In the days, weeks and months since the coronavirus outbreak began, parents have been told they must make a strong move toward virtual learning. At the same time, parents have been thrust into a situation where they also must take on the role of teacher in addition to being the parent. This situation is no one’s fault, however presenting remote learning and parents acting as teachers as a solution to education has many limitations. Even if the family is able to fulfill this responsibility, and even when the remote programming is optimum (it often isn’t), there are huge gaps.
One of the big questions that has left many parents scratching their heads is what to do when it comes to educating small children. It goes without saying that small children are much more easily distracted, with a sensory overload much different from elementary children. This is partly because everything is so new to them. At the same time, the little ones also have an inherent need for human interaction that must be filled for any kind of optimal development to take place.
Clearly, the idea of virtual pre-K or kindergarten is a myth, and a 4 or 5 year old’s education can only be facilitated with an in-person caretaker. Yet, many parents don’t want to approach the current situation simply as babysitting or day care. In cases where kindergarten is coming next year, most parents know their 4 year old needs to learn something. “Really?”, I have heard pre-K parents say, “There must be more we can do than just babysitting, and letting them watch educational TV or videos.”
Assessing how ready your child is for kindergarten has always seemed to many parents to be somewhat of a mystery. There are varied pre-K curriculums and social environments: traditional, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio, HighScope, Bank Street, and Creative Curriculum to name a few. The Montessori method may differ greatly from the traditional or the Waldorf, yet they all will feed into a kindergarten class that may be significantly different from the students’ prior environment both academically and socially.
Expectations between parents (and yes, even teachers) also varies greatly when it comes to kindergarten readiness. This can leave parents feeling like defining goals is not possible because everything seems too vague to deal with. Attitudes range anywhere from “Don’t worry about it, at that age anything is fine,” to “Here are your necessary required math and reading levels.” Putting what are already ambiguous assessment measurements into a coronavirus situation where most parents are already in survival mode and don’t have time to deal with it means that kindergarten prep education is likely to take a back seat.
If two of the largest gaps of post-coronavirus learning are small children and assessments, parents of pre-k children going into kindergarten have a double whammy. Parents who have neither time nor experience to effectively school their pre-K children going into kinder might be wise to ask for help. Assuming everything is fine with babysitting only, or worse, simply leaving the child to his or her own devices, could lead to academic and social difficulty adjusting at a time when even the normal transition to kindergarten can be difficult.
Awareness of pre-K learning needs becomes essential for parents who hope to enroll their child in competitive private schools. Competition is always steep, but there is a strong argument moving forward after coronavirus that admission results will depend even less on actual aptitude than on what parents do about it. So what is the answer? It starts with asking for a qualified second opinion.
It is well-acknowledged and proclaimed by everyone from Harvard researchers to business gurus and magazines like Fortune and Inc. that one of the essential qualities that leads to success is knowing when to ask for advice. This may be one of those times. If you’re not sure about where your child is academically, it doesn’t hurt to check, and it’s usually a good idea to get a second set of eyes on something you’re not sure of if they belong to an expert who knows more than you.
Now you may be thinking, “A tutor doesn’t know more than I do about my child’s learning,” and you might be correct, but this takes us back to the reasons why the needs of small children can’t be put in the same bucket as older learners. You don’t need a tutor. Your child might possibly benefit from tutoring, but not a tutor—at least not at first. You need a teacher. Not just any teacher; a qualified classroom teacher who is degreed and state-certified with expertise in early childhood education.
When it comes to young learners, there are so many factors beyond simply memorizing and recalling information, and it doesn’t have to be a huge investment to get at least an informal short assessment of how things are going. In fact, when it comes to a child’s education, most parents are starting to understand it is the best investment they could make.
The truth is, normally when tutoring starts, the first sessions are mostly diagnostic in nature. (It’s a lot like a doctor who makes house calls. She has to diagnose if anything is wrong and figure out what it is before she can help.) So even if everything is fine and your little pre-k student is going to hit the ground running in kindergarten without a hitch, it doesn’t hurt to get a qualified second opinion, especially when you can do it rather quickly. How often and how long tutoring will continue will depend on the student’s needs, your needs, and your goals for the student.
Having a qualified teacher tutor your child to prepare for kindergarten or 1st grade is also a good idea for mitigating possible unseen factors or problems that may occur, whether academic, social, medical, or other needs-based. There are many possible issues that can come as a complete surprise to parents, and so many situations most of us would never think of. For instance: a backslide in potty training that leads to academic anxiety, or the special needs of a child that previously went undetected because the child was also highly gifted. A qualified early childhood education teacher tutoring your pre-K child is much more likely to recognize these types of patterns and situations while preparing them for kindergarten or 1st grade readiness.
If you are interested in competitive elementary admissions options, it may be important to have a professional come in and work with your little one. Tests such as the WPPSI are often used to measure cognitive development (ie: intelligence). However, the truth is, they are also used as a primary factor in kindergarten admissions to decide who gets in. While this practice has been criticized, it also exists in part because no one seems to have a better idea how to narrow down large candidate pools in schools with limited openings. (In a highly-regarded elementary prep school where there are fifty new kindergarten seats available and five hundred people apply, how should they decide?)
While it is stated that an intelligence test is not a defined curriculum for which a child can study, exercising a child’s brain in ways that are conducive to solving those kinds of problems is advisable. In other words, getting a child comfortable with working through the types of thinking processes that are found on cognitive development exams doesn’t hurt their chances.
For whatever reason, when we are all more isolated, as is the case with the coronavirus, often our psychological reaction is to shift into survival mode and feel that we must be self-supportive. We tend to subtly equate strength with self-sufficiency. Yet, this reaction can prevent us from asking for help when we need it most.
Getting in-home pre-K tutoring to prepare children for kindergarten doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. It doesn’t usually have to continue over a long period of time, and it can take a huge emotional load off parents.
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