by Beth Wagensomer
“The first five years have so much to do with how the next eighty turn out.” – Bill Gates, Sr.
Those first few years of a child’s life are precious. Early childhood is a time of wonder and excitement. It is a time of growth and change. Children are eager to learn about and interact with the world around them. Everything sparks curiosity, it’s magical. Young children can learn so much when given the time and freedom to “just be little.” This is when a child’s personality, creativity and imagination begin to flourish. A co-operative preschool program can provide the perfect opportunity for your child to play, explore, grow and learn at their own pace in a safe and nurturing environment. It can give them a place to be free to shine.
When we think about educating our children, we tend to focus on academics. Society has become preoccupied with making sure our children can count, read and write at younger and younger ages. Toys, games and television shows are even marketed to parents as being “educational.” We have begun to think our children need these things in order to be successful. But this is just not true.
While academics certainly have their place, they are not the only skills our children need to live successfully. Unfortunately, we have begun to lose sight of what is really important. We’re forgetting to show our children know how to express their emotions, seek help when they need it and stand up for themselves. We’re forgetting to show them how to problem solve, apologize and show gratitude, to make choices and learn from their mistakes. In essence, we’re forgetting what preschool years are all about – preparing them for life beyond the classroom walls.
The hard work of preschool is not really the ABC’s and 123’s; it is learning to be oneself in a sea of “others.” It’s allowing children to interact with each other and play freely. It is giving children a place to grow, to learn social/emotional skills before the academic rigor of the elementary years begins. It is helping them learn to share time, space and resources with peers, to spend time away from home, and to negotiate conflicts and problem solve. It is learning to express your thoughts and ideas creatively, to identify and regulate your emotions and realizing that it’s alright to make mistakes and ask for help. Preschool is about becoming comfortable taking risks and tackling challenges. It’s about learning to show kindness and gratitude. Preschool is about learning how to be a student and a friend. It is about learning to be respectful of everyone and everything.
Think how our world might be different if we all fully learned these lessons by the age of five. So many problems would disappear. Think of the investment we are making for our child by providing them opportunity to grow in these deep, emotional ways. All you truly need to know to live a happy life can be learned in preschool. After all, preschool is where it all begins.