots of patience.
  • Save the funds you would have spent on preschool to buy a season’s pass to the zoo, science center and museums. Look at every public place as an opportunity for a field trip.
  • Set up water play in the sink or backyard pool.
  • Have play dates in your home, in the other parent’s home or meeting at an indoor play-place – you control length, company and activities.
  • Have as many toys on hand as possible, but rotate them often, so every week is a new bucket of theme toys or old favorites.
  • Have a building block station with wooden blocks, Legos, K’nex or Meccano pieces.
  • Assemble a dress-up tickle trunk with hats, shoes, belts and shirts obtained from the local goodwill store
  • Leave out books and puzzles and read with your child often.
  • Set up a play dough table with cutters, rollers, pans, etc.

Half of Canada’s parents do not send their child to preschool and Canada’s 15 year-old students are still in the top 10 of the world’s PISA education results according the OECD.  You got this!

Canada’s PISA Scores and Canada’s Preschool Enrollment rates.

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When Do Children Understand “Consequences?”

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Why is it so difficult to teach children that actions have consequences?  The question might be, “Why do children not choose the best course of action?”

It is difficult because of caregiver/parent’s unrealistic expectations of children’s brain development. Honestly, I think every parent should take an online course about brain biology when they have a child! Brain growth occurs at different ages, and when parents understand the appropriate ages, they will learn when it is best to expect that children can base decisions on understanding consequences. Most parents give children “consequences” as a punishment much too young an age, when they can’t yet understand them.

The prefrontal cortex is the last section of the brain to fully develop and is responsible for behaviour control and critical thinking. Before age 6, children are pre-operational in their thinking, which means they do not have the ability to think out plans and imagine consequences of those decisions. They do not have all the information in order to make the right decision. When they reach school-aged, from ages 6–13, they get better at understanding consequences and can make decisions. However, they do not have abstract thinking skills yet. School-aged children are still operational in their thinking which means they understand what is tangible and what is in their immediate environment – things they can readily see, hear, touch, smell and taste. They can’t think conceptually until the teen years, so they don’t understand the “gray” areas of decisions, or theory or ideology. Consequences demand that the chooser understands all aspects of the decision in order to make an informed choice.

Children are able to begin understanding consequences around age 6 and are much better at it around age 13. Parents and caregivers need to adjust their expectations accordingly. And consequences should never be given to punish children for their decisions. They need an adult/caregivers help to problem solve a solution instead of “pay” for their behaviour with a “consequence.”

Are Consequences Punitive?

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In groups, I get asked all the time if consequences are punitive.  It depends.  Consequences are natural outcomes that occur if a parent intervenes or not.  Yes, consequences happen to kids all the time when they are out and about in the world.  The rest of the world will issue consequences to your child, but only you, as the parent, will take the time and effort to problem-solve with them. Children will get consequences from teachers, coaches, police, and other adults.  That’s okay.  Those people are not building a life-long relationship with your child.  You are. When you take the time and effort to problem-solve, you are giving your child valuable life and relationship skills – negotiation.  Your communication lines will remain open and you will enjoy a wonderful relationship with your child.  Here are the differences between consequences issued by a parent in the name of punishment, and problem-solving which is a form of non-punitive discipline.

Respectful Cell Phone Contract

CELLPHONE CONTRACT FOR DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

A Contract for Digital Health and Safety between Parent and Child

Date:_________________

CHILD

  • I agree to always ask you for help, explanation, advice and information regarding anything I can’t handle myself on the cell-phone, Internet and computer/video gaming platform.
  • I agree to abide by safety and health precautions as outlined between you and myself.
  • I agree to never meet strangers in person without your knowledge.
  • I agree to discuss and solve any problems that arise from meeting your needs and mine.

 

Child’s Signature__________

PARENT

  • I agree to discuss and solve any problems that arise from meeting your needs and mine.
  • I agree to never confiscate your cell-phone, TV, computer, tablet, music player or video game console.
  • I agree to abide by the same health and safety rules for my usage as well.

 

Parent’s Signature__________

 

MUTUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY AGREEMENTS

  • Tech-free zones will be meal-times, church, socializing with relatives, and when visitors drop by.
  • All electronics will be turned off 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Everyone does 30 minutes of physical exercise every day.
  • Giving attention to people takes precedence over attention to electronics.

Date We Will Review Contract To Ensure It’s Function For Child and Parent_________

Child and Parent’s Signatures__________________________

Consequences or Problem-Solving?

In parenting classes, I often get asked the following question:

When I give my 11 year-old daughter a consequence, she insists that I am being mean to her. I believe that it is respectful discipline. What is the difference between consequences and a punishment?

Brain development stage: Between the ages of 5 and 12, most children figure out that they are not choosing the consequence, and it is the parents imposing the order on them in the name of discipline. If the child doesn’t see the point, she may experience it as a punishment.

Here are the differences:

  • Consequences are parent imposed. The conflict is now between the parent and child. Problem-solving is the parent and child working together to come up with a solution to fix the problem. The conflict is now between the parent-child team against the problem (even if the child caused it.)
  • Problem-solving is a more real-world skill. It teaches kids how to fix things, make restitution, repair relationships and make things right.
  • Consequences are focused on the child, where problem-solving is focused on the end result; a common goal.
  • Consequences tend to be one solution. Problem-solving can be many solutions that would take care of the problem. The goal is repair, whereas the goal of consequences is to teach the child a lesson, which is punitive.
  • Consequences are almost always designed to hurt a child – either financially (pay for a broken item), socially (grounding or taking away cell phone), emotionally (time-out) or physically (hard physical labor). Problem-solving is designed to be pain-neutral. The goal is not to hurt the child, but help the situation. The goal is to fix the problem. Sometimes that is financial or physical, but the payoff is that the child feels good that they are now owning the solution and not just the problem. Children are very fair and more likely to dive into helping fix the problem when they know they caused it, because the focus is no longer on what they did, but what they can do to make it right. When they can put effort into fixing the problem, they feel better about themselves, learn real-world solutions and will make better decisions in the future.

Parents argue, “Yes, but it works!  Consequences change my child behaviour!” That may be correct, but the price is impaired communication.  Parents wonder why they don’t enjoy the open, caring, free communication that they once had with their child. They wonder why they are receiving attitude and silence. Pushback of imposed consequences comes in many forms. Ditch the consequences and use the adult method of problem-solving.

 

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Consequences Versus Problem-solving

Unschooling To University Book is Ready to Launch – Help us Kickstarter It!

Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school).  I’ve had to wait until we had our third university graduate. We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!

Order This Book in Kickstarter

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/judyarnall/unschooling-to-university-book-project?ref=discoveryUTU Chris cover5

Dads Matter!

This is one of my favourite videos that show the brain science behind why Dad’s matter just as much, but differently, in the parenting relationship.

Why Dads Matter – Same love, different approach

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