To Preschool or not to preschool? That is the question.
How young is too young for kids to start school? This question has always been controversial between parents and professionals alike, but experts suggest that early education promotes a lifelong love of learning.
Starting school at two or three years of age has always been controversial. Many argue "kids are not allowed to be kids anymore." On the contrary, experts say early education promotes a lifelong love of learning.
"This couldn't be further from the truth considering that modern research shows that even before being actually born, while still in the mother's womb, a child responds to musical sounds," says Dan Zebeljan, RMS (a Montessori school, in Brampton, Ontario) director of education and academy principal. "It's a well known trend these days that some expectant mothers play classical music in order to stimulate their yet-to-be-born babies."
Zebeljan explains that between the ages of two to six years old, children are like sponges in a stage that the Montessori tradition identifies as the "Absorbent Mind" stage. "In this stage, children are eager to learn everything and anything," he says. "The questions about 'what is this and what is that?' and then the non-stop follow-ups, like 'but why this and why that?', are clear signs of their innate, inborn curiosity. Hence, it is our job as educators and parents—both must be partners in education—to capitalize on this inborn curiosity by directing, shaping, and forming their need to learn and continue their learning in a nurturing environment."
"The vast majority of children who are not exposed to a structured and prepared environment, by the time they are two to two-and-a-half years old, express clear signs of boredom," Zebeljan says. "Unless there is a supervised and well prepared environment that can address their questions, keep up with their energy and allow them to socialize with their own peers, children will simply become bored and irritable."
In order for learning to occur, he says it must be fun, spontaneous and organic rather than be seen as a chore, a burden or a nuisance. "In fact, in our experiences, the later children start school, the harder it becomes to perceive learning as fun, simply because as they get older, their innate sense of curiosity becomes mitigated with the conscious sense of responsibility," he explains.
Sense of responsibility must be built without its traditional labels associated with 'task-mastering,' which often provokes rejection or resistance in older children. He cites examples of task-mastering when asking children: Did you do your homework? Did you brush your teeth? Did you take out the garbage?
"We want to teach children about the sense of responsibility through the joy of learning so that it becomes their second nature, a meta-cognitive reflex if you will, wherein learning becomes based on their innate curiosity, thus making it contextually fun before it becomes a concept of responsibility," he says. "If executed properly, early childhood education is the mechanism that triggers a sense of responsibility in a natural and not forced upon or enforced way."
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