At this time of year, many of us start to ponder whether our child will be ready to start school when the time comes. For some of us that transition is just around the corner, for others it’s a while off yet.
We worry about our cherub falling behind. Or disliking school. We don’t want to be called in for a meeting with the teacher to talk about learning challenges. Or misbehaviour.
Fuelled by these concerns, as well as the hype of marketing and media, we push our children academically well before their time.
Our babies are being exposed to flashcards, our toddlers are being taught phonics at child care and our preschoolers are spending hour after hour on ‘educational’ iPad games.
It’s because we care. We want our children to be happy, successful, and thriving. We want our kids to have the advantage. We want only the best for their future.
Are you aware however, that we are unknowingly doing the opposite for our children? We are actually giving them a disadvantage. I’ll say it again…a disadvantage.
By pushing the academic agenda too young, too soon, we’re stressing out our kids. We’re placing unnecessary pressure on them to perform and to please. We’re teaching them that ‘success’ is essential, yet it’s also a measure determined outside of ourselves.
And it’s clearly backfiring. More and more children are falling behind academically at school than ever before, twentyper cent of every class in fact.
Here’s a newsflash-the brain doesn’t work in isolation.
Learning how to read, write, spell, add, subtract, get along and pay attention is all dependent upon a child’s physical development – you know, the bit we ignore thinking that it’s only related to body health? Yet it’s through an abundance of movement and sensory experiences in the early years of life that we quite literally lay the foundations for formal learning in the brain.
Too many children are missing out on this today. Moving and playing has fallen away to make room for ‘more important things’ like that weekly Shichida lesson (eek!).
You can’t force feed formal learning to a child who’s not developmentally ready, with the expectation that it’ll lie in wait ready for their time at school. Being ready for the classroom has absolutely nothing to do with a child’s random collection of academic knowledge and everything to do with their brain-body connection. How did we as a society get this so back to front and inside-out?
Let me tell you the story about Thomas, a creative and energetic four-year-old boy who loved life at preschool. With his start to formal education just around the corner, his parents took measures to make sure it would be a successful transition for him.
They began the computer program Reading Eggs at home, to teach him the names and sounds of letters, and to get him reading a little in preparation for classroom life. Time was spent practicing the correct pencil grip, how to write his name and also some basic number facts.
The trouble was, when Thomas did in fact start school, the rote learning he had done didn’t readily translate to the skills he was using in the classroom.
The time missed learning through play, movement and sensory experiences meant that he found it hard to sit still, pay attention and easily understand new concepts.
He preferred tasks which gave correct or incorrect answers and found those that required creativity or open-ended responses challenging. School life was exhausting and not as enjoyable or easy for him as his parents had hoped.
Many children like Thomas are sitting in a classroom right now as you read this. Their parents prepared them for the transition with love, care and dedication. They put in the work, yet the experience has not matched anyone’s expectations.
REAL preparation for school success
To create real change here, to truly prepare our children for school success, we need to shift away from early academics. Instead we need to use the time before school to connect, to move, to be imaginative, and to let learning stem from within.
To develop fingers with the strength and control to write, go swinging on the monkey bars.
To increase the eye control needed for reading, go and hang upside down.
To aid concentration, fuel your child’s body with real food (the stuff that doesn’t come in a packet).
To nurture your child’s soul, get outside in nature. Spend time having fun together without an agenda.
To model social skills, listen to your child, compromise, empathise, and above all things, show kindness.
To ensure that learning flows readily, create an abundance of movement opportunities and get adjusted regularly by a Chiropractor (professionals who specialise in the brain-body connection).
Get your child’s body and brain working in partnership and the magical process of learning will naturally unfold, in it’s own time.