Picture this. A large sloping backyard covered with giant oak trees. Here and there little nooks: a hammock, a playhouse, swings, a old wooden boat, monkey bars off a tall platform with a rope swing, a picnic area, tractor tires. A house surrounded by grass with a huge room at the back filled with child sized tables, chairs, book shelves and wooden toys. A large front yard covered in tall grass with a chicken coup and an area for raising livestock. A dog, lots of cats, other various critters and 10 children running around exploring and playing their hearts out.
This was my childhood. This was my home, my school and my mother who realized the benefits of early childhood education. This was where children in my community learned to play together and constructed our own knowledge based on our experiences with a teacher who observed us and allowed our curriculum to be based on our actions and the questions we asked.
High-quality preschool provides an incalculable value for a lifetime, accomplished by age 3.
In my family the benefits of this early, high-quality education are evident. My older sister is a Planner III for the city of Oakland, she went to school at the school were my mother was learning how to become a teacher. I was the first class on our acre and a half in the year 1984. My younger brother attended in diapers. He is now a professional engineer who has worked his way around the construction, retrofit, and development world on his way to working for himself.
I have enjoyed walking in my father’s steps and teaching high school. Where children can discuss current events, think critically, and challenge the way things are because it is the way they are. The problem I found was that children were not doing this- they were apathetic, they were squeezed in 30 to a class, they were allowed to fail and were moved on to high school, they had more relevant things to learn outside the classroom… So I made the decision to walk down my mother’s road for a while and try to reach children before they had shut off and unplugged. To learn about child development and apply that to teaching young children and raising my own.
Early childhood is a critical age for brain growth. Children who are exposed to more language, art, play, exploration and other children wire more circuits at this early age than children who do not go to preschool. Their brains are developing the capacity to think, read, write and be critical all through their lives. Children want this connection with other children to learn together and learn from each other.
The sad thing about our country right now is we do not allocate tax dollars to pay for high-quality early childhood education for all. The age of children entering kindergarten has changed to 5 years old. That would have put me a year behind in my schooling, as my birthday is in September after school starts. Children born in the last few months of the year who are not 5 when the school years starts in August are forced to wait an entire school year to start public school.
So what happens to children whose families cannot afford a high-quality program and they cannot start school till age 5? Some children qualify for federally funded head start programs. The program near our school runs two classes a day, so children are only there part time and they do not open on Mondays. This is a great option for families who qualify and can work around the short hours. What about the children who have to say at home or with a relative or in daycare and cannot afford high-quality preschool?
I found an article that labels preschool as the most important grade. They found that adults who attended preschool as children cost less money over time to society by not being held back grades or being enrolled in special education and avoid both the welfare and penal systems. I have been using the term high-quality a lot when referring to preschool. It is important to have a program with highly-qualified teachers and these teachers should make a living wage. When we are thinking of having preschool for all we need to make sure that we entice the best of the best to be there for our youngest children and give everyone the tools to live up to their potential. I will talk more on this in a later post.
So what can we do to make sure our children have these benefits you will see in the cool infographic below that I found here? We need to educate parents on its value, we need to find a way to help the people already in this field doing great work to continue doing it, entice more educators into this rewarding field, and we need to think hard about how we can best implement preschool for all.
What can parents do? Do your research and find a great program and advocate for your child. Enroll your child early, some programs start at age 2. Find programs that will allow you to work or go to school and pay for your child to be going to a high-quality preschool, in california that is here.
Every child deserves this. Your children deserve this.
Let me know what you think below.