Thursday, December 16, 2010

Full-day kindergarten vs. day care

This has been an interesting experiment. Parents have demanded day care, not full-day kindergarten. There is a misunderstanding that only teachers can teach children in school.

love of reading
role play
The new Ontario full-day kindergarten involves a half-day period with a teacher, and a half day with an ECE graduate. Now, I have a B.A. in Early Childhood Education (ECE), as well as a teaching certificate (B.Ed. & M.Ed.). My four years taking my ECE, with 900 hours of practicum placements, support the two-year ECE certificate program that college students take. I am a retired teacher.

Critics say full-day kindergarten was rushed into place, before it was researched. I agree. I participated in a study, but unless you understand the differences between day care a kindergarten, you miss the point.

Let me tell you about day care.
Prereading - recognition of letters
Day Care
An ECE, teaching crafts, and songs, with an afternoon nap, the news said. How do you 'teach' a craft?
They need play time, snack time, circle time, and a rich environment, hot meals, good food, nap times, with language, discipline, structure and routines.

A teacher teaches (they say) listening skills and routines. Routines? With 25 - 28 kids? Humpf. This is crowd control. The teacher is well-paid, with a 40-minute preparation time (20 minutes when the class has French), with no contact with the children. The ECE grad, paid much less, doesn't get this union-bargained right.

Fun with fine muscles
To my mind, it is far better to have free exploration, in the style of Montessori schools, with teachers (ECE) who do not believe that all crafts must look the same. ECEs who allow the kids to play with paint, paper, water, sand, clay, and explore. Manipulating, listening, speaking, taking turns, respecting other.

Reading buddies - to promote literacy
Studies show that kids learn best when they can choose activities, when they develop a bond with their teacher (either ECE or 'teacher'), and have more of a caregiver/facilitator than teacher. With one-year at the Faculty of Education, teachers do not necessarily understand thematic, play-based learning opportunities. They follow a curriculum, and routines: indoor play, outdoor play, Core French, circle time, songs, delivered by someone who may not understand Piaget, or activity-based learning. You can judge this by the kids who bring home a craft that shows little initiative, or creativity. In day care, their crafts look like they did it themselves.

You cannot teach in a class of 25. I know. I've taught in day care, nursery schools, JK - Gr. 8. The bottom line is you empower the kids to learn what they want to know. You give them a selection of games, activities, toys (sand play, water play, dress-up centre, embed toileting routines) and the learn through play. No wrote learning. Pre-reading skills, recognition of shapes, colours, number are not important. Kids learn this when they are ready. I've seen 3-year-olds reading and using scissors, and 5-year-olds who cannot. They inspire each other. They laugh, use fine and large muscles, and participate in a variety of hands-on activities.
Play time!

Far better we give children a supportive, open-ended learning environment, rather forcing on them pre-reading skills. Some kids come to school never having had discipline, routines, and in a day care, with a loving, caring ECE grad, they will find success at their own speed, at their own level.

I am not in favour of full-day kindergarten. The teacher-student ratio alone supports those with advanced skills, frustrates those who need lower ratios, more individual attention, and activities that meet their individual needs.

  • We need working parents to be able to find caregivers (especially for disadvantaged kids) who can provide a safe learning environment in which these skills are not taught (read forced), but facilitated, at the speed at which the learner is able to handle them. 
  • We need ECE grads who understand pedagogical practices, with sociology, psychology, and an understanding of the Key Experiences in Early Childhood, e.g., Classification (attributes, similarities, difference), seriation (ordering), numeracy, literacy, spatial relations (behind, up, down), temporal relations (today, tomorrow, yesterday). 
  • We need caregivers who can manage a child in day care, who are trained, responsible, and understand ages and stages.
  • Caregivers who know the questions to elicit thinking skills.
  • We need caregivers who understand that 'curriculum' is a dirty word in early childhood, and that the Ministry of Education cannot enforce cookie cutter learning expectations for 3 and 4 and 5-year olds.


Grandma K said...

Our day care here do some teaching - learning basics of numbers, colors, some printing skills. We have begun full day kindergarten, and my two grandchildren who have gone through it seem to be doing well - despite the blasted "open concept" schools.

Zrehena said...

This is a great artical that's ! Thanks for's fantastic blog. really very good article...
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