Pre-school graduation: Sad symptom of accelerated childhood
Graduation rituals – gowns and mortarboard hats - are too grown up for preschool and kindergarten students. Our accelerated – anxiety provoking – modern childhood needs more simple, age-appropriate activities.
When Frederick Froebel invented kindergarten, in early 1800s Germany, he pioneered the idea of early childhood education — of reaching children during a period of dramatic brain development and introducing a holistic style of learning through play, music, movement, paperfolding and games. He recognized that children learn differently from one another (the precursor to Multiple Intelligence theory), and that one child may learn best by sorting objects, another by talking with peers, and another through sensory experiences like physical movement and touch. He influenced Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner (whose work led to Waldorf Schools), and the Reggio Emilia approach to education, all of which are popular and well regarded today.Skip to next paragraph
Susan Sachs Lipman is the author of "Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World," which grew out of her award-winning blog, Slow Family Online. She is the social media director for the Children & Nature Network. Susan and her family enjoy gardening, hiking, soap crafting and food canning.
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Kindergarten, as recently as many of our own childhoods, was a laboratory of discovery and social skills, as well as the preparation for grade school.
Fast-forward 150-plus years since Froebel and we arrive at a time in which online parent message boards are crammed with questions from anxious parents: “Is my child ready for kindergarten?” There are scores of kindergarten readiness tests and commercial kits, which denote and teach precise skills one should know before starting kindergarten, such as the ability to count from 1-10, identify colors, cut with scissors, create rhyming sounds, and skip. (The last includes the especially ridiculous coda that preschool children around the country are being taught to skip, in order to prepare them for kindergarten. Sadly, many children do not have enough outdoor play and free time to develop this skill on their own and are now taught it, not as a joyous life skill, but as part of the readiness curriculum.)
Of course, if a child is not ready for today’s kindergarten, by all means, have the child wait a year. My issue is with the sped-up nature of education. The rush toward school and academic curriculum robs many children of the age-appropriate experience of learning through play, discovery and activity. Given the fact that early childhood has accelerated to the degree that my kindergarten has become my daughter’s pre-K, is it any wonder that the ritual of graduation has also trickled down, from high school and college to pre-school?