American kids suffer from a learning gap?

Filed under: Preschoolers, Big Kids, Day Care & Education

Preschool beads and their containers for sorting and making patterns.My wife pointed out this very interesting article about a woman's experience trying to get her five-year-old daughter into a kindergarten in London -- Nancy Zuckerbrod's family is moving across the pond. It turned out that her daughter Olivia was well behind what was expected of kids entering Kindergarten in England. She has what the head teacher of the British school called a "learning gap".

Apparently, five-year-olds in England can read, tell time, and handle fractions. Olivia is an intelligent girl who did attend pre-kindergarten in the US. Her education, however, included planting seeds, learning about insects, and "mastering the monkey bars," rather than the academic subjects the British kids were learning. At first, she felt pretty bad, but then decided that she was okay with where her daughter is, and she'll just have to catch up.

Play-based learning is the norm in American pre-schools, and, personally, I think that's the right way to go. Four-year-olds need to learn about the properties of matter, gravity and other natural forces, and creative expression through activities like playing in the sand box, building with blocks, and finger-painting before they need to get into the nuts and bolts of describing them with fractions and time.

There are, however, those who believe strongly in academic pre-schools, including, apparently, the UK. But, as Mrs. Zuckerbrod says, "a child's most important teachers are his or her parents." Her daughter will catch up, even as the British kids struggle to catch up on the monkey bars.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.